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Fans frustrated by Vikings' woes

There is more than just one malfunction which has inflicted the once-surging Minnesota Vikings, as they came crashing back to Earth in a burning heap of bad plays, fumbles and penalties Thursday night inside the Metrodome.

Unfortunately, the nation also got to witness the Vikings' embarrassing 36-17 loss, along with a stadium full of cursing and frustrated, lubed-up, purple-clad fans.

Such profanity-laced quips were being tossed around in the ether of the Dome, and it didn't matter if a 10-year-old or a section full of nuns were sitting next to them.

The boiling point was hit sometime early in the fourth quarter.

It would have made a drunken sailor blush.

The creativity was lacking in these sentences, but the meaning was made clear -- not many happy campers were to be found in the Thursday evening local football contest.

"What the (bleep) is wrong with you guys?"

"Oh crap, we suck again!"

"How can you make so many stupid mistakes?!"

Those were just a few of the epithets, and many derogatory comments were tossed in quarterback Christian Ponder's direction.

Ironically, it was Christian Ponder poster night at the Metrodome, as well.

But even though Ponder's play has not been reminiscent of a future franchise quarterback, all the blame should not be focused on him.

In fact, the biggest play -- or mistake, in this case -- came from one of the most reliable Viking players in the history of the franchise.

With the Vikings chiseling away at a two-possession deficit, the Minnesota defense came up with a huge three-and-out series after Ponder hit Percy Harvin for the team's first score to trim the deficit to 13-7.

The Vikings' offense promptly ripped off two first downs and looked like they were going in for the go-ahead score, before Buc grandpa cornerback Ronde Barber stripped running back Adrian Peterson after what appeared to be close to another first down near midfield.

You could literally feel the life being sucked out of the 65,000-plus fans as the Buccaneers regained possession and in turn, scored a touchdown to put the lead back up to two possessions.

From then on out, it was nothing but catch up for the Vikes, as they allowed rookie running back Doug Martin to gash them for 214 all-purpose yards.

The Viking defense played easy to get, as they bit on the majority of counters and misdirection plays.

What once appeared to be a stout defense, quickly became a creampuff in a wet paper sack.

A frustrating aspect throughout the entire game was the Vikes' third-down defense -- terrible.

It was almost an automatic first down whenever third down came up. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams did a poor job game-planning and adjusting to the counters and delayed handoffs, which Arizona had successfully accomplished the week before.

Dropped interceptions was another big component to the loss. Yes, they were negative plays for the Bucs' offense, but if Brian Robison could have held on to a Josh Freeman gimme, it would have resulted in a defensive touchdown and then who knows where the momentum could have taken them?

The consistent three-and-out series for the Ponder-led offense was another frustrating aspect.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave's pen must run out of ink when drawing up routes for his receivers, because only a handful of plays have them going past an eight-yard barrier.

On a third and 12 play in the third quarter, the Vikes had four receivers split out or in the slot.

Not one route went past eight yards, with wideout Michael Jenkins taking in a five-yard dump off from Ponder, quickly disposed of to the turf for a short gain.

Musgrave needs to take the cuffs off this offense. The only receiver who has consistently run a post route over 10 yards is Jerome Simpson.

But that does bring the Vikings' woes conversation back to the target of many fans' stink eyes -- Ponder.

Basically, his strengths in college and the first four games this season have dissipated. He is no longer accurate and he doesn't use his athleticism anymore by tucking the ball in and running.

He has too many overthrown passes and against a very porous Tampa Bay passing defense, that is unacceptable.

It's still too early in the process to determine if Ponder is the future signal caller for the Vikings, but in his last three games, he certainly hasn't instilled the confidence in saying he is.

But, it's not all (bleep) and vinegar.

The Vikings are still 5-3 and the improvement they have shown from last year is still immense.

I still will go by my preseason feelings of, if the team finishes 8-8, it bodes well for a very young team learning -- while winning.

The tease was there early on, but in the NFL, experience is important and sooner rather than later, it will even out the average teams from the good ones.

The recent slide may be frustrating, but the team needs to stay on track in their rebuilding with a young team, because they are still on the path for a successful future.

Although that could not be said for the disposed of Ponder posters which were being blown down Hennepin Avenue on a crisp, cold Tuesday night.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.