When they had the opportunities, they failed.
The Minnesota Vikings had the chances they needed at the end of their NFC game with Seattle, but after a high-scoring first half in which both teams combined for 41 points, Minnesota was held to a field goal in the second half, leading to a 27-23 loss and keeping their division title hopes in limbo.
The Vikings, now 7-6 on the season, will be in a three-game fight for the playoffs — traveling to Detroit next Sunday, hosting Green Bay on Christmas Eve and finishing the season at Washington.
While none of those teams are threatening Philadelphia for NFC supremacy, the Vikings can only worry about their free fall. The bad statistics tell the story of Sunday's loss.
They allowed Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck to throw for 334 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions for a 104.3 rating. Running back Shaun Alexander ran for 112 yards on 27 carries, and wide receiver Darrell Jackson amassed 135 yards on 10 catches. It showed a defense that couldn't make the stops — on the ground or in the air — when it needed it most.
While Daunte Culpepper threw for 270 yards and avoided any interceptions, he couldn't make the big plays when need and wasn't really given the chance either. Two of the Vikings' last three drives ended with turnovers — one on an Onterrio Smith handoff during the exchange with Culpepper and another on an interception thrown by Randy Moss. Besides Moss' 104 yards receiving, the Seahawks held Smith to 56 yards on 14 carries and no other receiver or running back had more than 50 yards.
The Vikings caught a break on their first drive, getting a second chance at the end of the drive. After a lack of running plays last week in Chicago, the Vikings started with a heavy dose of Smith against Seattle. He started the game with three straight runs for 26 yards, and Marcus Robinson added the third first down of the game with a 13-yard reception, but once the Vikings got across midfield the drive stalled. Facing fourth-and-9 at the 35-yard line, head coach Mike Tice elected to punt, but when the Seahawks were flagged for 12 men on the field, that strategy changed. Morten Andersen drove a 48-yard field goal over the crossbar for a 3-0 lead 4:18 into the game.
The Seahawks responded with a drive of their own across midfield, but they used a passing attack to get it done. QB Matt Hasselbeck started with two passes for a combined 18 yards to Darrell Jackson, and Bobby Engram picked another first down with a 19-yard reception. But the Seahawks were forced to settle for a field goal attempt, which Josh Brown pulled wide left from 38 yards.
The Vikings responded with a quick touchdown drive. They started with a bomb to Randy Moss in which cornerback Marcus Trufant was flagged for a 31-yard pass interference penalty. After a 9-yard run by Smith, Culpepper scrambled and found Nate Burleson open in the middle zone for a 16-yard gain, and the Vikings returned to the ground game. Smith carried three of the next four plays, including a 5-yard touchdown run to put the Vikings up 10-0 with 3:42 to play.
This time the Seahawks responded with a score, and it didn't take long. They went 80 yards in six plays, using only 2:30 of game time. Brian Williams gave up 17 yards with a pass interference penalty on the third play of the drive, but from midfield all it took was consecutive passes of 15 and 35 yards to Bobby Engram for a 10-7 game with 1:12 left in the first quarter.
After the Vikings were shut down in three plays, Seattle came right back with another touchdown drive. Again, it looked too easy. Jackson converted the first third down on the drive with a 10-yard reception, and Maurice Morris took it across midfield with a 12-yard catch. Another receiver came free on another blown coverage when backup tight end Ryan Hannam was left wide open for a 36-yard gain to the 12-yard line. Alexander finished the drive on the next play with a screen while slipping through traffic for a touchdown and a 14-10 Seattle lead.
The Vikings followed the high-scoring action with a 61-yard drive, but 54 of those yards came on a crossing route to start the drive. Three plays later, the Vikings were forced to settle for a 32-yard field goal from Andersen to draw them within one point at 14-13 with 9:48 to play in the first half.
But the first-half barrage was far from over. Brian Williams intercepted Hasselbeck's next pass, and Culpepper started the Vikings from the Seattle 49-yard line. He began with a 16-yard run, followed by a 15-yard pass to Smith. Culpepper then scrambled, took a designed draw and quarterback sneaked on the next three plays before a holding penalty backed the Vikings up to the 17-yard line. After an 8-yard pass to Jermaine Wiggins and a 6-yard run by Smith, Culpepper bought time and found Moss in the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown and a 20-14 lead.
Seattle had one more scoring drive before halftime. Once again, it didn't take long. Alexander started with a 13-yard run, and Jackson picked up the next first down with a 17-yard reception. After a 10-yard pass to Engram, Hasselbeck went to Jackson for a 19-yard touchdown to reclaim a 21-20 lead, a lead that held up until halftime.
The Vikings reclaimed the lead when Brian Russell intercepted a Hasselbeck pass on the Seahawks' opening drive of the second half and returned it 41 yards to the 14-yard line. Three plays later, including incompletions to Moss and Wiggins, Andersen hit a 31-yard field goal for a 23-21 lead.
It would be the last score — and the last lead — for the Vikings.
The Seahawks responded with another pass-happy drive, starting with two completions to Jerry Rice for 5 and 18 yards. Jackson and Rice followed with receptions of 20 and 17 yards to the 15-yard line, but the Seattle drive fell apart from there. Brown hit a 33-yard field goal and the lead switched hands again, this time with the Seahawks on top, 24-23.
But after a wild-scoring first half, the second half slowed down. The teams exchanged four straight punts before a fumbled exchange between Smith and Culpepper gave Seattle prime field position with 6:35 to play.
Starting from the 26-yard line, Alexander ran three times for 19 yards, but eventually the Vikings forced Brown onto the field for a 27-yard field goal for a 27-23 lead with 3:40 to play.
Minnesota took possession at the 27-yard line and looked to have the momentum for a game-winning touchdown drive. Kelly Campbell started with a 9-yard catch, and the Vikings moved across midfield with a 33-yard pass interference penalty on Marquand Manuel while covering Moss. But after an 11-yard run by Michael Bennett, the momentum came crashing down. The Vikings called for a reverse, and Moss sprinted with the ball to his right. When he pulled up and underthrew a pass, safety Michael Boulware came down with the game-changing interception in the end zone.
After one Seattle first down and three Minnesota timeouts, Lance Johnstone forced a punt with a 5-yard sack on third down, and the Vikings had one last chance to win the game with 44 seconds left.
They began with passes for 4 and 21 yards to Wiggins and spiked the ball at their own 36-yard line with 19 seconds left. Then Moss broke loose across the middle for 36 yards to the Seahawks 28-yard line and the Vikings hustled to spike the ball one last time. With 4 seconds left, they did it and Seattle didn't get across the line of scrimmage, creating a 5-yard penalty to the 23-yard line. On the last snap of the game, Culpepper stepped up in traffic, scrambled to his right and appeared to be sacked by defensive end Antonio Cochran. When Culpepper rolled over Cochran and convinced the officials that he wasn't downed, play went on. He threw a pass to the end zone that was tipped by Seattle and caromed off of Wiggins' leg for an incompletion to end the game.
Both teams scored early and often to the start the game, but the Vikings were held to only a field goal in the second half, a fact that is threatening to keep them out of the playoffs after starting the season 5-1.
Vikings' Fall Continues With 27-23 Loss
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