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The Minnesota Vikings have struggled on offense this season, but at least they can fall back on a stout defense. The Kansas City Chiefs have been so miserable on offense, it’s making life almost too difficult on the other side of the ball.
Now with their starting quarterback potentially sidelined, the Vikings will try to correct their offensive problems as they visit the struggling Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
Tarvaris Jackson, who injured his groin in overtime of Minnesota’s 20-17 loss to Detroit on Sunday, missed practice on Wednesday and is questionable to play against the Chiefs. While he sits out, backup Brooks Bollinger and veteran Kelly Holcomb - acquired from Philadelphia just before the start of the season - are splitting the practice snaps.
“Oh, there’s no doubt,” said Holcomb, when asked if he’d be ready to play. “You never know what’s going to happen in this league. If it happens, it happens, but you have to be prepared to play and you have to go out there and show people that you can produce.”
A game off might do Jackson good in more ways than one. The second-year quarterback threw four interceptions and was flustered all game against the Lions, finishing 17-of-33 for 166 yards before hurting his groin. Bollinger came on in relief, but fumbled a snap that ultimately led to the Lions’ winning field goal, a mistake that may cause Vikings coach Brad Childress to start Holcomb if Jackson can’t play.
“I hate to be evasive,” Childress said with a wry grin. “But I’m evasive.”
Whoever starts will need to move the Vikings more effectively down the field. Rookie Adrian Peterson, who had 163 total yards in his NFL debut, was held to just 66 rushing yards on 20 carries. In addition to turning the ball over five times, Minnesota also had 12 penalties and failed to take advantage of five Detroit turnovers.
“I was looking to see some consistency from Game 1 to Game 2,” Childress said. “Unfortunately, we took a step back in terms of 12 penalties that we had. That’s not acceptable.”
At least Minnesota, which has lost 12 of its last 13 road games against AFC opponents, has a strong defense. It scored two touchdowns in Week 1, added another against the Lions and now has eight since the start of 2006, the most in the NFL. The Chiefs are struggling to find consistency from any unit on their team.
Kansas City, which has gone 2-5 in home openers this decade, lost 20-10 to Chicago last Sunday, dropping to 0-2 for the second straight season. While the Chiefs rebounded to make the playoffs last year, but don’t appear anywhere close to doing that this season.
In two games, the Chiefs have managed only 13 points and averaged just 250 yards. This comes after a winless preseason in which they scored only 32 points in four losses.
Larry Johnson, who rushed for 1,789 yards and scored 19 touchdowns last season, has only 98 yards on 26 carries in the first two games and has yet to reach the end zone.
“We’re on the same page, we all get the same play book,” said Johnson, who sat out the preseason in a contract dispute and was out of shape for Week 1. “We just have to go out and execute what we have to put points on the board.
“We have to look at the tape and see what we have to do better in the mistakes that I made or the mistakes that anybody made,” he said.
Things may get better at home. Quarterback Damon Huard, who had just 175 yards passing with a touchdown and a pick on Sunday before being removed for Brodie Croyle, is 6-0 with a 107.3 passer rating at home as a starter in his career. And the defense, which ranks eighth in the NFL, allowing only 277 yards per game, will be bolstered by the return of defensive end Jared Allen.
The energetic Allen, who was suspended for the first two games because of multiple drunken-driving convictions, has 271/2 sacks in his first three NFL seasons.
“I was up every morning in the gym, running, going through what I know we do for individual drills. I did those on my own and kept up football movements. So I kept in the football mind-set,” Allen said.
“I’m hoping to come back and provide that little bit extra, help us get over this hump.”
Kansas City is 20-4 at home against NFC teams since 1995, the best record in the NFL during that span.
This is the first meeting between the teams since 2003, when Minnesota beat Kansas City 45-20 to even the all-time series at four wins apiece. The teams haven’t played at Arrowhead Stadium since 1999.