Vikings learn a lesson about letdowns

The Vikings temporarily lost a lead that at one point in the fourth quarter was at 17 points. Players came away from a film session well aware of the many things that went wrong on defense in the final period.

For much of the Vikings' 33-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens, they dominated the scoreboard, field position and statistics. That all changed in the fourth quarter, specifically the last 10 minutes of the game.

The Ravens turned a 27-10 deficit into a 31-30 lead by scoring three touchdowns in the final 10 minutes of the game despite having the ball for only four minutes and 25 seconds in the final quarter.

"There's a bunch of things that we'll clean up. It's pretty widespread, but our guys are prideful enough where they'll come back and use that as a pretty good force," Vikings coach Brad Childress said.

The Vikings used a ball-control offense to try to slowly put the Ravens away in the fourth quarter. They went on a 10-play drive at the beginning of the quarter that was capped with a touchdown to give them a 27-10 lead. After that, it started to fall apart, mostly because of Baltimore's explosive plays.

The Ravens responded with three consecutive touchdown drives. In the first one, they converted second-and-18 with a 28-yard pass to Kelley Washington. On third-and-10, quarterback Joe Flacco hit Demetrius Williams with a 17-yard completion, and one play later Flacco found Mark Clayton for a 32-yard touchdown with backup cornerback Karl Paymah in coverage.

"That's where we lacked off, in the fourth quarter, when things started to fall apart, with the missed tackles and the calls coming in late. It was a combination of mistakes, left and right. So we've just got to clean those things up," Paymah said.

"It was a lot of communication areas, missed tackles, just guys not flying around. Just little things. It's still on our shoulders, but little things."

The big thing was how quickly the Ravens was able to score when they needed it quickly. Their next two touchdowns drives consisted of only three plays and one play.

Missed tackles and a lack of clear communication were the common responses from players after the game and on Monday.

"Fortunately, we have a good cushion in the fourth quarter, and you don't have to be as aggressive. We're counting on our front four to get pressure, and we're dropping back and keeping everything in front of us," linebacker Ben Leber said before adding a key caveat. "That's the theory."

"… We need to tackle better, and better communicate what's going on. Some guys are not on the same page. They went to a hurry up, and we were trying to get personnel figured out. … We watched film, and we couldn't get the calls in. Guys tried hand signals, but we couldn't get it to the back-end guys."

Not much stayed in front of the defense on Baltimore's final two drives. After Flacco took a sack, he completed a short pass to running back Ray Rice, who slipped through or by tackle attempts by Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, Paymah and Madieu Williams before Tyrell Johnson chased down Rice after a 63-yard pickup. On the next play, Derrick Mason scored from 12 yards out.

"Without speaking about a particular play, I'd just go back and say, 'You've got to tackle. You've got to get the ball on the ground. You've got to know where the first-down sticks are. You've got to know situational football,'" Childress said.

After the Vikings punted from deep in Ravens territory with less than four minutes to play and clinging to a 30-24 lead, Rice took the first play of the drive and rushed through a big hole, slipped away from Johnson and had a 33-yard touchdown and an improbable 31-30 lead.

"It was unbelievable. Just watching film we didn't really realize … when you're out there you don't really stare at the scoreboard," Paymah said. "But watching film going into the fourth quarter we still had a good lead on our shoulders and you've just got to hold up. You're just got to fight to get it done."

Thanks to a 58-yard reception by Sidney Rice and a 31-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell, the Vikings re-assumed a 33-31 lead with 1:56 to go, but Baltimore went on another drive that put them in scoring position. Fortunately for the Vikings, Steven Hauschka missed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide left and the Vikings' fourth-quarter letdown didn't end with their first loss of the season.

It did, however, teach them a lesson.

"The wakeup call is a good analogy," Leber said. "We certainly have areas we need to improve on and focus on, like tackling and communicating. We pride ourselves on being a complete defense. We have to close out the fourth quarter and dominate throughout. That's why we walked away from watching film a little defeated.

"How we won, it was disappointing as a defense. That's uncharacteristic of us."

NOTES

  • Quarterback John David Booty knew all about the realities of business in the NFL from what his older brothers experienced in the league. At the end of the preseason, he was released and re-signed to the Vikings practice squad.

    Last week, he was released from the practice squad so the Vikings could sign an offensive lineman to make up for injuries along the line. On Saturday, after they had gotten through their week of practice, the Vikings re-signed Booty to the practice squad.

    "The first time I got released I could have probably gone to other practice squads, but I think that this is where I wanted to be in the beginning," he said. "I really enjoy it here and I'm learning a lot right now, so hopefully it'll be good for me in the long run."

  • Right tackle Phil Loadholt, who was questionable for Sunday's game, said he didn't have any problems with his sprained ankle during the game.

    "No problems at all. It felt good all week in practice," he said. "I've never had that problem before. They said they didn't know if I would be able to play or not, but I felt good throughout the whole game and the week."

    Loadholt had it heavily taped and a brace on it.

  • Even in confusing times, touchdowns can be scored. On Sunday, Brett Favre revealed that a fourth-quarter touchdown to Visanthe Shiancoe had at least one offensive player confused. Favre changed the play at the line of scrimmage and noticed a confused a look in the eyes of fullback Naufahu Tahi, but the quarterback went ahead with the play anyway, despite Brad Childress trying to call a timeout that the officials didn't see.

    "(Tahi) jumped on the wrong side of the formation and the clock was running down so sometimes you just play football," Childress said. "I mean, everybody else did the right thing so on that particular play he was a decoy and did a nice job with his decoy responsibilities and Brett threw a touchdown pass to Visanthe, which was where he expected him to be."


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