Even before I saw todayâ€™s quote from Jared Allen I was going to open this post with â€œItâ€™s better to be lucky than goodâ€.
Twice now the Vikings have run up a big lead only to let their opponent get back into the game by playing incredibly poor defense.
I was at the game on Sunday and was surprised how poorly Joe Flacco played for three quarters. I had assumed the he and Todd Heap would have a huge day against the Vikings Tampa-2 defense, but Flacco consistently tried to work the outside of the field instead of over the middle. Had they attacked the middle I believe they would have won the game. Heap only had 3 catches, and it wasnâ€™t because he was covered.
On the other side, the Vikings kicked 4 field goals when on 3 of those drives they should have been more aggressive in the play calling to get a touchdown. The final offensive drive illustrates this well. The Vikings got into Baltimore territory with a 58 yard pass to Rice. After that play they called:
Peterson up the middle (-2 yards)
Peterson off left tackle (3 yards)
Peterson off right guard (3 yards)
The same thing happened on the previous scoring drive when the Vikings got into scoring positions after a 58 yard run by Peterson:
Taylor right end (1 yard)
Taylor up the middle (4 yards)
Throw to Peterson out of the backfield (-2 yards and Peterson gets injured)
Everyone knew that the Vikings needed touchdowns instead of field goals, including Childress.
According to John Clayton of ESPN:
Favre had a funny exchange with Vikings coach Brad Childress late in the victory over the Ravens. Childress came over and told him that momentum was shifting to the Ravens and the Vikings needed to finish drives with touchdowns. Favre said his response was: \”No s—, Sherlock.\”
If that was the case, perhaps Childress should have told Darrell Bevell instead. The obscenely conservative play calls nearly (and should have) bit the Vikings in the butt.
Of course the thought may have been to rely on the defense that had dominated the Ravens all day long, but in the fourth quarter it became apparent (as noted by Childressâ€™ quote) that momentum had shifted and Flacco had found his strideâ€¦ mostly by taking advantage of the deep middle (yet another terrible game by the Vikingâ€™s safeties) and by finding whomever Karl Paymah (in for an injured Antoine Winfield) was covering.
This has become the hallmark of the Vikings defense and Leslie Fraser needs to figure this one out before the Favre magic runs out.
Week 1 versus Cleveland: the Browns offense hadnâ€™t generated an offensive touchdown in seven games. Late in the game (yes, during â€œgarbage timeâ€) Brady Quinn hits a wide receiver over the deep middle for a touchdown.
Week 3 versus San Francisco: the 49ers are down 20-17 in the 4th quarter. They hadnâ€™t scored an offense touchdown since early in the second quarter (aided by 2 penalties). But after two deep passes got them into scoring position Shaun Hill hits Vernon Davis over the middle for a 20 yard touchdown.
Week 4 versus Green Bay: the Packers are down 30-14 Rodgers attacks the middle as he drives down the field to score a touchdown and give them a glimmer of hope. The Vikings defense continued to blitz, leaving one-on-one coverage and the middle of the field open, allowing Rodgers to drive down and get a field goal to pull within 7; making the game closer than it should have been. Had the Packers gotten that last on-side kick I have no doubt they would have taken it right down the field again.
Week 5 versus St. Louis: before the fourth quarter Rams only scoring drive was off a Favre interception resulting in a field goal. But in the fourth quarter (again, one could argue â€œgarbage timeâ€) the Vikings allowed the lowly Rams to march down the field in 3:16 to score a touchdown.
Week 6 versus Baltimore: the Ravens only scoring drive in the first half foreshadowed what we would see later. With only 1:47 left on the clock before halftime, and starting at their own 18, Flacco led the Ravens down the field with big play going against Karl Paymah with 6 seconds left to move it from a 52 yard field goal attempt to a 41 yard field goal. The Ravens started to get more offensive traction in the third quarter when Flacco found Heap down the middle for 23 yards and then the Ravens followed that up by catching the Vikings off guard and allowing Ray Rice to scamper 22 yards for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter all three Raven touchdown drives had plays over 30 yards.
Looking at it another way; here is the breakdown of scoring by quarter by the Vikings opponents:
Looking at the second quarter, that number is inflated a bit due to three big plays. The first was Cleveland running a punt back just before halftime. The second was San Francisco blocking a Longwell field goal and returning it for a touchdown as the half expired. And the third was Adrian Peterson getting stripped of the ball in Green Bay and having it returned for a touchdown. Itâ€™s clear, in terms of the Vikingâ€™s defense giving up points, that the fourth quarter is a huge problem. Itâ€™s also clear that the defense has the talent to dominate teams, so that leads me to believe that there is a scheme problem.
I havenâ€™t noticed the Vikings moving into a prevent defense late in games, but they have loosened up a little bit. Mostly it seems that the safety and linebacker play has been sub-par; but have they been out of position due to poor choice by the player or by the coaches?
If I knew the answer to that I would be working in professional football, and not in professional adult babysitting. Letâ€™s hope Leslie and team can figure that one out sooner rather than later.