Column: Vikings have no bright spots now, with tough opponents on horizon

It went up to 15.9. The Minnesota Vikings held the ball for 21 minutes, 35 seconds on Sunday. That’s 21:35 in

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It went up to 15.9.

The Minnesota Vikings held the ball for 21 minutes, 35 seconds on Sunday.

That’s 21:35 in a 60-minute game. And that 21:35 was an improvement of nearly three minutes from the week prior.

The Vikings' defense held the Indianapolis Colts to just 3-for-11 on third-down opportunities on Sunday, after Green Bay was 6-for-11 against the Vikings in Week 1.

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But the Colts rarely needed to convert on third down. They averaged 6.3 yards per play on 31 first-down plays.

There were no bright spots for Minnesota in a 28-11 loss at Indianapolis that dropped the Vikings to 0-2 and made it clear that a Week 1 loss to rival Green Bay wasn’t an anomaly.

For a second consecutive week, there was no urgency, no emotion, no leadership shown by players wearing a “C” on their jerseys, nor by anyone else on the Vikings’ sideline. For a second consecutive week, the final score wasn't indicative of how soundly the Vikings were beaten in every phase.

The coaches don’t get a free pass anymore, either.

Mike Zimmer, a defensive mastermind, is guiding a defense that has given up 71 points in two games.

The offense was supposed to purr like an engine in a world-class sports car under new coordinator Gary Kubiak — the guy who supposedly pulled the strings on Kevin Stefanski’s offense last season — and his zone-blocking scheme. That scheme has allowed Cousins to get sacked for a safety in each of the first two games, and run for his life on a dozen more occasions.

Which brings us full-circle back to Cousins, whose inability to make sound decisions with the ball has been as big of a concern as any. He had his first three-interception, no-touchdown game as a Viking on Sunday, while going 11-for-26 for 113 yards. And his inability to react to a play made by the opposing defense caused him to get sacked for a safety for a second straight week.

His 15.9 rating made it look like he had a better day than he did.

Minnesota reported to training camp last month as a favorite to win the NFC North. It left Indianapolis Sunday afternoon with no reason to think about the playoffs. Those are reserved for teams that show character and grit in the face of adversity, not for teams that roll over and take an embarrassing beating for the second time in eight days.

Put aside the fact that only 11 percent of teams that started 0-2 since 2002 have made the postseason. The Vikings are a Dumpster fire at nearly every position — Dru Samia was no improvement over Pat Elflein along the offensive line, Adam Thielen appears to be the only receiver who can catch a pass when the game is still within reach, the Vikings’ defensive front seven has one sack, and their young cornerbacks are still young cornerbacks. They look like they're thinking, not reacting.

The Vikings are a victim of their own inability to deal with the salary cap. Linval Joseph, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander were all allowed to walk in the offseason.

Meanwhile, Anthony Barr, in the second year of a five-year deal that averages more than $13 million annually, was invisible even before getting injured on Sunday. They restructured their left tackle’s contract to give a $63 million deal to a running back who hasn’t had a chance to carry the load in a game yet this season. And their quarterback — the one who can’t adapt on the fly when a play breaks down — makes an average of $33 million.

All that said, there’s clearly time to rebound, but the possibility of an 0-8 start is legitimate if this is how they plan to play.

They allowed Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers to combine to complete 73.9 percent of their pass attempts for 578 yards and five touchdowns in Weeks 1 and 2. In five of their next six games, the Vikings face Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Rodgers (again, at Lambeau) at Matt Stafford.

The one “break” the Vikings have in that stretch — next week at home against Ryan Tannehill, who led Tennessee to the AFC Championship Game last season.

Minnesota is quickly tumbling down a steep cliff, with opponents lining up to push them over the edge.
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