Vikings blame mental, situational errors

The Vikings are searching for answers for their second-half collapses, and one of the reasons they point to is mental mistakes on offense and defense. From ill-timed penalties to lining up in the wrong formations, the mistakes become more frustrating in consecutive losses.

With concrete answers in short supply as the Minnesota Vikings try to analyze internally why they are 0-2 with second-half collapses in both losses, there was one point of emphasis from head coach Leslie Frazier: play better situational football.

"We didn't do as good a job executing in some key situations and that's what you've got to be able to do. We've got to do a better job of playing situational football. Right now, we don't have a good grasp of that, and that's something I'm going to talk with our team about this afternoon," Frazier said Monday. "You've got to be able to see the bigger picture as a team, and if you do that you'll be able to put your arms around things a little bit better."

As the Vikings started to slowly surrender their 17-0 halftime lead in a 24-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, there were a number of key third-down mistakes.

They let the Bucs back into the game with a quick two-play drive on Tampa Bay's first possession of the second half. That breakdown was more about execution, as linebacker Erin Henderson wasn't able get off a block and RB LeGarrette Blount exposed the hole for a 27-yard touchdown.

After that, however, there were a number of mistakes that contributed to the loss.

As the Bucs inched closer on their final drive of the third quarter, Brian Robison jumped offsides on third-and-23. The result of that play would have been a Tampa Bay fumble that was recovered by Letroy Guion, but that was negated because of Robison's penalty. The Bucs ended up kicking a field goal later in that drive to close their deficit to 17-10.

"Extremely disappointing. We talk about being a smart football team and not doing things to hurt ourselves. We definitely hurt ourselves yesterday with some key penalties in crucial situations," Frazier said of the mental mistakes. "We've got to get better at handling those situations and not hurting ourselves if we want to be a good football team. If you shoot yourself in the foot like we did a couple of times, you end up in close ball games where it ends up biting you. It did yesterday."

After the Vikings extended their lead back to 10 points, the Bucs converted two third downs on runs by QB Josh Freeman. On the first one, he got outside the pocket and the second one was a quarterback sneak. But after converting that third down, another defensive penalty put the Bucs in scoring position. Dezmon Briscoe's 19-yard catch in the fourth quarter had 15 yards tacked on when Jared Allen was flagged for unnecessary roughness. On the next play, Freeman found Arrelious Benn for a 25-yard touchdown.

"I really believe we got to do a better job as both coaches and players of understanding situations and then being able to execute in those situations. That's a part of our maturation as a team," Frazier said. "We had some situations in the second half of both games where you can either make a first down or deny a first down that could have turned the game in our favor. It's something that we have to get better at in the second half of ball games."

The Bucs' final scoring drive wasn't so much the result of obvious Vikings mistakes. Rather, Tampa Bay simply gained yardage in big chunks for a quick-scoring, decisive and winning drive. The Bucs didn't have a third-down situation until late in that final touchdown drive.

The mistakes and second-half meltdowns weren't limited to the defense. After rolling through Tampa Bay's defense for 284 yards and 17 points in the first half, the Vikings had only 114 yards and scored just three points in the second half.

Receiver Percy Harvin pointed to a couple of key third-down situations and missed assignments.

"We've just got to execute the play that was called a little better. Twice we were lined up in the wrong formation so that's just little mistakes that we're killing ourselves. [If] we're in the right formation, we probably had two walk-in touchdowns," Harvin said.

"If you look at the first half of any game this season it's probably about the best you can get. We look at our drive charts and we're taking it from the 10-yard line way down to the plus-10 yard line, so we're having drives. We just have a couple meltdowns on third down. We forget the formation, Donovan [McNabb] gets sacks and then we have a busted play. But it's us. It's all us."

In the first halves of the first two games, it has been all Vikings. In the second halves, the mistakes have piled up and double-digit leads have vanished.

"We've got a lead, but sometimes you can't tell that we have a lead," Frazier said. "So, we've got to get that swagger that you have to have when you have a lead."


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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They let the Bucs back into the game with a quick two-play drive on Tampa Bay's first possession of the second half. That breakdown was more about execution, as linebacker Erin Henderson wasn't able get off a block and RB LeGarrette Blount exposed the hole for a 27-yard touchdown. After that, however, there were a number of mistakes that contributed to the loss. As the Bucs inched closer on their final drive of the third quarter, Brian Robison jumped offsides on third-and-23. The result of that play would have been a Tampa Bay fumble that was recovered by Letroy Guion, but that was negated because of Robison's penalty. The Bucs ended up kicking a field goal later in that drive to close their deficit to 17-10. \"Extremely disappointing. We talk about being a smart football team and not doing things to hurt ourselves. We definitely hurt ourselves yesterday with some key penalties in crucial situations,\" Frazier said of the mental mistakes. \"We've got to get better at handling those situations and not hurting ourselves if we want to be a good football team. If you shoot yourself in the foot like we did a couple of times, you end up in close ball games where it ends up biting you. It did yesterday.\" After the Vikings extended their lead back to 10 points, the Bucs converted two third downs on runs by QB Josh Freeman. On the first one, he got outside the pocket and the second one was a quarterback sneak. But after converting that third down, another defensive penalty put the Bucs in scoring position. Dezmon Briscoe's 19-yard catch in the fourth quarter had 15 yards tacked on when Jared Allen was flagged for unnecessary roughness. On the next play, Freeman found Arrelious Benn for a 25-yard touchdown. \"I really believe we got to do a better job as both coaches and players of understanding situations and then being able to execute in those situations. That's a part of our maturation as a team,\" Frazier said. \"We had some situations in the second half of both games where you can either make a first down or deny a first down that could have turned the game in our favor. It's something that we have to get better at in the second half of ball games.\" The Bucs' final scoring drive wasn't so much the result of obvious Vikings mistakes. Rather, Tampa Bay simply gained yardage in big chunks for a quick-scoring, decisive and winning drive. The Bucs didn't have a third-down situation until late in that final touchdown drive. The mistakes and second-half meltdowns weren't limited to the defense. 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