As the Lions escaped from the Metrodome Sunday with a 26-23 overtime win over the 0-3 Vikings, it would be easy to blame the defense. After all, the Vikings allowed the Lions to score on five straight drives, but it was the ineffectiveness of the offense in the second half that created the turning point.
The Vikings entered the second half ahead 20-0 and, after being the first team in NFL history to squander double-digit halftime leads to lose the first two games of the season, they were desperately looking to avoid a trifecta. As it turned out, the third time definitely wasn't the charm.
The team had blown a 10-point halftime lead to San Diego in the opening game and followed it up by squandering a 17-point halftime lead against Tampa Bay. But with a 20-point halftime lead Sunday, the Lions needed to score on nearly every possession and, if the Vikings offense could sustain one or two drives at most, it may well have been too much to overcome. Instead, the Vikings offense forced its reeling defense back on the field too quickly and too often.
The Lions started with the ball to start the second half and the Vikings defense, which had been vocal in the locker room at halftime about not repeating the struggles of previous games, did its job – getting Detroit off the field and putting the Vikings in position to run some clock and keep their foot on the Lions' throat.
Instead the Vikings went three-and-out in a drive that lasted just 1:22. It would take the Lions just 1:39 to drive 52 yards for a score to cut the lead to 20-7 with 9:22 to play in the third quarter.
With an unease coming over the Metrodome crowd, the Vikings went three-and-out again, this time taking just 1:10 off the game clock. The Lions would do the Vikings something of a favor, eating up almost five minutes of clock time in a nine-play drive that ended with a field goal, leaving the Vikings ahead 20-10 with just 3:14 to play in the third quarter.
For the third straight time, the Vikings offense got off the field without picking up a first down, holding the ball for just 1:26 and letting momentum clearly slip away. Thanks to a huge 60-yard gain by Jahvid Best on a screen pass to the Vikings 5-yard line, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Matthew Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for his second touchdown of the game and Detroit had cut the lead to 20-17 and disgruntled Vikings fans let the team hear about it.
The Vikings offense continued to sputter. After picking up one first down, and getting into the Detroit red zone, the Vikings faced a fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 17-yard line. With the best running back in the NFL lined up behind Donovan McNabb, instead of giving the ball to Adrian Peterson, they gave it to Toby Gerhart up the middle, who was stuffed to turn the ball over on downs.
Detroit would again respond, this time with a 12-play drive that ate up more than six minutes. The defense made an eventual stop and forced Detroit to kick a field goal that tied the game at 20-20 with 5:20 to play.
With their lead completely evaporated, the Vikings offense needed a spark. Instead, the Vikings held the ball for just 1:07 and gave the ball back to Detroit – which scored on its fifth straight drive to take a 23-20 lead.
The Vikings would eventually tie the game, but the struggling offense never got a chance to get on the field in overtime, as a worn-down defense surrendered a 40-yard completion to Johnson to set up Jason Hanson's fourth field goal of the game for the 26-23 win.
Fans may blame the defense for giving up 26 points, but it was an offense that had the ball seven times in the second half and held on to the football for just 9:57 of the games final 32 minutes that was the real turning point of the game.
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: Offensive fizzle and failures
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