Anatomy of a Letdown

With his job security at stake, you might have thought that the Vikings would have played a perfect game -- or at least try -- for Mike Tice. While they didn't commit any turnovers, they made enough critical penalties and momentum killers to allow the Packers to steal the day -- and the division.

At this point, Vikings fans don't need history lessons about the Packers' December dominance. They don't need to rewind their tapes of last year's collapse at Arizona -- with the oft-heard screams of radio play-by-play man Paul Allen yelling "No!" over and over.

No, all Vikings fans need is to do what Mike Tice and his coaches (and some savvy players) do when they want to avoid a question -- break down the film. VU has broken down the film and has compiled a list of plays that killed the Vikings. If it was just one or two plays, that would be one thing. But it wasn't -- far from it. We would tell you to enjoy the following, but perhaps just studying it would be more appropriate.

FIRST QUARTER
* On the opening drive, Brett Favre is stripped of the ball by Lance Johnstone, resulting in a 26-yard loss. The Metrodome is deafening, as the Packers burn one of their two challenges. After a 25-yard run by Michael Bennett, the Vikings are on the Packers 38-yard line. Nate Burleson then takes a 15-yard reverse to the Green Bay 23 -- close enough to assure points from the drive -- but a holding call on Marcus Robinson backs the Vikings up 10 yards and the drive stalls.
* The Vikings defense again stops the Packers and forces a punt that should leave the Vikings to start on their own 30-yard line. Instead, a holding penalty on recently re-signed defensive back Rushen Jones backs the Vikings up to 9-yard line.

SECOND QUARTER
* The Vikings run just four offensive plays in the quarter -- three of them resulting in touchdowns. Needing a defensive stand or two to take charge of the game, the defense fails at every turn.
* Trailing 7-0, Favre leads the Packers on a 16-play drive, converting three third-down passes and, after burning their last challenge, a fourth-down touchdown run by Ahman Green to tie the game 7-7.
* Trailing 14-7 after a 68-yard TD to Burleson, Favre slashes the Vikings for 74 yards on nine plays, including passes of 25 yards to Donald Driver and 22 yards to Bubba Franks to tie the game 14-14 with 1:17 left in the half.
* After falling behind 21-14 thanks to a 55-yard kick return by Kelly Campbell and 38-yard screen pass TD to Michael Bennett to give the Vikes a 21-14 lead with 58 seconds to play in the half, the Vikings again can take control with a stop -- they will get the opening kick of the second half. Instead, the special teams allow Antonio Chatman to return the kickoff 59 yards, setting up a 42-yard Ryan Longwell field goal after Favre is allowed a time out for a measurement with no time outs and seven seconds remaining -- cutting the Vikings' lead to 21-17 at halftime.

THIRD QUARTER
* On the Packers 46 on the first drive of the third quarter, Culpepper completes a flanker screen to Robinson for 23 yards to the Packers 21. It is called back on a penalty on Randy Moss for blocking before the pass is completed, backing the Vikings up 10 yards and killing the drive.
* Needing a defensive stop to keep momentum, the Vikings allow completions of 25 yards to Javon Walker and 34 yards to Driver to drive for a touchdown and take their first lead at 24-21.

FOURTH QUARTER
* Following a punt ruled down on the Packers 1-yard line and a Chris Claiborne interception for a touchdown to give the Vikes a 31-24 lead, Favre completes a third-and-10 pass of 20 yards to Driver. Faced with a first-and-15 two plays later, Favre completes a 12-yard pass to Driver that has 15 more yards tacked on thanks to a facemask penalty on Terrance Shaw. Again, the Vikings have a situation to stop the Packers on a fourth-down play, but Favre completes a 3-yard TD to Driver to tie the game.
* With the ball at midfield with 3 minutes to play, a false start on TE Sean Berton backs up the Vikings 5 yards. That seems to be negated by a 15-yard burst to the Green Bay 39-yard line, until the play is brought back by a holding call on Matt Birk.
* Facing a first-and-25, the Vikings eshew the pass and try a sweep on first down, which is tracked down for no gain, setting the table to kill the drive.
* Pinned on his own 13 with 1:35 to play, Favre completes 5 of 8 passes, including 21 yards to Tony Fisher, 18 yards to Driver and 31 yards to Walker -- moving the Packers 69 yards in less than 30 seconds -- to set up the game-winning field goal.

Fans and analysts can point to one or two plays as the reason for the Vikings' loss, but, when reality takes a harder look at the film, we see that these dirty dozen scenarios were the difference between winning and losing -- and in each case, the Vikings failed to take advantage of the situation, which may explain why the Packers are again the division champions and the Vikings are looking for help to be a wild card team.

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