In a fickle business where success and failure are measured week to week based on the most recent performance, the loss for the Vikings was a bitter pill to swallow because it so easily could have been different.
The Vikings defense, their strength all season, was shredded with dart passes by Ryan Tannehill. When the offense had the opportunity to win or at least send the game to overtime, it went three-and-out, leading to a blocked punt that proved to be the game winner in the final seconds.
But there are times when you have to look at the flip side of the coin. Following the game, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told reporters that head coach Joe Philbin, who had been on the hot seat, would be returning in 2015.
Had his Dolphins lost to the Vikings, it likely wouldn’t be the same story. But from the Miami perspective, Tannehill executed a textbook 12-play, 80-yard drive to bring the team back, the defense got the three-and-out stop it needed to make sure the Vikings didn’t score in the final seconds and the special teams scored the game-winning points.
In the big picture of things, Sunday’s game didn’t have any playoff implications – by the time Miami won they had already been eliminated thanks to a win by Pittsburgh – but it was a foundation building block that likely saved a coach’s job and has the Dolphins looking like a team that could be ready to make a big move if it adds a couple more component parts.
The loss isn’t devastating for the Vikings organization, but for those players who laid it on the line Sunday, this one is going to be harder than most to accept.
Just as Miami coaches, players and fans are elated about the unlikely mix of things that needed to take place for them to pull off a come-from-behind victory, the Vikings have to face the reality that all three things Miami needed were preventable. It didn’t just require one or two of them to happen; it required all three phases of the game to fall apart for the Dolphins to get the win.
You can bet that film study isn’t going to be pretty because, of all the good things the Vikings did Sunday, they all get overshadowed by the collapse in the final four-plus minutes that will keep the band together in Miami and having the Vikings looking to change things up.
A week can be a lifetime in the NFL.