Jared Allen may have had the right idea when, following the Vikings 24-20 loss to Tampa Bay, he suggested maybe the team shouldn't head to the locker room at halftime. When they do, bad things happen. For the second straight week a second-half collapse led to the turning point of the game.
"They didn't do anything that we weren't prepared for," Allen said. "I'll take our defense against any team in the NFL. We've got find a way – if we have to stay on the field at halftime, I don't know – but we've got to come out of the locker room and be better. We've got to be better. The last two games we have been pathetic. To have a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and blow it. With this defense? Jiminy crickets."
In their Week 1 loss to San Diego, the Vikings took a 17-7 lead to halftime, only to get outscored 17-0 in the second half. Sunday the Vikings took a 17-0 lead to the locker room only to get outscored 24-3 in the second half. They have been a Jeckyl-Hyde team that has outscored their opponents 34-7 in the first only to get outscored 41-3 in the second half.
The Buccaneers had the ball five times in the second half. They scored on four of those possessions and likely would have scored on the other if not for an interception in the end zone by Husain Abdullah.
"We came into this week saying we have to finish and play 60 minutes," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We just didn't get it done. It's just really disappointing. They got momentum and we could not get a stop when we needed one."
The shift in momentum began early. After the Vikings sputtered on their first drive of the second half, a line drive punt by Chris Kluwe was returned 16 yards to the Vikings 44-yard line. It not only was Tampa's best starting position of the day, it was their deepest penetration into Vikings territory. It took only two plays for the Bucs to cash in, as running back LeGarrette Blount rumbled 27 yards for a score to cut the Vikings lead to 17-7.
After recovering an on-side kick, the Abdullah interception denied the Bucs what appeared to be a minimum of three points with the interception, but the Bucs' assault of the Vikings defense was only getting started.
On their next possession, the Bucs drove into Vikings territory and settled for a field goal, sending the game to the fourth quarter with the Vikings still up by seven points – a lead that would swell to 10 points when Ryan Longwell hit a 29-yard field goal after a 12-play drive died on the 10-yard line.
It took Tampa just three minutes to cut the Vikings lead down to three points, as Josh Freeman connected with Arrelious Benn for as 25-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 20-17 with 6:39 to play.
The Vikings were reeling and unable to work down the clock, punting the ball to the Buccaneers with 4:12 to play. Just as the Chargers did the week before, the Buccaneers gained yardage in small chunks, getting into scoring position with passes of nine, nine, 14 and six yards before Blount capped the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run with 31 seconds left in the game.
Of the nine drives in the second half of their two games, the Vikings have allowed their opponents to score on them seven times – creating what might end up being a turning point of their 2011 season.
"The part that hurts the most is that you see what we're capable of," Allen said. "The last two games in the first half we've been absolutely dominant. I don't know. We must rest on our laurels or something, but something's got to change. It's not for the lack of effort. Guys are playing. We've got to figure out a way to be better in the second half. That's two games we gave away. Kudos to Tampa for taking advantage of the opportunity and winning, but that's a team we should have absolutely dominated. That's just the truth."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Turning Point: Vikings' song remains the same
Viking Update Top Stories
Cutler returns, praising Vikings defenseBears QB Jay Cutler is returning to action and expects some rust, but he has immense respect for the Minnesota Vikings defense.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 2:43 PM
VIDEO: Bradford breaks down offensive issuesWhile Sam Bradford has generally had an impressive start to his time with the Minnesota Vikings, that didn't translate last week. He discusses the offensive struggles against the…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 2:33 PM
VIDEO: Zimmer blasts report, talks BearsMinnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer defends his character after an erroneous report that was later corrected went viral, but Zimmer settled in to talk Bears mostly on Thursday.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 1:39 PM
Vikings look to turn the pageComing off their first loss of the season, the Minnesota Vikings are looking to shake the label of being soft and get back to their winning ways at Soldier Field Monday, a place…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 12:28 PM