Vikings offense shutout as Josh Freeman underwhelms in loss to Giants
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Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said the game plan was going to be simple for quarterback Josh Freeman, who made his first start in a 23-7 loss on Monday Night Football against the previously winless New York Giants.
The end result left many saying he was set up to fail.
Simplicity took a bad seat to ineffective as Freeman threw 33 incompletions, dropping his league-low 43.5% even further during his first outing as a Vikings quarterback.
A member of the team for just two weeks, Freeman looked rusty as he hadn't played since Sept. 22. However, in his last game as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Freeman completed just 19-of-41 passes in a loss at New England.
Struggles aside, it was obvious from Freeman's midseason signing that the Vikings wanted to evaluate him as their potential long-term answer. But that philosophy was taken to the extreme on Monday night as Freeman threw 53 passes to running back Adrian Peterson's 13 carries.
Many of Freeman's numerous incompletions weren't within five yards of his receivers as his offense produced three three-and-outs and punted seven times. The only score came from cornerback Marcus Sherels' 86-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter.
Sherels outgained the Vikings' 85 yards of offense in the first half.
But special teams would also come back to haunt the Vikings on Monday night as the units accounted for two of the three turnovers.
Kicker Blair Walsh missed from 53 yards in the first half, his first miss from 50-plus yards in his career after making his first 12 attempts. Walsh is currently playing through a hamstring injury in his plant leg as he let punter Jeff Locke handle the kickoff duties.
Sherels fumbled a punt return in the third quarter after the Vikings defense forced a three-and-out, setting up a Peyton Hillis one-yard touchdown run. Rookie defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd also fumbled a kickoff return in the fourth quarter that set up a Josh Brown field goal.
But the Vikings offense has scored just 10 points in the previous two games.
Former starting quarterback Christian Ponder watched from the sidelines as the offense he commanded to 5th in the NFL in scoring in his three starts has sputtered to utter incompetence against questionable competition. The starting quarterback who led them to 10 points against the Carolina Panthers a week ago, Matt Cassel, was inactive.
The offensive line didn't do many favors for Freeman, who was avoiding the Giants' four-man rush most of the night as he went without a running game. Peterson gained just 28 yards, his lowest total since 2011, as he faced stacked fronts featuring eight or nine defenders at times.
Receiver Greg Jennings' 41 yards led all receivers on the night as he caught four catches but saw just as many balls sail over his head or behind him from his third quarterback in four games.
Freeman did very little to secure a starting spot, but many will chalk up his deficiencies to a first-game jitters and a limited playbook. But the outcome would've been much more embarrassing for Freeman had his defense not held the Giants offense to 3-of-12 on third down after they started 4-of-7.
Manning looked like a quarterback who led the league with 15 interceptions on an 0-6 team, but the Vikings defense failed to seize opportunities. Safety Andrew Sendejo and Sherels both dropped interceptions.
Freeman didn't have the supporting cast to get much done on Monday, but he looked just as bad or worse than any quarterback the Vikings have put on the field this season.
After dropping three of the past four to the likes of the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers and now the Giants, Freeman's upcoming tests against the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins don't provide much reason for optimism in the near future.