By Judd Zulgad Minneapolis Star Tribune
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Minnesota Vikings’ season could have best been described as a disappointment entering Sunday. But as the team pulled out of Gillette Stadium on Sunday evening following a 28-18 loss to New England, disappointment had turned into drama, a full-fledged soap opera that at this rate only has nine episodes left.
The fact the Vikings dropped to 2-5 — a record that somehow puts a club laden with Pro Bowl players in the basement of the NFC North with Detroit — was only a sliver of the story.
Where do we start?
How about with this.
Perhaps tired of seeing Brett Favre draw all the attention, Randy Moss took to the podium and conducted his own question-and-answer session because he’s no longer taking questions after being fined $25,000 by the NFL on Friday for not cooperating with the media.
After catching only one pass for 8 yards in his first game against his former team since being traded this month, an emotional Moss praised the Patriots, criticized the Vikings for not listening to his ideas on how to play his former employer and also indicated he felt Childress should have taken a field goal at the end of the first half instead of unsuccessfully going for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
Then there was Favre, who might have gone against his coach’s wishes to play despite a fracture in his left ankle and heel but was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter when the helmet of Patriots defensive lineman Myron Pryor opened a gash in the quarterback’s chin and left him woozy.
Favre left the field on a cart, and speculation immediately centered on a possible concussion or broken jaw. Favre would have none of it, admitting he received eight stitches in his chin before ending his news conference by saying he would be ready to play next week against Arizona at Mall of America Field.
“It’s frustrating,” Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said. “We have a super-talented team and we’re just not putting it together. … It’s tough. I never saw (being 2-5) coming this way. But we’re here and we have to do something about it. We have a team that we can win games with, but we have to prove it. Right now, we shoot ourselves in the foot.”
Said Childress: “All these defeats are bitter pills to swallow, but we’ve got nine to go. It’s just important — everyone is not coming back — that we kind of cast our vision forward.”
Childress was referring to the Vikings’ long list of pending free agents in saying that everyone will not be back, but talk will only intensify that the coach himself could be in trouble if this season continues to spiral out of control. Although he signed a contract extension through 2013 last season as the Vikings were on their way to a 12-4 finish, reports already are circulating that Childress could find himself replaced midseason.
NFL sources have indicated that’s a long shot, but with the way things have gone for the 2010 Vikings the reality is that anything is possible. Childress didn’t help his cause Sunday with a few curious decisions. Included was the move to go for it on fourth down late in the second quarter with the score tied at 7 instead of having Ryan Longwell kick a 19-yard field goal.
Adrian Peterson took the handoff and headed to his right, but tackle Phil Loadholt was pushed back by Patriots left end Ron Brace and the running back ran right into the arms of linebacker Jermaine Cunningham. Equally curious was that Moss was not on the field, meaning the Patriots defenders did not have to worry about a guy who drew multiple defenders all afternoon.
“We had ‘Y’ personnel and three tight ends in the game,” Childress said. “We needed our blockers in there, we didn’t need our decoys in there right then.”
Childress also made a surprising decision in the second quarter when he threw the challenge flag after Patriots wide receiver Brandon Tate had caught a 32-yard pass at the Vikings 11-yard line. The ball had somehow gone through the arms of safety Madieu Williams. A week ago in the Vikings’ loss at Green Bay, Childress had failed to challenge a touchdown catch by the Packers’ Andrew Quarless and was told if he had the score would have been taken away. But this time there was nothing to support that Tate hadn’t made the catch.
“Initially I was not going to challenge and then they were hollering in my ear (upstairs), and I thought somebody saw a different view of it,” Childress said. “But obviously he had a pretty good catch there.”
The Vikings dropped their eighth consecutive road game, including their fourth of this season, for a variety of reasons. A defense that gave up 9 yards rushing and 107 total yards to New England in the first half, surrendered 113 yards on the ground and 255 total in the final 30 minutes. The Patriots’ BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 112 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns to become the first running back to go for 100 yards against the Vikings this season.
New England’s Tom Brady, meanwhile, spent much of the second half picking on cornerback Asher Allen. This included a pump fake by the quarterback that caused Allen to bite and led to a 65-yard touchdown pass to Tate in the third quarter that gave New England (6-1) a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“I feel like this team is close,” said Favre, who extended his NFL-record starting streak to 292 games. “I have no idea what will happen the rest of the year, but I’m in it to win it. So hopefully our guys will not go south in this. I think we’ve got good character guys. We’ve got a lot of football left. It’s still disappointing.”
On Sunday, it also turned positively wacky.