For the second straight week on the road, the Minnesota Vikings dug a huge hole in the first quarter, setting a nasty tone on the sidelines. Last week against the San Diego Chargers, it was a quick 14-point deficit. This week, it was a quick seven-point lead for the Oakalnd Raiders on the second play of the game, a 64-yard interception return by Phillip Buchanon.
These types of setbacks are a lot bigger than most imagine because they allow the opposing team, obviously the home team, to set their offense in a running mode. As we all know, that allows them to attack the Vikings' weakness — stopping the run. The defense has that problem right now, and it's obvious that a team that can run the ball in the NFL totally controls the game. When an offense is rushing successfully, it controls the clock and can take the aggressiveness out of a defensive line. It can run play-action passes, which can stop a good defensive line in its tracks. I've always said the team that controls the line of scrimmage controls the game, and it proved true in Oakland and San Diego.
The Vikings now have their backs against the wall after losing these last two West Coast games to two very poor teams. So this week it will be an easy gut check when they face the lousy Detroit Lions at the Metrodome. The players themselves must stick together, as the talk shows obviously are ready to rip them — and to a degree deservedly so.
The offense had been playing well enough in the previous three games to win, but in Oakland that definitely wasn't the case. Add a poor offensive performance with six turnovers and it creates a situation where the team must make special things happen to still be able to win. The Raiders' coaches even tried to give the Vikings the game when they went for it on fourth down with 3:10 left in the game on the 3-yard line leading 21-18. Obviously, that decision was a no-brainer — they should have taken the three points to force the Vikings to go for a touchdown to win the game. The Raiders' fourth-down touchdown attempt failed, but the Vikings offense gave the ball back on an interception just three plays later.
How many times does a team get an opportunity to win late in the fourth quarter after playing so poorly? Not many. Yet each and every time the Vikings got an opportunity they seemed to play with no more urgency. The Vikings were never out of this game until the last 29 seconds, but I don't think the players realize they are good enough to win, and emotion plays a big part in this game. That emotion must start in the first quarter, not sporadically throughout the game.
Lurtsema's Reaction: Digging Holes
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