In many of the first 11 losses the Minnesota Vikings suffered in the 2011 season, at least you could say they played their opponents close. However, you certainly couldn't say that about what could be the second-to-last game the team plays in the state of Minnesota.
New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees torched a severely undermanned Vikings' secondary for five touchdown passes and 412 yards on Sunday afternoon, as the Saints thumped the Vikings by a final score of 42-20 at the Metrodome.
Brees had more different targets on the afternoon (nine) than he had incompletions (eight) as he blistered a Minnesota defense that, despite all its issues, did not put cornerback Cedric Griffin on the field on Sunday afternoon. Griffin, who was benched after the second defensive series in the Vikings' loss to Detroit last week, was apparently warming up on the sideline at one point in time, was active for the game, but was benched in favor of Asher Allen and Benny Sapp. Even after Allen left the game with concussion-like symptoms in the first half, Griffin remained on the sideline, with the Vikings instead going with Sapp and Marcus Sherels at the cornerback spots and rookie Brandon Burton playing the nickel role.
It probably wouldn't have made much difference who the Vikings threw at Brees, however, as he was never in danger of being sacked on the day, and threw five touchdown passes in a game for the fourth time in his career. He also became the first opposing quarterback to register a 400-yard passing game against the Vikings since November 26, 2006, when Minnesota gave up 405 yards to Matt Leinart in a 31-26 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Adrian Peterson made his return for the Vikings and gained 60 yards on ten carries, and expressed disappointment with his workload afterwards, saying that he was "ready to go" and was hoping to get more work in. Peterson's backup, Toby Gerhart, scored both of Minnesota's touchdowns on the afternoon on passes from Christian Ponder. One of them came from 10 yards out on a shovel pass to get the Vikings within 14-13, and the other came from 16 yards out long after the game had been decided.
Ponder looked like a mess for most of the game, and his final stat line (14/31, 120 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) belied how bad he looked for most of the afternoon, much of which was spent running for his life from an aggressive New Orleans defense. Ponder wound up getting sacked four times on the afternoon.
With the loss, the Vikings fall to 2-12 on the 2011 season, and are perilously close to "earning" the worst regular season record in Vikings' history. To date, the worst team the Vikings have fielded since the advent of the 16-game schedule was the 3-13 effort from the 1984 team. Today's loss also marks the first six-game losing streak the team has endured since that 1984 season.
The Vikings also set another ridiculous NFL record on Sunday afternoon, as they failed to record an interception for the ninth consecutive game. Going into the game, they were in a three-way tie with the 1996 Atlanta Falcons and the 2009 St. Louis Rams for that dubious distinction.
Minnesota will play its final road game of the season on Christmas Eve, as they travel to the nation's capital to battle the Washington Redskins.