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Updated: November 21st, 2010 6:32pm
Despite return of Sidney Rice, Vikings offense still benign

Despite return of Sidney Rice, Vikings offense still benign

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Prior to Sunday's 31-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the last meaningful game Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice played in was the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints back in January.

As it turns out, with the Vikings now sitting at 3-7, Rice may need to wait a while until his next relevant contest.

Rice, who was activated to the 53-man roster on Saturday and said he "busted his tail" trying to get in shape, was originally slated to play a limited number of snaps -- approximately 20-30 -- in order to ease his surgically repaired hip back into game shape.

Instead, with Bernard Berrian tweaking his groin in the first quarter, and with Greg Lewis leaving the game as well, Rice unexpectedly wound up playing 52 of the Vikings' 57 offensive snaps. He managed to catch three passes for 56 yards, and he appeared to have good mobility for the most part.

But Rice's presence really didn't make much of a difference for a benign Vikings offense that managed to score just three points while looking more like a disorganized mess than a well-oiled machine.

"We just couldn't get anything going," said tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who caught only two passes for six yards. "Green Bay just out-played us. They're a great team and they showed it today. A lot of things we've go to work on. No excuses for nothing. That's embarrassing."

But isn't that the story of the season?

After boasting the NFL's second-best scoring offense (29.4 points per game) and fifth-best yardage offense in 2009 (378 yards per game), the Vikings entered Sunday ranked 27th (18.8 points) and 17th (341 yards) in those same categories.

With the return of Rice -- just like with the acquisition of Moss -- the offense, in theory, was supposed to be more dynamic, more dangerous.

Just, better.

But it wasn't.

The Vikings managed to convert on just 4-of-13 third-down opportunities, they tallied only five first downs in the second half, and they made just one trip to the red zone all afternoon.

Brett Favre finished the day completing 17-of-38 passes for 208 yards (5.5 yards per attempt), zero touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked just once, but hurried numerous other times, and errant for the majority of the afternoon.

"I mean I don't care who you are, it's hard staying in that pocket when you've got guys about 300 pounds, 400 pounds knocking you on your ass," Shiancoe said. "Getting hit, man, it's hard. After a while you'll probably start seeing ghosts. That's probably what happened, I don't know what happened. You get hit every play. You get hit every single play."

The interception -- which came deep in Green Bay territory near the end of the second quarter, with the Vikings trailing 10-3 -- appeared to spark a heated conversation between Favre and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on the Vikings sideline.

"TV, I tell you," Favre said. "You now, if I didn't care, if Darrell didn't care, we may have been laughing over there. We're fine. I was mad at myself. To be honest with you, if I had to do it over against I'd probably make the same throw. Tramon Williams jumped the route and made a great pick.

"Darrell was trying to more or less reign me in and say that there is more football left, which I knew that."

In reality, after the interception led to a Packers touchdown and a 17-3 halftime deficit, there wasn't much football left to be played. By the time the feeble Vikings offense got the ball back, they were trailing 24-3 -- Green Bay, after deferring the opening possession to the Vikings at the start of the game, scored a touchdown to open the second half.

In fact, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said that was the first time in his coaching career he had won the toss and deferred.

"I really don't want to get into all of that," McCarthy said when asked about why he elected to kick off to start the game. "I think that (the reasons) are obvious."

Of course, a certain amount of credit goes to a Packers defense that leads the NFL in fewest points allowed per game, but the Vikings have scored more than 30 points per game in their last three games against Green Bay.

It would be one thing if the offense was still trying to gel in September, or even in October.

But this was Week 10, and aside from a 6-minute flash at the end of the Arizona game two weeks ago, there have been no signs of a turnaround.

"It just seems like, and this is an understatement, but it just seems like it's not our year," Favre said. "If you make good decisions or you make good throws, or if the perfect play is designed, it just seems like no matter what it goes the other way."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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