Jared Allen calls Sunday the 'worst home loss' of his 10-year career
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MINNEAPOLIS - The last time the Minnesota Vikings were blown out this bad at home, the head coach was fired.
On Nov. 21, 2010, the Green Bay Packers won 31-3 - sending the Vikings to a 3-7 record and then-coach Brad Childress out the door.
On Sunday, the Vikings were down 35-3 to the Carolina Panthers until a last-minute touchdown raised the bar to a 25-point loss marred by defensive mistakes and offensive ineptitude.
"They just whooped us," Defensive end Jared Allen said. "I think it's probably the worst home loss I've ever experienced in my career."
Coming off the bye week, the Vikings returned starting cornerback Chris Cook and safety Jamarca Sanford to the lineup. The only defensive change came at linebacker, where Desmond Bishop made his first start at the weak side, which didn't matter as he was out of the game with a sprained knee after just one tackle.
Coaches elected to keep cornerback Josh Robinson in the slot, despite his tumultuous season, and the defense executed as poorly as they have all year. The unit allowed 373 yards of offense and a season-high 35 points, to keep on par with their 350-yard, 27-point minimum to opposing teams after five games.
The Panthers dominated time of possession, holding onto the ball for more than 36 minutes of the 60-minute contest. However, the Vikings didn't have any home-run plays to peg their limited minutes on as their longest play was a 31-yard burst by running back Adrian Peterson. The Vikings offense went from a season-high 9.9-yards per play against the Pittsburgh Steelers back to just 4.8 yards per.
"I'm not sure how many drive starts they had, maybe nine or 10 and I'd say we probably had the same," coach Leslie Frazier said. "It's what you do with those opportunities."
On the first three drives, the Vikings ended with either an interception or a punt after three or four plays, leaving their defense on the field for 18:17-of-30:00 in the first half. On the first defensive snap, Sanford dropped an interception thrown into his arms by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Cook's holding penalty negated linebacker Chad Greenway's sack and the Panthers would-be three-and-out on their first drive. The hits just kept on coming after that.
The Panthers proceeded to convert two fourth downs, one from the two-yard line for their first touchdown.
"To come away with no points [on our first drive] and then to get them in third down and fourth down situations and not get the stop," Frazier said. "The effort and the preparation were there; we just didn't execute well enough to really get them backed up."
Panthers receiver Steve Smith caught the touchdown over Robinson.
"We didn't tackle well and they scored on a crossing route, which was tough coverage for the guy who was in coverage in man," Frazier said.
Cornerback Marcus Sherels came in for Robinson on the third series. Frazier said that was planned and was not a reflection of Robinson's play. However, if the switch was planned, that was a reflection on Robinson's play in the first four games anyway. Sherels had also spelled an injured Cook during the loss to the Cleveland Browns, providing a sure tackler in the slot while Robinson moved back outside where he's more comfortable.
Sherels in the slot with Cook back outside didn't get much play on Sunday as rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes injured his ankle plays later and Robinson was forced back into action.
Robinson, who is the most targeted cornerback in the NFL and had allowed a league-high 35 receptions heading into this game, allowed two touchdowns on Sunday.
"There are some things that we want [Robinson] to do better," Frazier said. "We rotated Marcus [Sherels] in there with him some and we'll evaluate it this week and just see what's going on at that position."
"We went into [Sunday's game] saying we're going to rotate [Sherels] in there some and we stayed with that."
Robinson was torched on the third play of the second half, when Newton completed to receiver Brandon LaFell for a 79-yard touchdown. On the play, Rhodes played man covervage whereas Robinson played zone. Robinson afterwards said "we knew it was man [coverage]," yet was nearly 10 yards from LaFell on the reception. Frazier contradicted his cornerback and said it was zone coverage on the play.
"I just have to be in better position," Robinson said. "Get on that route and take it all away."
The Panthers tacked on two more touchdowns, one off Cassel's fourth-quarter interception, to finish the beat down. The Vikings run defense kept the Panthers in check to 3.4-yards-per-carry, but their commitment (39 rushes) didn't allow the Vikings pass rush to pin their ears back as the secondary got abused.
How badly do the Vikings miss former cornerback Antoine Winfield?
"I won't get into that," Cook said. "Some guys got in trouble for talking about personnel earlier in the year, so I won't get into it. Antoine is a good guy and I miss him being around, his personality and leadership."