Grading the Game: Broncos

The Vikings looked uninspired during the first three quarters of their overtime loss to the Denver Broncos. Despite a fourth-quarter comeback, the grades aren't much better than average.

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus — This grade would have been much worse if Tarvaris Jackson had not rebounded to pass for 107 yards and two touchdowns as the Vikings rallied from a 19-3 deficit in the fourth quarter. Jackson connected with Bobby Wade on scoring passes of 5 and 22 yards, and the quarterback ran for two-point conversions after both to tie the score. Jackson did not throw an interception, but his fumble in overtime set up the winning field goal by Denver's Jason Elam. The turnover was not all Jackson's fault, as he took a big hit on the play. Jackson completed 16 of 31 passes and should have had at least two more passes caught by WR Troy Williamson. Williamson dropped a sure touchdown after getting behind a Broncos safety in the second quarter, and he also failed to hold onto a ball on a third-down crossing route that would have given the Vikings a fresh set of downs.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus — The Vikings were able to put up 172 yards on 27 carries against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, but rookie Adrian Peterson continued his late-season slide. Peterson had only 36 yards on 11 attempts and did not play during the Vikings' first offensive series because he had been late for a team bus. Veteran Chester Taylor had 83 yards on 10 carries but also lost two fumbles, including one on the Vikings' first series when he dived for the pylon and lost the ball out of bounds. That gave Denver possession at its own 20-yard line. The play had been initially ruled a touchdown but was overruled on a review.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus — The NFL's worst-ranked pass defense gave up 246 passing yards and two touchdowns to Jay Cutler. Cutler finished with a 106.4 rating. Part of the issue, as it has been for the past two seasons, was the lack of a consistent pass rush by the Vikings. Cutler was only sacked once and often was able to hold the ball as he looked for open receivers. Rookie CB Marcus McCauley, playing in place of injured veteran Antoine Winfield for the second game in a row and the sixth time this season, rebounded after a poor game the previous week against Washington. Second-year CB Cedric Griffin suffered a sprained ankle but stayed in the game. Griffin was victimized on Brandon Marshall's 15-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus — The Vikings allowed a team to rush for 100 yards only twice in the first 14 games of the season. However, with Pro Bowl NT Pat Williams (knee) ailing, Washington (106 yards) and Denver (128 yards) both surpassed the 100-yard mark in the final two games. Selvin Young led Denver with 87 yards on 22 carries, including a 20-yard run. WR Brandon Marshall contributed 31 yards on two carries and broke one 24 yards. The Vikings still finished with the NFL's best run defense for the second consecutive year.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B — K Ryan Longwell made his only field-goal attempt, and Chris Kluwe averaged 46.5 gross yards and 42.8 net on four punts in windy conditions. The Vikings used Peterson on kickoff returns for the first time since late October, and he averaged 29.3 yards on three attempts. Mewelde Moore averaged 7 yards on three punt returns.

COACHING: C-minus — Considering the magnitude of Sunday's game, the Vikings were surprisingly lifeless for much of this game. Minnesota was eliminated when Washington beat Dallas, but considering the Vikings-Broncos and Cowboys-Redskins were going on at the same time, one would have thought Brad Childress' club would have shown more spark in the first three quarters. Instead, the Vikings trailed 17-3 after three quarters and 19-3 early in the fourth quarter before beginning a comeback that tied the score at the end of regulation.



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