Lurtsema's Reaction: Missed Opportunities

The bounce of the ball gave the New York Giants a big break in the fourth quarter, but missed tackles and missed opportunities by the Vikings put them in a precarious position most of the game, ultimately ending their undefeated season.

What a great run the Minnesota Vikings had before accepting a stunning upset from the New York Giants. The Vikings had won the previous nine games in a row, dating back to last year. Of the 37 games played before this nine-game winning streak started, the Vikings had only totaled nine wins, so as we all know, it is tremendously hard to win in the National Football League, and even harder to go undefeated. Of the 32 teams in the NFC and AFC, only 12 had winning records going into this weekend. We're well aware that only one team, the 1972 Miami Dolphins, had gone a complete season undefeated, and during that winning streak they definitely had many breaks that enabled them to maintain their undefeated season.

A major break that can turn a game around can come in the form of a mental mistake, a missed tackle, a bad call, or even the bounce of the football itself. This was never more evident than today when Jack Brewer blocked a fourth-quarter punt by New York Giants kicker Jeff Feagles while the Vikings were leading 17-16. The ball was actually blocked on the 5-yard line, but the end result was something that all of us saw for probably the first time, as the Giants picked it up and advanced it for a first down. The defense held, and the Vikings did get the ball back after this rare bounce and had a great opportunity to make a field goal on the Giants 26-yard line, facing second-and-8 with just over nine minutes remaining. On the next two plays, Michael Strahan sacked Daunte Culpepper, taking the Vikings out of field goal range and making Eddie Johnson punt from the 32-yard line.

Those two big plays by Strahan, along with what the New York Giants did with the ball on their next possession, give me little doubt that the Vikings — even after giving up 450 total yards — should have been 7-0 going against the Cheeseheads from Green Bay next Sunday night. In that Giants possession, the Vikings defense held on third-and-2 on the Vikings 3-yard line, with an incomplete pass by Kerry Collins setting up a potential game-leading field goal. However, the Vikings were flagged for defensive offsides and the Giants received an extra play. Tiki Barber scored with 5:31 to go, and that definitely changed the Vikings' offensive approach, as they now needed a TD, rather than a field goal, to win. Feeling they had to be more aggressive and score a touchdown, it caused an inappropriate throw by Culpepper, who forced his first interception of the season, which the Giants turned into another touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Teams do need breaks to go undefeated, but they have to make plays when they have the opportunity and execute tackles when they have the chance. They fell short on both accounts, so they can now throw away those great press clippings of the past, get back to work and start a new winning streak against our Cheesehead buddies next door.

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