Vikings' season dies of self-inflicted wounds

MINNEAPOLIS -- Visanthe Shiancoe could not prevent the Minnesota Vikings' season from coming to an end Sunday at the Metrodome, but the tight end did an excellent job of summarizing why it happened.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Visanthe Shiancoe could not prevent the Minnesota Vikings' season from coming to an end Sunday at the Metrodome, but the tight end did an excellent job of summarizing why it happened.

"It was a combination of everything," Shiancoe explained. "We didn't take advantage of the opportunities they gave us, we didn't kick in the door. We just didn't play playoff-caliber football."

And that is a major problem when your team is in the playoffs.

The Vikings' 26-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in a wild-card game put a quick end to the team's first postseason appearance since the 2004 season. That playoff run also ended with a loss to the Eagles. In that case, the defeat was decisive. Sunday's setback involved plenty of self-inflicted wounds.

The Vikings trailed by two at halftime because Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel stepped in front of a Tarvaris Jackson pass in the second quarter and returned it for a touchdown.


But in the second half, the Vikings generated only 109 yards and Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 17 yards on eight carries -- this after Peterson went for 66 yards on 12 first-half carries, including a 40-yard run for a touchdown. Peterson had both of the Vikings' touchdowns in the opening two quarters; they did not score a point in the second half.

"Kind of a tale of two halves," said Vikings coach Brad Childress, who fell to 0-2 against his former boss, Andy Reid.

It remains to be seen whether Jackson will return as the Vikings' starting quarterback next season, but the final impression he left for this season wasn't a positive one.

Jackson completed 15 of 35 passes for 164 yards with no touchdowns, the costly interception on a pass intended for Sidney Rice, and a subpar 45.4 passer rating. Meanwhile, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb threw for 300 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He had a 92.8 rating.

"I wouldn't say guys got frustrated (in the second half), but we knew it was crunch time and that we had to make the best of every opportunity," Peterson said. "It was tough. Those guys were really putting a lot of pressure on us, and they were able to do that. They were up and we kind of put ourselves in a bad position. They were able to blitz more and really force us to get the ball out quick. I give credit to those guys."

But the Vikings still had their deficit at two points until Eagles running back Brian Westbrook took a screen pass and weaved past defenders for a 71-yard touchdown on the opening play of the Eagles' second fourth-quarter drive. Philadelphia tacked on a field goal, but that touchdown with 6 minutes, 53 seconds remaining pretty much signified the beginning of the Vikings' offseason.

"It's a nasty taste in your mouth right now, to be in the game, and to pretty much be stuffing them throughout the game," Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "(We were) down two points and then we said, 'They hit a two-run home run in the ninth. Kind of a walk-off.' We just can't give up that big play at that time. If we gave it up early we could have maybe had time to recover. When it's that late, it's hard to recover."

This marked Childress' third season as Vikings coach. The Vikings had been 6-10 and 8-8 in his first two seasons but rebounded to go 10-6 and win their first NFC North title. That came after an 0-2 start that saw Jackson get benched in favor of veteran Gus Frerotte.


"You know, I don't know," Childress said when asked if 2008 could be called a success. "You guys characterize it any way you want. I think to win the division is a starting point. Obviously, you start the season and you want to win the Super Bowl. I know that there are a lot of predictions that get made, whether you were picking the Green Bay Packers to win the division or the Dallas Cowboys to go to the Super Bowl, or the Minnesota Vikings. That's why you play the games. At the end, to win 10 in the regular season and win the division, was a start. Obviously, you don't like the fact the postseason finished in a game for us."

Bernard Berrian, who signed as a free agent last offseason to be the Vikings' No. 1 wide receiver, had one of his team's biggest plays Sunday, catching a short third-down pass and taking it 27 yards to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Peterson. That came on the possession after Samuel's touchdown and kept the Vikings very much alive.

"I don't think satisfaction is guaranteed until you win the Super Bowl," Berrian said when asked about the season. "I thought we did all right for what we went through. There was a lot of adversity. But we fought through it, played hard and never gave up. We always played until the clock hit zero, and I'm really proud of this team for doing that."

Added defensive end Jared Allen, another expensive pickup last offseason: "We have the talent. It is here, and you can see it when we are firing on all cylinders. The problem is we had peaks and valleys throughout the game and the season. The talent is here. I came here to win a division first, and we accomplished that, and then make a run into the playoffs.

"Unfortunately the latter didn't happen, we (have) got to deal with that. Eventually everybody is going to lose, except for one team that wins the Super Bowl. Unfortunately we lost first. Hopefully for the guys that are here next year it is motivation, now that they got a taste of it, that they strive to get back."

-- Copyright (c) 2009, Minneapolis Star Tribune/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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