With four games left — none of which they’ll be favored to win – coach Leslie Frazier could take the Vikings where they’ve never gone in their 51-year history: 2-14.
Matt Prater’s 23-yard field goal as time expired at Mall of America Field on Sunday lifted the Broncos to a 35-32 victory and dropped the Vikings to 2-10, their worst start ever. Until Sunday, they had been tied with the 1961 expansion team for worst start in franchise history.
“It sucks,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “We have to get used to winning again. We are so used to losing. I don’t know what happens to us.”
The Vikings held Tim Tebow and the Broncos to one first down and 48 yards of total offense while taking a 15-7 halftime lead. The Broncos’ only points came when linebacker Mario Haggan returned a Christian Ponder interception 16 yards for a touchdown.
Ponder, the 12th overall draft pick, remains the quarterback to build the future around. Once again, he showed great resiliency, throwing for a team rookie record 381 yards and three touchdowns. But he also turned the ball over three times, leading to 10 points.
With a chance to out-Tebow Tebow, Ponder got the ball at his 20-yard line with 1:33 left and the score tied. But a poor read and miserable throw on first down was intercepted by Andre Goodman.
And that was that as Ponder fell to 1-5 as a starter, the same record Donovan McNabb had before he was benched earlier this season.
There was plenty of blame to go around, however. The Vikings’ depleted secondary allowed gaping holes in its second-half zone coverages, allowing Tebow to complete 6-of-9 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
“We have to identify that somebody who can come back there and make a play for us when the ball is in the air,” Frazier said. “It’s not good.”
And it’s not likely to get better this season. The Vikings travel to Detroit this week and then return home to face Drew Brees and the Saints. Then a road trip to Washington on Christmas Eve is followed by the season finale at home against the Bears.
For now, the Vikings have a week to digest 2-10. In franchise history, the only team to finish with only two wins was the 1961 team that went 2-11-1. The only team to lose more than 12 games was the 1984 team that went 3-13.
“Disgusted,” receiver Percy Harvin said. “This is another game we felt we had control of and somehow it slipped away.”
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – NOTES, QUOTES
LINEUP WATCH: With Asher Allen out with a shoulder injury, the Vikings started Benny Sapp at left cornerback. Sapp, who was out of work a month ago, became the fourth different player to start there this season. Rookie sixth-round draft pick Mistral Raymond became the third player to start at free safety as Tyrell Johnson and Husain Abdullah were placed on injured reserve last week. And rookie Brandon Burton saw his first NFL action on defense when he played in the nickel on Sunday.
BY THE NUMBERS: If the Vikings lose at Detroit on Sunday, it will mark the first time they’ve been swept by the Lions since the 1997 season.
NFL Team Report – Minnesota Vikings – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
–QB Sage Rosenfels was claimed off waivers on Friday, the day after the team released Donovan McNabb. Rosenfels, who was with the team as a backup in 2009, comes in as the No. 3 quarterback. But his presence also allows the Vikings to use No. 2 quarterback Joe Webb some at receiver without worrying about an injury leaving them without a quarterback behind starter Christian Ponder.
–RB Adrian Peterson missed his second consecutive game because of a high left ankle sprain. He’s made significant progress, but the Vikings obviously aren’t willing to rush Peterson back during a lost season.
–CB Benny Sapp became the fourth player to start at left cornerback this season when Asher Allen missed Sunday’s game because of a shoulder injury. It was Sapp’s third game since being signed off the street. He hadn’t played since the Dolphins released him after their season opener.
–DE Jared Allen became the first Viking to have at least 14.5 sacks in three different seasons. And he’s only been here for four years. Allen also had his fourth safety, tying the NFL record held by Ted Hendricks and Doug English. All four of Allen’s safeties have come as a member of the Vikings.
–WR Percy Harvin had a career-high 156 yards receiving. He had eight catches and two touchdowns. Harvin also ran five times for 19 yards. Harvin also surpassed tight end Jermaine Wiggins to move into third place in team history for the most receptions in his first three seasons (190).
–RB Toby Gerhart, who started his second consecutive game in place of the injured Adrian Peterson, had a career-high 91 yards rushing. He ran 21 times for an average of 4.3 yards. He doesn’t have Peterson’s moves or speed, but he runs just as hard.
–WR Devin Aromashodu had a season-high 90 yards receiving. He’s a free agent after the season.