The Vikings likely would have a much better record than their current 2-2 standing if they had been able to score an offensive touchdown somewhere along their 209-minute draught. That ended Sunday, but not until late in the game and near desperation. We detail that carnage, along with more than 30 notes that help analyze the game.
In the NFL, 60 minutes is an eternity. But 209 minutes and 6 seconds is hellish.
When Marcus Robinson caught a touchdown pass with 3:07 to play in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 17-12 loss to the Bills, it marked the first touchdown by the Vikings offense in more than 200 minutes of play-clock time stretching over four games.
Rewind to the first game of the year on a Monday night in Washington, D.C. The Vikings trailed 13-9 at halftime and, on their first drive of the second half, the team marched 55 yards for a touchdown to take a 16-13 lead. In a twist of irony, the drive was capped off by a 20-yard touchdown pass from Brad Johnson
to Robinson. Nine minutes and 38 seconds remained in the third quarter and the Vikings had the lead, having scored a touchdown on the opening drive of both halves.
Start the clock.
The Vikings would score only one field goal the rest of the way vs. Washington, adding 24:38 without an offensive touchdown. Then came the Panthers. The only touchdown the Vikings would score in their 16-13 overtime win was on a fake field goal touchdown by the special teams. The game ended with 7:25 left in overtime with a Ryan Longwell
field goal. Add 67:35 more minutes to the counter. Then came Chicago. In the 19-16 loss, the only TD the Vikings got came from cornerback Antoine Winfield
on an interception return. Add 60 more minutes.
When the Vikings finally got a touchdown Sunday, only 3:07 remained in the game. They had gone 56 minutes and 53 seconds in that game without a touchdown. When the streak finally snapped, the Vikings offense had gone 209 minutes and 6 seconds without an offensive touchdown. To put that in perspective, if that streak had begun to start the season, the Vikings wouldn't have scored a touchdown until 5:54 remained in the third quarter of the fourth game.
Maybe fans shouldn't be so upset that the team is 2-2. Now being upset with the offense, that's another story.
When the Minnesota Twins won the American League Central Division title Sunday, it put the Vikings' game with Detroit on Sunday on hold. The Twins are expected to have priority in the Metrodome with Sunday's game Game Five of the ALDS. That could move the Vikings game to an early Monday night game or potentially swap the location of games with the Detroit Lions in their two-game series this season. VikingUpdate.com will post the results of any decision when it is made.
The Bills dominated the game in time of possession, holding the ball for 35:57, as opposed to 24:03 by the Vikings. In the final three quarters, Buffalo held a time of possession edge of 28:42 to 16:18.
To show how meaningless yardage stats can be – the measuring stick used to determine rankings on NFL offenses and defenses – the Vikings outgained the Bills 330 yards to 296. But more than one-third of those yards (114 of them) came in the final four minutes of the game with the Vikings desperate and the Bills playing prevent defense.
Heading into the second half, Brad Johnson had one interception in 10 quarters. In the span of four passes in the third and fourth quarters, he had two passes picked off.
Neither team could be pleased with the mantra of trying to play error-free. The Vikings had 12 penalties for 78 yards, while the Bills notched 15 for 102 yards – many of them coming at critical times of the game.
Coming into the game, the Vikings were among the worst at converting third-down plays offensively and among the best at stopping them defensively. Through three games, the Vikings had made good on just 16-of-47 third-down opportunities (34 percent). That number took a serious hit Sunday, as the team converted just two of 13 opportunities on third down. The defense allowed Buffalo just five of 14 third downs.
If it can be viewed as a plus, the Vikings have converted five of six fourth-down situations they've gone for.
The Bills stuffed the run all day. Johnson threw 44 passes, while the Vikings ran just 13 times. Of the 60 offensive plays, 47 were intended to be passes, but Johnson had to scramble three times to avoid sacks.
Chester Taylor came into the game with the most carries of any NFL running back, but had just 10 carries for 23 yards. If not for an 11-yard run in the fourth quarter, he would have finished with less yardage rushing than Johnson (18 on three runs) or Mewelde Moore (17 yards on two carries).
The Bills offense was much more balanced – 33 runs and 32 passes.
The Vikings again kept a top running back in check. Willis McGahee had 28 carries for only 78 yards. Prior to an 18-yard run on his 11th carry of the game, he had rushed 10 times for 21 yards. After his one big gain, he picked 39 yards on his final 16 carries of the day.
After being deactivated last week, Marcus Robinson led the team with 78 yards receiving on five catches and a touchdown. Coming into the game, he had just one catch – a 20-yard TD in the opener. He now has both of the Vikings' receiving touchdowns.
In his first three games, Jermaine Wiggins had just eight catches for 62 yards. He almost doubled those numbers Sunday, catching six passes for 59 yards.
Leading receiver Troy Williamson, who came into the game averaging 73 yards and five catches a game, caught only two passes for 27 yards and had a couple of critical drops on catchable balls.
Winfield had a big day in his return to Buffalo, leading all players with 11 tackles. Darrion Scott and E.J. Henderson each had nine tackles and a half-sack, and Kevin Williams had eight tackles, one sack and two passes batted down.
Chris Kluwe had one of the worst days of his pro career Sunday, averaging just 32.5 yards on six punts, including one shank that went nine yards.
The Vikings nearly pulled out a miracle win in the fourth quarter when the Bills made a huge coverage blunder. In the final minute, Robinson got wide open on a blown assignment but he had to lay out for a Johnson bomb and the ball hit off his hands incomplete. If the connection is on stride, the Vikings get a touchdown and likely win the game.
Kenechi Udeze didn't help out the Viking either. With less than three minutes to go and the Vikings with two timeouts remaining, Udeze jumped offside on a third-and-1 play, giving Buffalo a first down and putting the Vikings' backs to the wall as that forced them burn their remaining timeouts.
Greg Blue made a couple of thunderous hits late in the game, almost decapitating Josh Reed with a big hit on a screen pass and putting J.P. Losman down with authority on a bootleg that came up short of a first down to get the ball back to the Vikings for a final scoring chance. Darren Sharper left the game with a reported quadriceps strain.
The Vikings' special teams will catch some heat as well. With the game still on in the fourth quarter, a short punt was returned by Mewelde Moore to the Vikings 41-yard line. But a running-into-the-kicker penalty nullified the gain and the Vikings were eventually pinned on their own 10-yard line.
The Bills pulled out some tricks in the kicking game. They attempted a high pooch kick that, for all intents looked to be recovered by the Bills, but a questionable fair catch call by Jason Whittle, who had little business ordinarily even being around a kick, was called and the Vikings got the ball. It would be one of three penalties called in the game for interfering with someone calling a fair catch. Later in the game, another pooch kickoff was returned by Mike Rosenthal – perhaps the first time in team history that two offensive linemen have been involved in return plays in a game.
The time of possession in the third quarter was 11:40 for Buffalo and just 3:20 for the Vikings.
In the first half, Buffalo's wide receivers combined for 10 receptions, the Vikings had just three from theirs.
The leading receivers in the first half for the Vikings were Wiggins with three catches and Tony Richardson with 25 yards.
Chester Taylor did nothing in the first half offensively, rushing just six times for six yards, while the Vikings threw 17 passes.
After the first drive of the game, the Vikings had four straight series in which they went three-and-out.
Through four games, the Vikings have scored 15 points in the first quarter, while allowing just six.
The Vikings have made just two touchdowns this season in the red zone.
The team might be getting a little star struck on the road. After seeing Tom Cruise at their first road game at Washington, former President Bill Clinton was on hand at Sunday's game.
For the fourth straight game, the Vikings won the opening toss and scored on the first drive of the game.
Bills guard Chris Villarreal suffered a knee injury in the second quarter and did not return.
Neither linebacker Ben Leber of the Vikings nor Takeo Spikes of the Bills played Sunday.