2006 was a great year in Minnesota. The Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Wild had made it into the playoffs in their respective leagues, and the Minnesota Vikings were starting a new era under Brad Childress.
Armed with what he termed as the "Kick Ass Offense," the Vikings were going to take the next step that they couldn't take with Childress' predecessor Mike Tice and make a deep run into late January.
That first season started surprisingly well for the Vikings, as they soared to a 4-2 record after defeating the Seattle Seahawks on the road in one of the toughest environments in the National Football League.
After that victory, the Vikings had a chance to really make some noise as contenders when they hosted the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football.
To put it mildly, the Vikings dropped the ball, as Tom Brady spread the Vikings out and kicked the snot out of them in a 31-7 rout in the Metrodome.
This would go down as the turning point in the Vikings' season, as they would win just two of their final nine games and finish 6-10 (not to mention introducing Viking fans to the incredibly painful Tarvaris Jackson era in the process).
As the Vikings continue on in 2012, the same warning signs are beginning to show as they did in 2006.
This season marks the first season where Leslie Frasier had a full offseason to acclimate his team to the way he wanted to play. The early season results were shocking, especially beating the San Francisco 49ers 24-13 in Week 3.
Coming into Thursday's game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Vikings had another chance to prove themselves as a legit contender in front of a national audience.
Instead, against a 2-4 Bucs squad, the Vikings again fell flat on their faces.
In the game that will likely go down as Doug Martin's breakout performance, the Vikings showed several weaknesses that had been masked in the first half of the season.
First, the Vikings haven't had spectacular quarterback play in the first eight games. Teams can normally get away with this (see Alex Smith with the 49ers), but when a team falls behind like the Vikings did on Thursday, a team needs its quarterback to put them on his back to victory.
While Christian Ponder had been able to do so using a similar playbook to Brad Johnson in 2006 for the first five weeks, the regression by the second-year quarterback in the past three has not only been disappointing, but it is also similar to the fall of Johnson five years ago.
By unleashing the fury of the three-yard pass on a weekly basis, teams have figured out that they can bottle up the Vikings by standing five yards from the line of scrimmage and watching the play unfold in front of them.
The Vikings also have had problems with their offensive line in the last three weeks. After protecting Ponder beautifully at the beginning of the season, the line was blasted with blown blocking assignments and penalties in the 36-17 loss.
Like any quarterback in the NFL, it's incredibly difficult to complete a pass when you're lying on your back like Ponder has found himself doing frequently over the past three games.
The defense has been the biggest surprise to the 2012 Vikings, but perhaps Greg Schiano's power running scheme has exposed the conservative Viking secondary, which could lead to a second-half collapse similar to the one we saw in 2006.
With all these points, the Vikings aren't exactly doom and gloom as we hit the halfway point of the 2012 season.
Unlike the 2006 Vikings, they actually have some guys who can make plays on the offensive side of the football.
Percy Harvin would be a Most Valuable Player candidate if Ponder could become more consistent, Adrian Peterson is starting to bounce back to his pre-injury form after tearing an ACL last December, and Kyle Rudolph leads NFL tight ends in touchdown receptions with five.
It's a far cry from Marcus Robinson, Troy Williamson, and Chester Taylor.
The Vikings are also not using a 38-year-old quarterback, but rather a 24-year-old quarterback who is approaching his first full season's worth of starts in the NFL. While Ponder's regression is frustrating, he's a young quarterback who shows signs of promise and should improve over time.
The Viking defense may have been better in 2006 with the "Williams Wall," Darren Sharper and a healthy E.J. Henderson, but the young players that the team has added (A.J. Jefferson, Harrison Smith, Josh Robinson) will also go through their ups and downs as the season progresses.
A collapse is possible but so is a renaissance after a 10-day layoff that will conclude with the Vikings traveling (oddly enough) to Seattle in Week 9.
Even if the Vikings do fall on their faces, they've surpassed expectations in the first half of the season, and any possible experience of a playoff push should benefit them in future seasons.
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