Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

After the Minnesota Vikings' 23-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. We shouldn't be surprised by the Vikings' inability to get the ball downfield. It's an issue they've seemed vulnerable to since the start of training camp. With Jerome Simpson suspended, Percy Harvin is the Vikings' only downfield playmaking threat. And with a young quarterback and offensive line, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is choosing to find high-percentage ways to get the ball to Harvin near the line of scrimmage. In the end, though, the Vikings are working way too hard to put points up. Here are there four scoring drives from Sunday: 12 plays for 44 yards, nine plays for 46 yards, 10 plays for 54 yards, nine plays for 57 yards. Too many things can go wrong, and there are too many challenges to sustaining long drives, without the occasional comfort of a big play. As of Monday morning, the Vikings rank No. 23 in the NFL with five passing plays of 20 or more yards and are one of 12 teams without a passing play of 40 or more yards.

  2. I understand why defensive end Jared Allen was upset about the personal foul he received after making contact with Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to extend a third-quarter drive. It was hardly a violent collision, and Luck hadn't stopped running when Allen hit him. But in the end, the contact occurred out of bounds. And whether it was replacement officials or the NFL's regular officials, Allen should routinely expect quarterbacks to be protected and get the benefit of the doubt. I'll chalk up his sentiments to the frustration of a veteran player who knows he's on a rebuilding team that has a long way to go.

  3. Place-kicker Blair Walsh has gotten some recognition for his strong leg as it relates to field goals, but it should also be noted he is kicking off as well as any one in the NFL through two games. He is the only kicker whose average kickoff is traveling into the end zone -- 70.8 yards -- and his touchback percentage of 63.6 ranks fourth in the NFL. The Vikings defense needs all the help it can get in terms of field position, and Walsh is doing his part. Meanwhile, he has converted all six field goal attempts, including two from beyond 50 yards.

And here is one issue I still don't get:

What has happened to the Vikings' presumed plans for a two tight-end attack? It's true that John Carlson missed the preseason because of a knee injury, but he was not listed on the injury report last week. He has played 18 snaps in each of the first two games and has been targeted once. Having two tight end threats -- Carlson and Kyle Rudolph -- was the presumed antidote to the Vikings' thin depth at receiver. And even though Rudolph played 70 snaps Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus, he didn't see a pass thrown his way midway through the third quarter. You would think the Vikings' tight ends would be primary targets this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, whose two-deep zone will consume any downfield routes the Vikings run.