Dallas wins 27-23
If Sunday’s game against the Cowboys had been played in a giant paper bag, Leslie Frasier wouldn’t have been able to coach his way out of it. Although Sunday’s loss tied a franchise record for the worst eight-game start, Minnesota actually started to show signs that it had a pulse. After getting blown out by the Panthers and Packers in their last two contests, the Vikings pushed Dallas around in their own stadium and led 23-20 with three minutes left in the game. That’s when Frazier and his coaching staff managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Frazier is a student of the Tony Dungy school of coaching. Unfortunately he attended all the classes where he learned to be painfully conservative, and missed the lesson on coaching brilliance. The Vikings defensive line had by far their best game of the season. Jared Allen and the front four was in Tony Romo’s face all afternoon, collecting three sacks and three hits while protecting a secondary held together with ceiling wax and baling twine. Romo doesn’t handle pressure well, and made some mistakes that should have cost the Cowboys the game. Fortunately for Romo and the Cowboys, they were playing a team that can’t stand prosperity.
With under five minutes left in the game, and the Vikings leading 23-20 (after a missed Blair Walsh extra point), much maligned cornerback A.J. Jefferson intercepted a pass in Dallas territory. This began a series of questionable coaching decisions that had fans and even Vikings’ players grousing after the game.
Adrian Peterson had the kind of performance Sunday that recalled his heroic MVP season. He literally put Minnesota (and a lot of Dallas players) on his back and rushed for 140 yards on 25 attempts and a twisting 11-yard touchdown that defied belief. After battering the Cowboys defense all day, Peterson definitely had the upper hand as the game progressed. Wouldn’t it have made sense to use the best running back on the planet to milk some time off the clock and ice the game?
Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave called for a bomb. Ponder’s deep pass was off Greg Jennings’ fingertips and took just eight seconds off the clock. After a one-yard Peterson run and a five yard Christian Ponder scramble, Frazier decided to punt instead of having Blair Walsh attempt a 54-yard field goal. Opportunity wasted.
Jeff Locke’s punt was downed at the Dallas 10-yard line with 2:44 left in the game. You would think that the Vikings front four would pin their ears back and chase Romo out of the stadium. No, it was time to dust off the prevent defense, rush three lineman and drop the other big man into coverage. As usual, the prevent defense prevented the Vikings from closing out an eminently winnable game. With no pressure and a ragtag secondary to take advantage of, Romo calmly marched the Cowboys down the field on a nine-play drive that culminated with a touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris with :35 seconds left. The Vikings last chance ended when Christian Ponder’s “Hail Mary” pass couldn’t get past “full of grace,” landing well short of the end zone.
It’s tough enough for NFL players to win when they battle against players from the other team. If the Vikings have to continually fight against their own coach’s poor decisions, chances are that the team won’t get another victory this season. Teddy Bridgewater here we come!