Penalties Thwart Scoring Chances

The margin for error against the Central Division-leading Bears was slim, and the Vikings committed far too many penalties, everything from a false start by the quarterback to delay of game to holding — everything seemingly quashing scoring opportunities.

The last thing a coach wants to see during a game is a penalty flag come flying. There are times when a team can dominate several facets of a game only to have penalties jump up to kill them and create the turning point of a game.

Sunday night the Vikings had more total yards, more passing yards, a better average per rush, held the ball nine-and-a-half minutes longer, had a better third-down conversion rate and ran 18 more offensive plays.

But the only statistic that really mattered was 11 to 2 — the number of penalties the Vikings and Bears each had during the game.

"All the big plays we had were called back," Dennis Green told VU. "I think it made a big difference. That is one thing we have not been good with and it raised its ugly head again."

The examples?

* On the first drive of the game, the Vikings were down to the Bears 32-yard line when a holding penalty on Matt Birk backed the Vikings up 10 yards and took them out of field goal range. The team would punt.

* As the game moved to the second quarter, the Vikings were at midfield. A false start penalty would back the Vikings into a second-and-15 situation, and the Bears were able to bring the heat to Culpepper and force another punt. Once again, a chance to score came up empty.

* With 10 seconds left in the half, Culpepper completes a 16-yard pass to Randy Moss to the Chicago 45. An unnecessary roughness call on Cory Withrow negates the play and the Vikings go to halftime down 10-0.

* Third quarter. On a fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 46, Culpepper scrambles for 8 yards. Moss, who wasn't close to the action, is called for holding and the play comes back. The Vikings punt.

* First drive of the fourth quarter. The Vikings have moved near midfield and have a third-and-2 situation they're adept at converting. The play is slow to get to the huddle and the team is called for delay of game. The Vikings don't convert the third-and-7 and punt.

Individually, these plays would have been frustrating. In combination, they were infuriating.

"We had our opportunities," Matt Birk told VU. "We had too many mistakes and too many penalties. Just stupid stuff. The defense played great, special teams played great, but the offense didn't. We got what we deserved."

And in the end it was one aspect of the game, avoiding big penalties, that killed the Vikings, perhaps killed their season and created the turning point of the game. VU

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