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Updated: December 14th, 2010 3:57am
Pelissero: Giant collapse leaves Vikings out of playoffs, answers

Pelissero: Giant collapse leaves Vikings out of playoffs, answers

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

DETROIT -- In a season that's taken the Minnesota Vikings so many places they never wanted to go, it's fitting so many things came to an end in a home game played 700 miles from the Metrodome.

Brett Favre was a bystander for the first time in 18 years, his numb right hand colored the same purple as the hastily stenciled logo at the 50-yard line.

The Vikings were losers for the first time under interim coach Leslie Frazier, dispelling the silly notion a change in leadership could cure all their deficiencies.

And the postgame locker room for the first time produced no talk of being alive or new beginnings -- not after a 21-3 bludgeoning at the hands of the New York Giants snuffed out the Vikings' long-shot playoff hopes in no less decisive a manner than the Green Bay Packers chased coach Brad Childress out of town three weeks earlier.

"I didn't think it was going to be like this this year, but it is," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "What are we, five and what? Eight? That's disgusting, bro. With the type of talent we have on this team, that's disgusting, man. What you attribute that to, I don't know."

Take your pick. It was all on display at Ford Field, which transformed into the Vikings' temporary home on Monday and sounded like it, too, by the time what remained of 45,910 free-ticket grabbers booed brutal Tarvaris Jackson in the final minutes.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning overcame a slow start to complete 18 of his last 27 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings' overmatched secondary.

Bad angles and tackling on the back end exacerbated issues up front against the run, as Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 219 yards on 25 carries (8.8 average).

An offensive line operating without starting guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera couldn't get movement in the running game, providing no space for Adrian Peterson (14 carries, 26 yards, 1.9 average) to work his magic.

And Jackson picked up where Favre had left off -- underthrowing a would-be touchdown on a fade for Sidney Rice, putting an interception on a platter for veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck, taking four sacks and piling up injuries with seemingly every dropback.

"Guys know that we've got to play a lot better, man," Jackson said. "We didn't represent the Vikings right (Monday) night. We didn't play Vikings football (Monday) night."

The thing is, they did play Vikings football -- at least the kind that existed before the smoke and mirrors of wins over sinking Washington and bad Buffalo.

Three of Frazier's main emphases upon taking over were running the ball, stopping the run and reducing penalties. The Vikings failed in all three areas on Monday, with an incredible seven presnap penalties among a dozen flags thrown against them.

"We're a talented team, and this seems to be our M.O. for this year -- we're up and down," end Jared Allen said. "Playing good ball, play bad ball, play good ball, play bad ball. We have no consistency. That's got to stop."

The illegal-block penalty on Jasper Brinkley that wiped out Lorenzo Booker's 96-yard touchdown return looked like a lousy call, but it's hard to imagine it would have sparked a fourth-quarter turnaround -- not with how things were going on both side of the ball.

Of the Vikings' final 10 offensive drives, five netted negative yardage, two others gained zero yards and only two netted a first down. Their 164 net yards were their worst since Dec. 21, 2006, when they had 104 in Jackson's first NFL start.

Once the defense stopped handing the offense opportunities -- Frank Walker and Asher Allen intercepted Manning in the first 15 minutes, 10 seconds -- Jackson dropped a shotgun snap to end one drive, wiped out Greg Camarillo's 52-yard punt return with the pick and missed on 12 of his last 17 passes.

"Our defense was keeping us in the game," Frazier said. "If they didn't do the things they did, it could've gotten a lot uglier than it did."

Instead, the indignities were limited to an eighth loss in as many tries against winning foes, mathematical elimination with three weeks remaining and robust chants of "Let's Go Lions!" from a crowd the Vikings had foolishly hoped would support the nominal home team.

They spent an extra night in the team hotel, took a short flight to Detroit on Sunday afternoon and looked flatter than the deflated Metrodome roof that forced them here in the first place. The Giants held a Saturday walkthrough in the Kansas City airport and won the execution battle in every phase.

"This has got to be a learning experience for us," Jared Allen said. "The New York Giants -- they came in and they whooped our butts."

And now the Vikings enter the final 19 days of was supposed to be a championship run with no playoff hopes, no starting quarterback and no firm answer about where they'll even be playing next week against Chicago.

All that's certain is these Vikings will have nowhere else to go on Jan. 3 except home, and embarrassments like this one make it a foregone conclusion plenty of them won't call Minnesota home again.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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