Lurtsema's Reaction: Out Of Position

The Vikings put themselves in position to win in Chicago, but one bad decision and execution took them out of the driver's seat and into a very murky playoff picture.

Had the Minnesota Vikings played with the intensity that they did in Chicago's Soldier Field on their West Coast road trip against the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, I don't think we'd be worrying about tie-breakers to win the division. But since I'm mentioning tie-breakers, as it stands right now, if the Vikings and Green Bay Packers win out, the Vikings will win the NFC North Division, as the Packers had previously lost to the Arizona Cardinals, the Vikings' last opponent.

This game in Chicago, however, was a good old-fashioned, hard-hitting, black-and-blue rivalry game. They always seem to be that way, especially in Chicago, and the Minnesota Vikings knew that going in. With their excellent effort at Solider Field, the Vikings should have gotten the win. Since tie-breakers are so important, when playing divisional rivals former Vikings head coach Bud Grant would always tell us to just keep the game close enough in the latter part of the fourth quarter to put us in position to win. That was exactly what happened this week, yet the Vikings didn't execute the play that would have brought home a win and an easier stretch to close out the regular season.

Having the ball on the Chicago Bears 10-yard line with just 1:11 to go in the fourth quarter and trailing by three points, 13-10, the Vikings only needed to avoid a mistake to be guaranteed at least overtime. Here they had three opportunities to score the winning touchdown and to earn a wonderful plane ride home. There had not been a turnover in the entire contest, as Daunte Culpepper was playing a good, solid, error-free game. Unfortunately, he threw a pass on second down that I know he regrets throwing.

The Vikings had a great corner-of-the-end-zone matchup in future Hall of Famer Randy Moss pitted against rookie defensive back Charles Tillman. Culpepper and Moss have completed this touchdown pass so many times in the past that it was a good call. But, coaches prefer the ball be thrown to the outside of Moss, putting him in the position where he has the best opportunity to catch the ball while using the end zone sideline to his favor. When the ball was thrown to the inside on this pattern, Culpepper brought Tillman back into the play — and that's exactly what happened.

You have to give Tillman his full due, because he did make a great interception. But when the Vikings were almost guaranteed a field goal and an overtime opportunity, one mistake to lose can have a devastating effect on the playoff picture. Sure, a bad snap on a dropped punt set up the game-winning field goal earlier in the half, and other big plays could be blamed for this loss. But a championship team has got to know that when they are in position to have the greatest opportunity to win, don't leave that position.

Viking Update Top Stories