Grading the Game: Ravens
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus — Brad Johnson rebounded from a poor performance against Pittsburgh to throw for 248 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings' 30-23 loss to Baltimore. Johnson was especially sharp in the first half, completing 13 of 16 passes for 148 yards with the two scores. He registered a 144.8 passer rating in the opening half. Johnson was unable to guide the Vikings to a touchdown in the second half, despite the fact the Ravens fumbled the opening kick of the third quarter, enabling Minnesota to start a drive on the Baltimore 26-yard line. With starting C Melvin Fowler and RT Marcus Johnson out because of sprained ankles, the Vikings started Cory Withrow at center and Mike Rosenthal at tackle. Brad Johnson was sacked three times, the most since the Vikings' victory at Green Bay on Nov. 21. He was sacked five times in that game.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D — The inconsistency continues. The Vikings had only 14 rushing attempts and gained 42 yards. Michael Bennett got his third consecutive start but was pulled after losing 1 yard on a carry during the opening series. Bennett was done, and suddenly Mewelde Moore was back in favor. Moore carried 10 times for 49 yards after getting four rushes for minus 1-yard in the previous three games. After Moore's rushing totals, the rest of the Vikings' ground game looked like this: Bennett 1 carry, minus-1; Travis Taylor 1 carry, minus-2; and Ciatrick Fason 2 carries, minus-4. Fason showed again that he simply isn't ready to assume the short-yardage rushing job.
PASS DEFENSE: D — The Vikings took a big step backward as Kyle Boller threw all three of his touchdown passes on third downs and picked on the dime back on each occasion. Ralph Brown was beaten on TE Todd Heap's 6-yard touchdown catch and on Mark Clayton's 47-yard TD grab. Brown was then benched in favor of rookie Dovonte Edwards. Edwards, however, bit on a fourth-quarter move by Derrick Mason that ended up resulting in a 39-yard scoring strike from Boller that put Baltimore ahead to stay. Brown and Edwards weren't the only ones who had off nights. Boller passed for 289 yards, the most pinned on the Vikings since Carolina's Jake Delhomme threw for 338 yards in Week 8.
RUSH DEFENSE: B — Baltimore averaged only 2.8 yards on 32 rushing attempts as the Vikings held an opponent under 100 rushing yards for the first time in four games. NT Pat Williams, who did not receive a spot on the Pro Bowl roster despite having a stellar season, tied for the team lead with seven tackles as he once again made it difficult for an opponent to run the ball up the middle. Jamal Lewis led Baltimore with 74 yards on 24 carries, and 19 came on a run midway through the fourth quarter as the Ravens attempted to eat up time against a defense that was tiring.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B — After a poor performance against the Steelers, the Vikings rebounded nicely in this department. K Paul Edinger made all three of his field-goal attempts, and the Vikings did not give up any long returns. In fact, Baltimore backup return man Chester Taylor was stripped of the ball as he returned the opening kickoff of the second half, and the Vikings recovered. Koren Robinson remained solid on kick returns, averaging 19.5 yards on four attempts.
COACHING: C — The Vikings tried to make adjustments to slow the Baltimore passing game but were unable to do so in what was a must-win game for Minnesota's playoff hopes. Coach Mike Tice did make one decision that surprised many. With the Vikings trailing 24-20 in the fourth quarter and facing a fourth-and-1 at the Baltimore 38, Tice elected to have Chris Kluwe punt instead of going for it. The Ravens, beginning from their own 12, drove 68 yards in 11 plays to get a key Matt Stover field goal that made it a seven-point lead. Not only did Baltimore get points, but the Vikings didn't get the ball back until 1:49 remained.
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