Horrible, bumbling 3rd quarter dooms Vikings

The Vikings found several ways to lose the game – a fumble without being touched, an interception in the red zone and a sack that took them out of field goal position. And that was just in the third quarter.

In a game where both the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants showed a national audience why they came into Monday night's game with a combined record of 1-10, it was a series of blown opportunities that led to the Giants' 23-7 win.

With the Vikings trailing 10-7 at halftime, they were still in the game despite being dominated in just about every statistical category to that point. It appeared as though the Vikings got the break they needed to shift momentum just one minute into the third quarter.

They had gone three-and-out on offense and were forced to punt, but when return man Rueben Randle fumbled the ball and long snapper Cullen Loeffler fell on it, the Vikings were on the Giants 31-yard line threatening to tie the game or take the lead in a game that, to that point, they had been dominated.

What followed was one of the worst series of plays the Vikings have seen since the low points of the 2011 season.

With Josh Freeman struggling badly, Adrian Peterson took a sweep eight yards on the first play of the renewed drive and the thought on the minds of many was just keep feeding him the ball until the Giants stop him. Instead, Freeman tried to force a ball into coverage and New York's Antrel Rolle came away with an interception, allowing the Giants to keep their lead when it seems almost certain that, at worst, the game would be tied.

"I think when we look at the tape, we'll have a better assessment of it, but it just seemed like there were some opportunities that we missed," head coach Leslie Frazier said when asked about Freeman's performance. "The one when they had him in the grasp and he tried to make a play, that's one I'm sure he'd like to have back, and there were a few other plays that I think can be a little bit better. We'll look at the tape and try to get a better evaluation, but there were some missed opportunities for sure."

The Vikings defense made a stop on the next drive, but the Vikings once again went three-and-out. The defense again got a three-and-out on Eli Manning and the Vikings were in position to get the ball back trailing by just three. But return man Marcus Sherels, who scored the Vikings' only points with an 86-yard punt return in the first half, fell to the ground and coughed up the ball without being touched. The loose ball was covered by Giants long snapper Zac DeOssie on the 3-yard line. Two plays later, the Giants pounded in a score to take a 17-7 lead with 8:37 to play in the third quarter.

After Cordarrelle Patterson helped keep hope alive with a 69-yard kickoff return into Giants territory, the Vikings were faced with a third-and-3 from the New York 21-yard line. Freeman attempted to make a big play, but, when his protection broke down, he tried to avoid the pass rush and was taken down for a 14-yard loss. It took the Vikings out of field goal range and forced a punt.

"Marcus drops one and then they come back after his drop and they score a touchdown because of the punt return. We missed some opportunities," Frazier said. "And then when Cordarrelle gets the big kickoff return, we're in pretty good field position – great field position – and we end up getting nothing out of that. We had some missed opportunities that in a game like this, when our defense is playing so well and keeps coming up with stops and limiting their opportunities, to not get it done is very frustrating."

On the ensuing drive, the Giants went on a marathon 16-play drive that included three third-down conversions of 9 yards or more, gashing the Vikings defense and keeping the drive alive. It ended in a field goal, but, with just 12 minutes left in the game, the Vikings had gone from being in a golden position to take a lead in the game to being behind 23-7 with no hope of making a comeback.

It was a game that those who didn't see it but recorded it may want to just skip it to avoid the pain. It was that bad, but it was the inability to make plays during one 15-minute segment of that game that buried the Vikings, dropped them to 1-5 and have many asking questions.

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.

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