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Updated: September 25th, 2011 8:30pm
Pelissero: Too late to save Vikings' season, and McNabb may be next

Pelissero: Too late to save Vikings' season, and McNabb may be next

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Leslie Frazier told reporters on Sunday afternoon he won't make a quarterback change. He told players he's not ready to throw in the towel.

But two months of talk about believing in the Minnesota Vikings' potential rang hollow after another second-half implosion left Frazier's voice cracking in his postgame media address and players seemingly too confused to be angry.

"We're scrummaging to put it together and find the problem," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said after the Detroit Lions overcame a 20-point halftime deficit to prevail 26-23 in overtime.

"I know where the problem is, you guys know where it is -- in the second half. Let's fix that (expletive)."

It's too late to save this season, if it ever could have been saved in the first place.

The Vikings are 0-3 for the first time since 2002, thanks to an unprecedented trio of defeats after taking double-digit leads into halftime -- none bigger than Sunday's.

"I would be lying to you if I didn't say 20-0 at halftime didn't feel good," receiver Percy Harvin said. "The past two weeks, we've seen our lead just crumble in a matter of minutes. Our message in the locker room was to come out firing and make sure it didn't happen, but it happened."

And now Frazier must find a new message he can sell as the Vikings prepare to visit Kansas City for a battle of winless bottom-feeders next week.

The Vikings had 213 yards and 11 first downs at halftime to Detroit's 50 and four, converting four of eight third downs. In the second half, the Vikings were outgained 308-108 and had only five first downs to Detroit's 15, going 0-for-6 on third down.

"You can't keep dominating teams like that and giving them the game in the second half," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "You come out of the game feeling like you won, but the scoreboard says otherwise. It's kind of tough to swallow there."

In losses to San Diego, Tampa Bay and now Detroit, the Vikings have a 54-7 scoring edge before halftime and a 67-6 deficit thereafter.

How does a team so dominant through 30 minutes keep finding so many ways to cripple itself for the 30 that follow?

"I don't know if there's a magic formula," Frazier said. "They made some plays that we didn't. It's not about Xs and Os. It's about when you're in a position to make certain plays, you've got to be able to execute and make those plays."

There were almost too many to count as things disintegrated on Sunday.

Offensively, the Lions went to a short passing game that exploited the Vikings' zone coverage and kept a formidable pass rush at bay. Sensational receiver Calvin Johnson outjumped Chris Cook for a 32-yard touchdown, slipped behind Jamarca Sanford for a 5-yard score and set up Jason Hanson's 32-yard winner in OT with a 40-yard grab against Cedric Griffin.

"I couldn't possibly think of messing up that bad to give up 20-something points in the second half," Williams said. "They're not throwing anything major downfield -- just lollipops on some of those throws. I mean, I know Calvin's big, but good Lord, we've got to do something."

Defensively, the Lions held Adrian Peterson to 5 yards on five carries after he gained 73 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries (6.1 average) before the half, and erratic quarterback Donovan McNabb once again showed he can't play above the level of a limited receiver corps and overmatched offensive line.

"I feel sick right now," Peterson said, "especially (after) three games we had in our hands tight, and going into the second half, it's kind of like we loosened up a little bit, and we can't do that."

There was the screen pass Jahvid Best took for a 60-yard gain. The doomed decision to try an inside run to fourth-and-1 with Toby Gerhart instead of kicking a 35-yard field goal. The 10 second-half penalties, including Kenny Onatolu's foolish personal foul that erased a chance to win the game in regulation with a quick pass and a long field goal.

It all had the Vikings' mild-mannered coach running onto the field to plead for an intentional-grounding call, boos raining down from 62,466 fans at the Metrodome while the home team still led and veteran end Jared Allen screaming at just about everyone on the sideline.

"It's not a lack of effort," Allen said. "I will play any snap and any down with these guys. We have to figure it out, because three weeks in a row, this crap is happening. I don't know what the answer is."

Nobody does, apparently.

That's why Frazier already has to face questions about when he'll replace a 34-year-old quarterback on a one-year contract with rookie first-round pick Christian Ponder -- the first major step in admitting this is a rebuilding season, as so many around the NFL predicted it would be from the start.

"Ah, no," Frazier said. "I don't think our quarterback position is our problem right now."

Maybe not, but it's one of the problems that has the Vikings here, fantasizing about turning things around as few teams have in recent NFL history. Only three teams have rebounded from an 0-3 start to make the playoffs since the field expanded in 1990, and none since Buffalo in '98.

That type of talk would sound even more preposterous if the Vikings hadn't played 90 minutes over playoff-caliber football over the past 15 days, only to have the other 90 minutes paint them as candidates for the No. 1 pick.

"That's what I'm trying to say," Shiancoe said. "It's like a lot of promise, man. But we're in a slump right now, so of course, it's going to be a gorillas on our back right now because we're not producing and we're not winning. I'd like to stay positive, to say that the first halves are extraordinary."

But the second halves have been so reprehensible it's only a matter of time before the towel goes flying and McNabb goes with it.

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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