For three quarters, Leslie Frazier's defense kept the Baltimore Ravens offense in check. While they came away with the win, the 222 yards and three touchdowns they surrendered in the fourth quarter are reason for concern for a 6-0 team.
The Vikings kept their undefeated season alive Sunday with a 33-31 win over the Ravens at the Metrodome, but following the game it was the defensive collapse in the fourth quarter that had a lot of the Vikings' defensive players shaking their heads.
In a game essentially dominated by the Vikings for three quarters, when Brett Favre
threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Visanthe Shiancoe
with 10:08 to play, the Vikings had a 27-10 lead and it seemed as if history would view this matchup as a blowout.
Instead, the Ravens rallied for 21 points in the span of 6 minutes, 45 seconds to turn a laugher into a nail-biter.
"It wasn't a meltdown because we didn't lose, but it was pretty close," defensive end Jared Allen said. "It's humbling."
The Vikings defense has employed a bend-but-don't-break philosophy for the last several years, where teams have been able to move the ball between the 20-yard lines, but when needed the Vikings defense consistently rose up to snuff out similar comeback attempts. Sunday, it all fell apart.
With the Ravens in the hurry-up offense, quarterback Joe Flacco
completed a 28-yard pass to Kelley Washington
and a 32-yard TD pass to Mark Clayton
to cut the deficit to 27-17. After the Vikings got a quick field goal to take a 30-17 lead, a dump off pass to running back Ray Rice
turned into a 63-yard gain to the Vikings 12-yard line. One play later, a touchdown pass cut the lead to 30-24. After a three-and-out by the Vikings offense and a good punt return gave the Ravens the ball on the Vikings 33-yard line, Rice took a handoff, found a seam and was gone for another touchdown – turning a 27-10 deficit with 10:08 to play into a 31-30 lead with 3:37 left in the game.
"They just got big plays on us," defensive tackle Kevin Williams
said. "We missed tackles, number one. They just threw the ball up on another one. We have to make a play on that instead of letting them make an easy catch. The other one, they picked a perfect play against the defense we had called."
The Vikings needed a huge pass play from Favre to Sidney Rice
, a clutch field goal from Ryan Longwell
and a missed field goal by Steven Hauschka as time expired to preserve the win, but, regardless of how ugly the finish, were willing to take the "W."
"Winning is never easy, but we can't make it that hard," Leber said. "It was a sloppy win, but we'll take it. Ryan once again came out and saved us."
The fourth quarter collapse may serve the Vikings well down the line in the 2009 season. While it was ugly to watch and had a lot of nervous players, coaches and fans wondering what was going on, winning another close game could serve not only as motivation for practicing the fundamentals, but as an opportunity to remember this game and know that no victory is assured until all 60 minutes have been played.
"We just weren't tackling," linebacker Chad Greenway
said. "We were like, ‘What the hell is going on?' You don't talk about it like we lost. We won the game. Maybe we'll be better in the fourth quarter this season because we've played some close games."
Longwell said he could empathize with Hauschka, whose potential game-winning field goal started off left and never faded back on a 44-yard attempt. Longwell, a wily NFL veteran, said he could tell Hauschka, faced with his first chance to win a game at the end, was feeling the nerves of the situation.
"He's a young guy and this was his first attempt at (winning a game as time expired)," Longwell said. "I saw when we called timeout, he stutter stepped a little bit. You could tell he was anxious. We've all been there and the rest of your career is determined by how you bounce back from something like that."
Perhaps the reason he could feel for Hauschka was that he was in a strikingly similar situation in his first year as a kicker.
"I missed one just like that in my rookie year – the second game," Longwell said. "I'll never forget it. We were in Philadelphia and on the plane ride home, both Brett (Favre) and Reggie (White) and both said ‘We've all screwed up, but it's how you bounce back from it.' Obviously, I bounced back, but we've all been there."
Sunday's win marks just the sixth time in franchise history the Vikings have started a season 6-0 – the first since 2003.
Thanks to some wild big plays for both teams, the Vikings and Ravens combined for 874 total yards – the Ravens gaining 448 yards (367 passing, 81 rushing), while the Vikings had 426 yards (259 passing, 167 rushing).
Through three quarters, the Ravens had 226 total yards. They added 222 yards in the fourth quarter.
Adrian Peterson regained the NFL lead in rushing with 143 yards Sunday, giving him 624 for the season. He had fallen behind Cedric Benson last week.
Peterson moved into second place on the all-time franchise list for 100-yard rushing games with his 18th – passing Vikings great Chuck Foreman. Robert Smith holds the all-time franchise record with 29 100-yard games.
Peterson is now tied for ninth all-time for the most 100-yard rushing games in the first three seasons of a career (with 10 more games still to go). With one more, he will tie Jim Brown, Walter Payton and Ottis Anderson.
After going 40 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, the Ravens have allowed two in the last two weeks.
Sidney Rice had the first 100-yard game of his career Sunday and established a number that will be difficult to top with 176 yards on six catches.
Rice entered play Sunday tied for the team lead in receiving yards (233) and fourth in receptions (17). He now leads the team in both – with 23 catches for 409 yards.
Percy Harvin left the game in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. Viking Update talked to Harvin following the game and he said he thought he would be fine – but he said so while wearing a sling on his injured left shoulder.
With his two touchdowns Sunday, Shiancoe is tied for fourth in all-time touchdowns among Vikings tight ends with 13. He is three behind Joe Senser for third place and four behind Stu Voigt for second place. Steve Jordan holds the franchise record with 28 touchdowns.
In his first 34 games with the Vikings, Shiancoe caught just one touchdown. In his last 20 games, he has 12 touchdowns.
Chad Greenway had 10 tackles to lead all defensive players. Cedric Griffin was a close second with nine tackles.
Kevin Williams was credited with two sacks Sunday, giving him four this season. Allen leads the team with 7.5 sacks, adding one more sack Sunday.
Vikings fans got a scare early in the fourth quarter when Peterson got his ankle rolled up on a screen pass and limped badly to the sidelines. He would return to the game, however.
The dynamic finish for both offenses was a far cry from the numbers at halftime. The teams combined for 307 total yards in the first half. The Vikings had 161 yards (110 rushing, 51 passing), while the Ravens had 146 yards (133 passing and just 13 rushing).
Individually, Favre completed 10 of 15 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. Peterson had nine carries for 50 yards and Rice led all receivers with three catches for 51 yards.
For the Ravens in the first half, Flacco completed 14 of 19 passes for 141 yards. Rice led the way for receivers with six catches for 32 yards. However, the trio of Ravens running backs had just 13 yards on 10 carries.
Coming into Sunday's game, the Ravens had outscored their opponents 34-13 in the first quarter. That number took a significant hit after being outscored 14-0 by the Vikings.
The Vikings have now outscored their opponents 45-13 in the first quarter.
In the first three drives for each team, the average starting position spoke volumes. The Vikings' average start position was their own 42-yard line. The Ravens' average start position was their own 15. The Vikings took advantage of the short field to open up the playbook on the first two drives and take advantage, while the Ravens were forced be more conservative.
The Vikings dominated the first-quarter stats. They held the ball for 8:38 and gained 118 yards (86 passing, 32 rushing) while the Ravens managed just 25 yards (14 passing, 11 rushing).
Individually, Favre completed 8 of 10 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns, for a sparkling passer rating of 145.8. Peterson had four carries for 35 yards to lead the run game and Shiancoe, Rice and Peterson each had two receptions.
For the Ravens in the first quarter, Flacco completed three of five passes for 22 yards for a passer rating of 70.8. The three Ravens running backs combined for just 11 yards on five carries.
Antoine Winfield suffered a foot injury in the first quarter and was taken to the locker room. He was replaced by Karl Paymah in the starting defense. Winfield returned to the sidelines in the second quarter, but didn't get back in the game. He was on the sidelines for the second half, but was wearing a baseball cap and didn't have his helmet near him.
The Ravens narrowly missed a huge play that could have tightend the game up. After netting minus-2 yards on their first two drives, the Ravens went for a big shot to Mason. Flacco uncorked a 60-yard bomb and Mason had five yards on Cedric Griffin, but the pass went off his fingertips for an incompletion that could just as easily have been an 86-yard touchdown.
In their first two drives that helped build a 14-0 lead, the Vikings had five first downs while facing just one third-down situation – which they converted on their way to their second touchdown.
Shiancoe had a huge first quarter that could have been even bigger. Despite catching a touchdown and having a 20-yard catch that sparked the second offensive drive of the game, on the first offensive play, Shiancoe was running free 25 yards downfield with nobody around him, but Favre didn't see him, checking down to Jim Kleinsasser for a short gain.
The Vikings got things started extremely quickly, scoring the game's first points without even facing a third-down situation. After a 32-yard kickoff return by Harvin to the 39-yard line, Favre completed all three of his passes for 36 yards, Peterson broke off a 26-yard run on his first carry and Shiancoe made an acrobatic catch in the end zone for a touchdown to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead just 3:35 into the game.
That touchdown pass showed off a little of the Favre cache and experience. On the play, the Ravens had a player jump offside. Favre knew he had a free play, improvised in the pocket and fired a strike to the end zone. Only a great adjustment by Shiancoe made the play a touchdown, but Favre realized he had nothing to lose, so gunslinging was in order.
UFC champion Brock Lesnar sounded the ceremonial Gjallarhorn prior to Sunday's game.
The attendance was 63,689 – the 120th straight sellout at the Metrodome.
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