However, the real storyline was the play of Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman, who was making his first start with the team after being released by Tampa Bay two weeks prior.
Freeman finished the night an abysmal 20-of-53 for 190 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. It was clear that he had little command of the playbook and head coach Leslie Frazier did not put his team in the best position to win.
According to Spotrac.com, the Vikings are paying Freeman $2.8 million this season and looking to get a quick return on their investment.
There are plenty of questions the 1-5 Vikings need to address before next week’s game against the Green Bay Packers. Most importantly, though, they need to know if there is more to Josh Freeman than what we saw Monday night.
Freeman was asked to do way too much last night for the Vikings. It was almost as though the Vikings forgot about running back Adrian Peterson, who finished the game with just 13 carries for 28 yards.
Many people, including myself, expected a heavy dose of Peterson, which would crowd the box and allow Freeman to make easy throws on the outside.
There were certain occasions when this did happen, but Freeman was unable to capitalize. He was consistently overthrowing receivers, making the wrong reads and looked confused on almost every dropback. At times, Freeman did show good mobility in the pocket, but his inaccuracy overshadowed that.
Freeman was unable to get into a rhythm and looked nervous throughout the course of the game. However, he has skill. As the season goes on, he will showcase that.
Freeman had his best year as a pro in 2012, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Vikings are hoping to get that same production this year. However, after last night, that doesn’t seem likely.
Freeman’s play will improve going forward and he is a better option than both Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel. He is a big, strong-armed quarterback who, when comfortable, can make every throw. Building chemistry with receivers takes time. With veterans like Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson, that time period will be shorter than people think.
Throwing Freeman into the fire after only two weeks didn’t seem fair to either Freeman or the rest of the Vikings. They have a talented roster and proved that last year by making the playoffs.
However, this year, they have been extremely exposed at the quarterback position. Minnesota can’t expect Peterson to run for 2,000 yards every year and must improve under center.
If Freeman can limit his turnovers and start building trust with his receivers, the Vikings will compete in all their games. Freeman won’t put up the numbers like he did a season ago, but if he can prove that he can lead this offense, he could be the long-term answer in Minnesota.
Freeman proved last season that he is capable of putting up big numbers, but the Vikings just need him to manage the game and take care of the football.
Next week against the Packers, Freeman will show signs of improvement, but there will still be growing pains. Expect Frazier to hand the ball off to Peterson and try to avoid a shootout with Aaron Rodgers.
Freeman will probably continue to struggle in the next couple of weeks. Once he and his receivers get on the same page, though, the Vikings could play spoiler to playoff hopefuls down the stretch.