For the last few years, there has been no joy in the Twin Cities.
First, there was the Brett Favre morass where the Vikes had to embrace one of their most hated rivals under the pretense of rooting for the guy who would take them to the Promised Land. Of course, No. 4 got close in his first year in purple, but then (surprise, surprise), the narrative soured. The Ol' Gunslinger turned more "old" than "gunslinger," and that was that after 2010.
This year didn't figure to be pretty with Donovan McNabb under center and it hasn't been.
But just when things were beginning to look up, with an exciting young quarterback (Christian Ponder) learning the ropes and that faint whiff of hope creeping back into the Metrodome, the other shoe dropped.
All-galaxy running back, Adrian Peterson, went down last week with a high ankle sprain, and a significant one at that. When AP left the building, so did the last ray of sunshine in Minnesota. The Vikes are mired in the cellar of the NFC North at 2-8, playing out the stretch of another lost season and now their best player is in street clothes on the sideline.
Of course, there's still plenty of game to be played as Minnesota visits the playoff-pushing Atlanta Falcons, where the Vikes trail 17-0 at the half. With these five halftime adjustments, the Vikings might just be able to salvage a bit of their season by playing spoiler in the Dirty Dirty South:
1. Toby Gerhart Is a Work Horse, Not a Stallion, So Use Him as Such
With AP down, the Vikings must turn to the Heisman runner-up from Stanford, running back Toby Gerhart. The big fella isn't going to make a lot of people miss and he won't spend the afternoon leaving people in his dust, but he IS a load to bring down.
So give it to the bruiser early and often in the second half, and hope his mass wears down the Atlanta D.
2. Get the Ball To Percy Harvin
Let's stay on theme here and point out that, with Peterson on the sideline, Percy Harvin is now the Vikings most explosive player. Actually, Percy might be the Vikes' most explosive asset even when AP is dressing, but that's neither here nor there.
The reality is Harvin is Minnesota's best (only?) shot at a big play and, with the way the first half has gone, that's what it's going to take to get in the end zone.
So go for it.
3. Force Some Turnovers
I'd leave the noun as a singular, but it looks like Minnesota is going to need more than one takeaway to make a game of it. Whether it's hatcheting after the rock or jumping routes to try to get a pick, the Vikings are going to need to create a couple turnovers to stay abreast of the Falcons.
4. Keep Getting After Matt Ryan
As Brian Billick has mentioned on several occasions, sacking the quarterback is one of the few things at which Minnesota has excelled in 2011. So far, the Vikes have been doing a decent job of pressuring the Falcons' QB, Matt Ryan, but they need to crank it up a notch if they're going to steal a "W."
5. Let Christian Ponder Use His Legs
The most consistent praise leveled at Christian Ponder is how athletic the kid is—both the pundits and observation justify the kind words. Additionally, the running game has obviously taken a hit with an All Pro out, and the passing game never was that prolific.
So let the youngster roll out, run some QB draws, call some bootlegs, whatever.
Just leverage that athleticism to create a wrinkle in the offense and maybe open up some daylight on that side of the ball.