Vikings' roster filled with Pro Bowlers struggling for wins

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The lasting image of Minnesota's most recent loss was a stunned Adrian Peterson, his helmet shed to reveal steam coming off his mostly covered face on a cold Chicago night.

The Bears had just emerged with an overtime victory one play after Peterson's latest costly fumble, leaving the young running back to linger on the sideline and stare off into space. Later in the locker room, Peterson stomped his foot and stewed over a mistake he blamed himself for not preventing.

Pro Bowl rosters

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"Hey, either you're going to bounce back or you're going to let this beat you up and affect you," Peterson said Thursday, reflecting on his sixth lost fumble this season and the 13th turnover of his 46-game career. "I'm going to conquer and I'm going to prosper from this, put this behind me."

Though Peterson was almost on the ground while Chicago's Hunter Hillenmeyer pushed the ball out, he talked about needing to keep the old pigskin tighter against his body and not let his arm stray away from his torso while he's carrying it.

"Because with that, you leave opportunities for guys to come behind you or get that lucky swing at the ball and punch it out," Peterson said.

The NFL unveiled the Pro Bowl rosters this week, and no team matched Minnesota's eight representatives. The Vikings are tied for the fourth-best record in the league with legitimate standouts at several positions, but this was awkward timing for the announcement -- bringing muted appreciation from Peterson and the others honored.

Not only are the Vikings reeling from three discouraging road defeats in the past four games, but many of their stars have been underperforming down the stretch.

Peterson isn't the only one.

» Defensive end Jared Allen has only one sack in the past four games, and defensive tackle Kevin Williams has gone six games without a sack. Opponents have maximized their pass protection to guard against Minnesota's formidable front four, but the Vikings haven't countered that very well this month.

"We've got to get back to winning those one-on-ones like we were earlier in the season, which takes the pressure off our pass defense," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said.

» Steve Hutchinson and Bryant McKinnie were both picked for the Pro Bowl too, putting the left side of the offensive line in the all-star game. Injuries have played a part, with McKinnie bothered this month by a bad ankle, but the pass protection and the run blocking have both faltered in Minnesota's past three losses.

"I'm just trying to do everything I can to put myself in position so I can play fast and physical," McKinnie said.

» The passing game is the least of the Vikings' problems, but the Brett Favre-to-Sidney Rice connection hasn't been as productive this month as in the middle of the season either.

"It all starts with the guys up front, and they've played outstanding this year," Favre said. "The last few weeks we've got hurt a little bit there, but I think our guys up front will matchup well against anyone and will rise to the occasion. They got a big test this week, so we'll see."

» Even special teams ace Heath Farwell, another Pro Bowl pick, saw his kickoff coverage unit slump and allow two long returns to the Bears in last week's loss.

Look past the Pro Bowlers, too, and there are other important players with big contracts who need turnarounds for the Vikings to make a strong push in the playoffs.

Safety Madieu Williams has missed all kinds of tackles and doesn't have an interception this season. Cornerback Antoine Winfield, not fully healthy after hurting his foot and missing six games, has been burned in coverage in consecutive weeks enough to the point where the Vikings are considering a reduced role for him in Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

"I have to fight through it," Winfield said.

So while football can be considered the consummate team game, it's clear the moneymakers and elite-level players must do more for Minnesota to get back on track.

"It's not like anything catastrophic has happened," Allen said. "Everything is fixable. It comes down to making the plays you're supposed to make."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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