Thursday, November 17, 2011
Assessing the Vikings' low turnover number
By Kevin Seifert
Monday night's embarrassment at Lambeau Field has changed the conversation surrounding the Minnesota Vikings. Whereas they once seemed a team in transition from one quarterback era to another, it's now fair to question whether they have deeper and more difficult problems to solve.
Fewest Turnovers This Season
Source: ESPN Stats & Information
Nowhere is that more evident, at least to me, than in the Vikings' counterintuitive turnover numbers. As the chart shows, no team has committed fewer turnovers than the Vikings this season. They are one of four teams with less than 10, but the Vikings are 2-7 while the other three teams are a combined 24-4.
Generally speaking, we can say the Vikings haven't handed their opponents many extra opportunities to beat them. Quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Christian Ponder have combined for five interceptions in 267 attempts, tied for the third-fewest in the NFL. Tailback Adrian Peterson, meanwhile, hasn't lost a fumble in 196 touches.
It would be much easier to dissect the Vikings' 2-7 record this season, and install a fix, if they could attribute it to something as straightforward as turnovers and/or mistakes. Absent that, you simply have to wonder if their team -- its collection of talent and the structure upon which it sits -- is good enough to forge a consistent winner.
Christian Ponder, 7, and Donovan McNabb have combined to throw five interceptions in 267 attempts this season.
The Vikings have hardly played mistake-free this season. They had 10 penalties accepted against them Monday night, and their 66 accepted penalties this season is the eighth-highest total in the NFL. Monday, coach Leslie Frazier said: "It's hard to overcome when you play a good team and then you do some things like we did in crucial situations with penalties that really set you back, and that’s something that we’ll have to address."
Some of those penalties were particularly harmful, most notably a false start on Fred Evans that tacked an extra five yards onto a Ryan Longwell field goal attempt in the first quarter. Longwell was short from 52 yards. But 10 penalties can't account for a 38-point loss, and I don't think anyone who has watched the Vikings this season would suggest that 66 penalties accounts for a 2-7 record.
Instead, over the final seven games of the season, the Vikings will need to make an honest assessment of what they do and do not have. If their hope was to manage the transition from the Brett Favre Era to the Ponder Era while continuing to compete for a playoff spot, they have failed.
I suggested Tuesday that the Vikings might be more in need of a rebuild than the remodel they were hoping to achieve. If you're not giving away the games you lose, there is only one alternative explanation: You're just not as good, from the top of the organization to the 53rd man on the roster. There is plenty of season left to change that perception, but that's where the Vikings are as they head into Week 11.