This is not a team that can fall behind.
We knew that, but it's important to say it out loud.
The Buccaneers started slowly, but eventually, they broke out, and once they took a lead, it was hard to come back. There was a moment—when Jared Allen had his helmet torn off, and the defense went nuts—that the Vikings seemed to be on the verge of a huge, defining moment.
Then, the offense came in and killed that dead.
There was some inconsistency in the way the game was called (15 carries for Adrian Peterson?). But ultimately, this offense has some problems, highlighted throughout the game against Tampa.
The problems are twofold.
First, Christian Ponder just isn't there yet. He just doesn't have the touch and accuracy on deep balls yet, at least not consistently. We saw a little of it—his touchdown throw to Percy Harvin was beautiful—but not often enough.
Ponder—and the offense—started slowly and made some poor throws throughout the night, but it's not all on Ponder. Both Jerome Simpson and Adrian Peterson coughed the ball up—both were courtesy of a fantastic play by Ronde Barber (who had a huge night).
Simpson's came because he hadn't secured the ball, and it killed a vital drive to get on the board early. Peterson's did the same later, though it was more Barber playing well than Peterson not securing the ball.
Since we're talking Simpson, by the way, we'll move to our second observation: this offense is not remotely built to come back from a large deficit.
It's not just that—as I was worried about—Simpson isn't as good as they'd hoped he would be. No, it's just that Ponder is still putting his skills together, and aside from Harvin, there are no real pass threats on the team.
Maybe Simpson will develop as he gets the rust off, but for the most part, he's an above-average receiver on his best days, which, at least right now, are few and far between.
Similar to the Bears, the Vikings rely heavily on their defense. However, this is not as good a defense as what lurks in Chicago, and the offense is not quite as potent as the Bears.
So when things go way south, the options for this team narrow too far down.
Does this mean the Vikings need to make a big trade? Bring in, as has been suggested, Dwayne Bowe?
To be honest, the answer is "no." Because Ponder isn't ready to take advantage of it.
The Vikings are still 5-3—better than most expected. Did they let one get away tonight? Perhaps.
However, it may be that the Buccaneers were better than their record. Rookie Doug Martin certainly lends credence to the idea that there is something more to Tampa Bay than their record indicates.
But ultimately, the Vikings are still a work in progress. Adding a big-time receiver may not help long-term.
And long-term success is—no matter how successful this season is—the real aim of 2012. Get better with an eye on the future.
Of course, that won't take the sting out of a loss like Thursday night's.
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