KANSAS CITY, MO. - Don't absolve the Vikings defense of all responsibility for Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.Yes, it played well enough to win. But it also couldn't stop a wretched Kansas City attack once Chiefs offensive coordinator Mike Solari officially became the last man in the NFL to realize that one can't beat the Vikings by running the football.
Good teams such as New England come out of the gate throwing the ball on the Vikings. It took Solari two quarters, 28 plays, six rushes for negative yardage and an ugly 10-3 deficit before he understood that, while Larry Johnson might be really good, he isn't going anywhere against a defense stacked with as many as nine players in the box.
"We really wanted to come out early and establish the run," Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard said. "But I think we put too much pressure on ourselves too early trying to do that. At halftime, we relaxed a little bit."
Huard didn't attempt a pass to a receiver in the first half. He also threw three times to Tony Gonzalez, who might be the best tight end in NFL history, and four times to Kris Wilson, a nondescript fullback who has 26 catches in four seasons.
Everything changed at halftime. And the sad part is that the Vikings knew the Chiefs were going to change everything, but they still couldn't stop it during the game's two decisive drives.
"It didn't catch us off guard at all," Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said.
"We talked about it at halftime. We knew they'd start throwing the ball a little bit more, because they weren't having success doing what they were doing."
After going three-and-out four times in the first half and 13 times in the season's first 10 quarters, the Chiefs scored the game-winning 10 points in their first 25 offensive plays of the second half. Huard threw the ball on 15 of those plays, including a combined 12 to Gonzalez (four) and receivers Dwayne Bowe (seven) and Samie Parker (one).
Bowe caught five of them for 71 yards, including the game-winning 16-yard touchdown in which he outjumped cornerback Cedric Griffin on a perfectly thrown pass into the corner of the end zone.
"We weren't surprised by anything; we just got to react better and make our plays," said Griffin, who also missed a tackle that allowed Parker to gain 22 yards and convert a third-and-15 situation during the drive that resulted in a 49-yard field goal by Dave Rayner.
"I know I'm just not making my plays right now. Hopefully, I can start making my plays before I mess around and lose my job," Griffin said.
Had the Vikings been more productive offensively or continued their trend of scoring defensive touchdowns, the Chiefs' first two possessions of the second half would have been forgotten. But a loss to a team that was averaging 6.5 points per game leaves one with that familiar feeling that the Vikings just can't stop the pass.
Huard looked awful in the first half. But then he completed 10 of 15 passes for 138 yards and a go-ahead touchdown within 25 snaps after halftime.
What's up with that, Leslie?
"Well, when someone gets going like that at quarterback, you have to try to figure out a way to get pressure on him," Frazier said.
"We tried some things. Sometimes we were successful. Sometimes we weren't."
The Vikings' only sack of the game came in the first half, when Spencer Johnson stripped Huard of the ball. Linebacker Chad Greenway fell on it at Kansas City's 33, but the offense could muster only a 22-yard field goal.
"Right now, we have to play perfect on defense," Griffin said. "That's just the way our defense is right now. We have to play perfect, because we aren't getting any points on the board. But at the same time, it's a team game, and we all lost today."
While the offense deserves much of the blame, Griffin is right. Don't let the defense off the hook entirely.
Mark Craig • email@example.com