When is a negative a positive on a negative day? When the Vikings hold an opponent to negative yards rushing and still lose. That's one of more than 40 notes that help tell the story of how the Vikings played and how they lost.
On a day that will likely be remembered for Miami's big plays on defense, what may have been lost was a record-setting day by the Vikings run defense.
Most Vikings fans are aware that the team hasn't allowed a 100-yard performance from a running back since Warrick Dunn
ran for 121 yards in Week 4 of the 2005 season. In the ensuing 22 games, the Vikings have an NFL-best streak of not allowing 100 yards to a running back. This feat is even more impressive since the team has faced the likes of Thomas Jones
, Ahman Green
, Kevin Jones
, Tiki Barber
, Steven Jackson
, Willie Parker
, Jamal Lewis
, Clinton Portis
, Willis McGahee
, Corey Dillon
and Ronnie Brown
in that span.
But what the Vikings were able to achieve against the Dolphins Sunday wasn't just impressive, it was record-setting. For the game, Miami ran the ball 14 times for minus-3 yards. That not only was a record-low for the history of the Dolphins – the old record was set twice at 14 yards – it also was a record for the Vikings defense – the previous record being 12 yards by the 49ers in the 1969 season in which the Vikings went to their first Super Bowl.
While teams have opted to abandon the run due to lack of success and pass the ball in order to beat the Vikings, there was no question that the Vikings defense did its part to win Sunday's game. The record books will attest to that fact.
Sunday was by far the worst day of Brown's career. Prior to Sunday, the career lows for the second-year running back taken at the top of the 2005 draft were 21 yards rushing and a 2.0-yard average per rush in any game. Sunday, he managed just two yards on 12 carries – an average of just .17 yards per attempt (or six inches per rushing attempt).
Joey Harrington earned his first win against the Vikings in seven tries. He was very efficient during the game, completing 26 of 42 passes for 254 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
For the game, Miami ran 56 plays – 42 passes and just 14 rushes – a 3:1 pass-to-rush ratio. In contrast, the Vikings ran 82 plays (26 more plays than Miami), with 47 of them pass attempts and 35 rushing attempts.
As one would expect with such a disparity in plays, the Vikings dominated time of possession – 36 minutes to just 24 minutes for Miami.
The Vikings continued to struggle badly on third-down conversions, making good on just five of 17 third-down attempts. The team did make good on all four of the times they went for a first down on fourth down. Miami wasn't much better on third downs, converted just five of 13 attempts on the day.
Although the Vikings blitzed Harrington regularly, they didn't record a sack in the game. Brad Johnson was sacked three times, including a fumble.
For the season, Johnson now has just five passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Johnson has just one touchdown pass in his last four games.
Chester Taylor ran the ball 28 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns – matching his TD total from the first nine games. His 28 carries were the second-highest total with the Vikings and the eighth time in 10 games that he has carried the ball 20 or more times.
Chester Taylor lost the team lead in receptions to Travis Taylor Sunday. Coming into the game, Chester Taylor had 34 receptions. He didn't have any catches Sunday. Meanwhile Travis Taylor caught eight passes – a career high – for 67 yards. He now leads the team with 37 receptions.
Jermaine Wiggins had six catches (tying his season high) for 66 yards.
Jeff Dugan played in his first game this season and caught three passes for 20 yards – the first receptions of his NFL career.
Dwight Smith led the Vikings with seven tackles (six solos), followed by Napoleon Harris, who returned to the lineup after missing two games with a dislocated wrist. Harris had six tackles, three of those solo tackles.
The Dolphins got some enormous production from their defenders. Linebacker Zach Thomas was in on 17 tackles, while defensive back Yeremiah Bell was in on 12 tackles (six of them solo). But perhaps the star of the day was Jason Taylor, who had five tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, an interception and a touchdown.
Coming into Sunday's game, the Vikings had allowed just 22 points in the fourth quarter and overtime this year. The Dolphins scored 14 points in the fourth quarter – but both touchdowns were scored by their defense.
Jason Taylor scored the seventh touchdown of his career Sunday, the most by any defensive lineman since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
The Vikings confounded some of their fans by lining up to go for a first down from their own 39-yard line with a fourth-and-1 situation with eight minutes to play. The play clock ran down, the team burned a timeout and, after thinking it over, opted to punt.
Harrington's interception in the third quarter extended a streak of throwing at least one pick in all seven of his career games against the Vikings.
Marcus Robinson returned to action after missing three games with a back injury, but was limited to just one catch for 17 yards. Despite missing all that time, he still leads the team with three touchdown receptions. Nobody else has more than one.
Troy Williamson struggled once again Sunday. After being the target of just one pass the entire game against the Packers the previous week, he caught just two passes for 35 yards and, perhaps more importantly, dropped a third-down pass on a play designed to spring him for a big gainer late in the third quarter with the game tied 10-10. That forced the Vikings to punt.
Mike Rosenthal replaced Marcus Johnson in the second half at right tackle.
Olindo Mare missed a 44-yard field goal in the second half. It was the ninth miss for Mare this year – the most of any kicker in the league.
Cedric Griffin suffered a shoulder injury in the second half.
The Dolphins had a chance to blow the game open in the third quarter. Ahead 10-7, Harrington completed a pass to Chris Chambers that went for a 58-yard touchdown, but it was called back thanks to a chop block by tight end Justin Peelle.
Miami held a slim total yardage edge in the first half. While both teams had 11 first downs, Miami had 180 total yards (193 passing and minus-13 rushing). The Vikings had 149 total yards (78 passing, 71 rushing).
In the first half, Miami ran 23 pass plays and nine rushing plays. Harrington completed 17 of 23 passes in the half for 191 yards and one touchdown, while Brown had seven carries for minus-8 yards.
Johnson was efficient in the first half, completing 10 of 13 passes for 86 yards, while Taylor led the rushing attack with 13 carries for 59 yards. In the second half, Taylor would have 15 carries for just 20 yards.
Coming into the game, the Vikings led the NFL in defensive three-and-outs by their opponents with 36 – an average of four per game. They added three more to that total Sunday.
The Vikings got a scary moment when the team opted to go for a fourth-down conversion attempt from their own 29-yard line in the second quarter. Johnson took a nasty helmet-to-helmet hit from Thomas on the play. Ironically, with the game tied 10-10 and less than a yard away from a potential touchdown that would give the Vikings a 17-10 lead, coach Brad Childress opted to eschew the touchdown and settle for a 19-yard field goal.
Guard Artis Hicks injured his left ankle in the second quarter and didn't return. He was replaced by Jason Whittle.
In the first quarter, the Dolphins came out in a no-huddle offense and spread the Vikings defense out. Harrington responded by completing 11 of 12 passes for 105 yards.
Chester Taylor had seven rushes in the first quarter – the last of which was his 200th carry of the season.
Taylor is on pace for 354 rushes this year. The existing team record is 295 carries by Robert Smith in 2000.
Mewelde Moore had a solid day returning punts, but made a big blunder in the first quarter, fielding a punt on his own 4-yard line and being tackled after a 1-yard return.
The Vikings defense got a scare when Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin got injured on back-to-back plays. Both would return, but Griffin would leave the game later with a shoulder injury.
The Vikings scored a touchdown on their first drive – a 12-play, 96-yard drive. It was the first time the Vikes scored a touchdown on their first drive of a game since the season opener at Washington.
The Vikings came into the game with the league's worst red zone offense, having scored touchdowns on just five of 20 red zone possessions. The team had four red zone possessions Sunday, scoring two touchdowns and kicking two field goals.
Ciatrick Fason was active for the first time since Week 1 when Artose Pinner took his spot on the gameday roster. Pinner, who had two costly penalties against Green Bay, didn't see the field Sunday.
At one point on the opening drive, Harrington threw nine straight passes, completing eight of them. The drive would end when Harrington and Brown botched a handoff attempt that was recovered by the Vikings – killing a 12-play drive to start the game.
Fred Smoot returned to the starting lineup Sunday.
The 20 points scored by the Vikings was the third highest point total of the season.