Turning Point: One Bad Defensive Series

The Vikings played solid defense for most of the game Sunday in Buffalo, except during the Bills' game-winning drive. A few different Bills slipped would-have-been/should-have-been tackles on their second touchdown drive and that made all the difference in a close game. We detail the plays and slip-ups that doomed the Vikings.

It's starting to become redundant that, when the Vikings and the opponents continue to have low-scoring games that aren't decided until the final couple of minutes, there are plenty of opportunities for a Turning Point of the Game. But the Vikings' 17-12 loss to Buffalo Sunday can be traced back to one series and one series of defensive miscues that turned a potential win and a 3-1 record into a second straight loss and a 2-2 record.

For much of the season, the Vikings defense has carried the team – shutting down the Redskins and Panthers to secure wins and scoring a touchdown that gave the team a fourth-quarter lead in their loss to Chicago. But, in the one drive in which the team showed uncharacteristic sloppy tackling, it went a long way to determining who won or lost Sunday.

Heading into halftime, the sputtering Vikings offense got a pair of first downs in the final 42 seconds of the half to get a field goal and cut Buffalo's advantage to 7-6 at halftime. A quick defensive stop and the Vikings could get their standard points to start a half and take away all the momentum the Bills had built. Instead, things went horribly wrong and the Bills were able to take control of the game.

On the opening drive of the second half, Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman was faced with a second-and-20 from his own 42-yard line. The Vikings had him on his heels and came with a blitz. Losman rolled to his right and encountered an unblocked Ray Edwards staring him down. To his credit, Losman retreated and got the rookie Edwards to lose his angle and run himself out of the play. Also in pursuit was Kevin Williams, whom Losman got to jump in the air as he set up with a fake. That took Williams out of the play. As Williams and Edwards converged, Losman threw up a dangerous jump ball that was a couple of inches too high for Antoine Winfield, but just high enough for Josh Reed for a 23-yard gain, turning what should have been a third-and-20 or longer into a first down.

Three players later, Losman faced second-and-9 from his own 22. Napoleon Harris came clean on a blitz. What looked to be a sack went bad when Losman dippend a shoulder and got Harris out of position as he whiffed on the tackle. Losman broke free and turned what appeared to be at least third-and 15 into first-and-goal at the 6-yard line.

The back-breaker miscues didn't end there. One play later, with a second-and-goal from the 8-yard line, Losman threw a screen to wide receiver Peerless Price. The throw was low and Price kneeled down to catch what appeared to net about a 5-yard loss. Fred Smoot came running up untouched, but, as Price backed up a step, Smoot lost contact and slid down Price's body. The play still could have been saved, as both Dontarrious Thomas and Darrion Scott were closing in unblocked. Somehow, Harris slid over the top of Price and Scott's attempted clothesline arm tackle did more damage to Thomas, taking both them out of the play. Price got his balance back and, despite nine Vikings defenders being between the right hash mark and goal line, Price ran in untouched for a score to give the Bills a 17-6 lead – points that would prove to be the game winner and the Turning Point of the Game.

On Thursday, defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin was asked how he can teach tackling when NFL rules limit contact through much of the off-season.

"A lot of times people don't give enough attention to tackling technique. A lot of the times after the season starts, we don't get the opportunity to tackle out here. You coach the tackling approach. A lot of times, if you handle the approach technically, angles to the ball, long-striding to the point of confrontation, minute coaching points and things of that nature, a lot of times the tackle itself kind of takes care of itself," Tomlin said. "So what we do is we are always harping on the tackling approach, angles to the ball, leveraging the football and things of that nature, knowing where your help is. That's just as much a part of tackling as the physical contact."

For one series at least, those teaching points failed Tomlin and his defenders.

Viking Update Top Stories