How bad was the Vikings offense in the second half? Three drives in the second half pretty well summed it up while putting the Minnesota defense back out on the field after only short respites. Plus, get more than three dozen notes that help tell the tale of the season-opening loss.
The Vikings defense will likely be cursed by fans who were hoping for a season-opening win – undeservedly so. Granted, the Vikings defense allowed touchdown drives on the first possessions for the Saints in both halves and were unable to get off the field in the final five minutes as New Orleans ground out the clock for a 14-9 win, but Thursday's loss is being misplaced if it's tagged on the defense.
"Hats off to the defense, it turned out to be a defensive struggle and I don't think anybody would have seen it that way," head coach Brad Childress said.
The Vikings offense had the ball five times in the second half. They took the opening kickoff and ran four plays, taking 2 minutes, 4 seconds off the clock. Amazingly, until the final drive of the game, that would be the high-water mark.
In their next three drives after falling behind, the Vikings ran just nine plays. The sum total of the offense generated by those plays? One yard. Time of possession? A whopping 3 minutes, 11 seconds. Not for one drive, for all three combined. The drives lasted 1 minute, 11 seconds; 1 minute, 24 seconds; and 36 seconds.
The offense never got into a rhythm the entire half and sent an exhausted defensive unit back out for more without taking time off the clock. It should have come as no surprise that the Vikings defense couldn't stop the Saints running game on the final drive. The defense was on the field for an exhausting 21 minutes, 7 seconds of the second half's 30 minutes. It's hard to blame them for wearing out.
It got so bad for the Vikings that Brett Favre
threw seven incompletions before completing his first pass of the second half – which didn't come until 8:50 remained in the fourth quarter.
Fans with long-term memories can recall that the Vikings offense sputtered in their 2009 opener. Fortunately for them, the opponent was the woeful Cleveland Browns
. They had a similar offensive performance against the Saints, but you don't get away with that against the defending champs.
GAME NIGHT NOTES
In what may well be a troubling sight, the Vikings and Saints players agreed to all step out onto the field prior to the kickoff with all of them raising one finger as a demonstrable sign of "We Are One" – a visible show of solidarity among the players and their union that they are all united against the owners in the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. It will be interesting to see how this political move will be interpreted in the coming days.
The Saints outgained the Vikings with 308 total yards (229 passing, 79 rushing) to 253 for Minnesota (162 passing, 91 rushing), had an edge in first downs (18-12) and held the ball for 33:43 to just 26:17 for the Vikings.
Drew Brees got the better of the head-to-head passer competition. Brees completed 27 of 36 passes (75 percent) for 237 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 101.3. Favre completed 15 of 27 passes for 171 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Adrian Peterson won the battle of the running backs. Both he and Pierre Thomas carried 19 times, with Peterson gaining 87 yards on 19 carries with a long of 14 yards. Thomas had 71 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown and long run of 11 yards. Neither team had a run longer than A.P.'s 14-yarder.
Visanthe Shiancoe had a big impact as the "go-to" receiver. He led the Vikings with four catches and 76 yards and caught the only touchdown. Only two other players had more than one reception – Peterson (3-14) and Albert Young (2-11).
The Vikings' wide receivers didn't have more than one reception each. Greg Camarillo led the receivers with one catch for 29 yards. Percy Harvin and Greg Lewis each had one catch for 12 yards and Bernard Berrian was shut down with one catch for three yards.
For the game, Favre had 15 completions – six to his tight ends, five to his running backs and four to his wide receivers – not the kind of numbers that engender confidence that the offense will score a lot of points.
Of his 27 completions, Brees completed 13 to his wide receivers, nine to his running backs and five to his tight ends – a more standard ball distribution for a powerful offense.
The Saints found a way to get just about all of their skill-position players involved in the passing game. Eight players had two or more receptions, but only one player had 40 yards or more – Marques Colston with five catches for 62 yards. Reggie Bush (5-33), Robert Meachem (3-33), Lance Moore (3-23), Jeremy Shockey (3-23), Pierre Thomas (3-15), Devery Henderson (2-38 and a touchdown) and David Thomas (2-3) each had multiple catches.
Husain Abdullah and Asher Allen got the starts in the secondary in the place of Tyrell Johnson and Lito Sheppard, respectively, who had been at the top of the depth chart most of the preseason.
It was a tough night for both kicking games. Ryan Longwell had his only extra point attempt of the game blocked and Saints kicker Garrett Hartley hooked two field goals wide left. Even punter Chris Kluwe had to make the most of a one-hop snap on a punt, but fortunately he made a clean pick like a first baseman and got the punt away without incident.
Kluwe had a solid game, punting the ball high and averaging 44.3 yards per punt.
Both teams were unspectacular in the return game. Percy Harvin had kick returns of 22 and 19 yards, while Bernard Berrian had just two yards on two punt returns and fumbled one of them – calling a fair catch on the other two. Things weren't much better for the Saints. Of Kluwe's seven punts, four were not returned and Bush was limited to just seven yards on the three returns he made. Kickoff man Courtney Roby had the best night, averaging 23.3 yards on three kick returns, but didn't have a return longer than 25 yards.
Chad Greenway and E.J. Henderson led the way defensively for the Vikings. Greenway finished with 12 tackles (nine solo) and Henderson had nine tackles (eight solo) in his return to action following a broken femur. Antoine Winfield added nine tackles (six solo) and Asher Allen had six tackles (four solo). No Saint had more than seven tackles.
The defensive line wasn't heard from much. The Vikings had one sack, which came from backup DE Jayme Mitchell. Jared Allen had four tackles (three solo), Pat Williams had two tackles, Ray Edwards had one tackle and Kevin Williams had one assisted tackle.
The Vikings were called for six penalties – three in each half – for 60 yards. The Saints had three penalties for 20 yards – the last New Orleans penalty being called with 5:20 to play in the second quarter.
Neither team was good on third down. The Vikings converted 5 of 13 third downs (27 percent). The Saints were 3 of 11.
The Saints ran 38 offensive plays in the second half, including three drives of 10 plays or more. The Vikings had just 19 offensive plays in the second half, despite having the advantage of getting the ball to start the half.
In the fourth quarter, New Orleans took over the ball with 14:43 to play. They had an 11-play drive that ate 5:33 off the clock and, when they got the ball back, there was 5:34 to play. They ran out the clock despite the Vikings using two timeouts as well as the 2-minute warning.
Bryant McKinnie suffered dislocated finger late in the third quarter, yet he was taken off the field on a cart. When he left, the Vikings moved right tackle Phil Loadholt to left tackle and Ryan Cook to right tackle.
The Vikings made their first challenge of the season and lost. Despite HD technology and shots that showed a pass that would have been a first down on a catch by Jim Kleinsasser, the incomplete call was upheld. Not only did it force the Vikings to punt, but took away a timeout that could have been used late in the game.
Favre didn't return to Minnesota with the Vikings after the game. He was allowed to drive to Mississippi, where he is scheduled to attend the christening of his grandson, Parker Brett, in his hometown.
In the first half, the Saints ran just three times for 9 yards after opening the game with passes on 21 of the first 22 offensive plays. In the scoring drive to open the second half that gave the Saints the lead to stay, they ran seven times for 34 yards.
After a mammoth second quarter, the Vikings had 181 total yards (127 passing, 61 rushing), while the Saints had 149 yards (140 passing, 9 rushing). The Vikings held the ball for 17:24 of the half and had 10 first downs as opposed to six for the Saints.
Favre had a passer rating of 92.9 in the first half, completing 11 of 15 passes for 127 yards with a touchdown and an interception. In the second half, he completed just 4 of 12 passes for 41 yards. Brees had a passer rating of 106.8 in the first half, completing 15 of 21 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown. In the second half, he completed 12 of 15 passes for 89 yards.
Peterson had 13 carries for 57 yards in the first half and had 19 carries for 87 yards at the end of the third quarter. He didn't have a rushing attempt in the fourth quarter.
Shiancoe had four catches for 76 yards and a TD in the first half. He had no catches after halftime.
In the first half, both Favre and Brees completed more than 70 percent of their passes – Favre hitting on 73 percent and Brees making good on 71 percent.
After having five turnovers in the NFC Championship Game, the only turnover Thursday night was a Favre interception. The Vikings defense got a stop following the pick and Hartley missed a field goal.
The Saints got in the red zone only twice during the game. The Vikings never officially got in the red zone because their touchdown came from more than 20 yards out to Shiancoe.
The Vikings had a 16-play drive in the second half to effectively dominate the quarter. The drive ate 9:25 off the clock. For the quarter, the Vikings gained 136 yards to just 11 for the Saints. Minnesota picked up nine first downs in the quarter compared to none by New Orleans. The Vikings held the ball for 11:32 of the second quarter.
The Saints dominated the first quarter thanks in large part to a game-opening drive for a touchdown. Brees threw 15 pass, completing 12 to seven different receivers – helping the Saints outgain the Vikings 138-45.
The Vikings abandoned Peterson in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter, he ran five times for 23 yards, with eight carries for 34 yards in the second quarter and six carries for 30 yards in the third quarter. He had no carries in the fourth quarter, but that could be attributed to the Vikings having the ball just once in the entire quarter.
Jared Allen had some fun during the televised player introduction. Typically a player gives his name and where he played football. Allen introduced himself and said he attended "Culinary Academy." He's used that line before, right?
Fans may wonder why the Vikings were wearing purple. It is up to the home team to choose what color they want to wear – the Vikings always wear purple at home and most teams choose to wear their dark jerseys at home. Some teams don't, like Dallas and Miami, but both started that tradition due to playing in the heat of the south early in the season. The game was indoors, but the Saints chose to play with their standard road whites and let the Vikings wear their home purple jerseys.
Favre and Shiancoe both spent several minutes before the game chatting up injured Saint and former teammate Darren Sharper. Sharper was one of the first to say after Favre's emotional press conference that he wouldn't believe it until a game was played and he wasn't there. He was right … all three times. Shiancoe and Sharper had a much-publicized Twitter throw-down that many believe got the league involved in bud-nipping to keep Twitter from becoming the smack-talk venue of choice.
The Vikings inactives were QB Joe Webb (third QB), CBs Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook, RB Toby Gerhart, DT Jimmy Kennedy, OG Chris DeGeare, DE Everson Griffin and TE Mickey Shuler.
Whether coincidence or not, all six of the Vikings draft picks that made the roster were among the eight inactives.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.