For much of Sunday's Minnesota Vikings' game, it appeared that a victory just was not meant to be. After three quarters, the Vikings owned the yardage battle but trailed by a seemingly insurmountable 24-7 score, due, in large part, to numerous offensive turnovers and miscues.
The Vikings' woes were compounded by the fact that virtually everything that has humbled the team this season seemed to be operating in the team's favor this week. Tarvaris Jackson was throwing the ball with zip and into tight and open spaces alike, Visanthe Shiancoe was catching the ball and scoring, and the coaching staff seemed intent on ridding itself of the shackles of a conservative offense.
Then the Vikings drew to within striking distance and the Vikings' steamroller turned into a pumpkin. With the clock seemingly the greatest adversary, the Vikings resorted to long huddles, non-chalant movements to the line and back to the huddle, and even a timeout on a dead ball play--their final timeout.
Jackson and the coaching staff added to the Vikings' late-game misery by returning to conservative play-calling--frequently resorting to dump-off plays in the middle of the field despite the lack of timeouts, a running game clock, and a need for large chunks of yardage--and Jackson returned to the form that had him relegated to the bench after week two of the season, failing miserably on deep ball attempts, throwing off of his back foot, and failing to take command of the game.
It was a pitiful end to a game that the Falcons appeared equally intent on giving to Minnesota.
For the Vikings, the loss is not catastrophic. A win next week, or a Chicago loss either tomorrow night or next Sunday, and the Vikings still make the playoffs, albeit with no shot at homefield advantage beyond the first round.
But if a single loss can paint the tale of a franchise, it was Sunday's Vikings' loss to the Falcons. The Vikings' premier player, Adrian Peterson, fumbled three more times this week, giving him six fumbles in three weeks. After a brilliant start to the game, Jackson was lost when the game was on the line--at least when he stayed in the pocket. And, when it mattered most, when the Vikings had the chance to march down the field against a Falcons' defense that has yielded nearly 300 yards of offense per game this season to rank near the bottom of the NFL, Childress returned to conservative ball.
All of which makes one still wonder whether, when the chips are on the line, Childress and Jackson can do what Childress and Jackson need to do for the Vikings to make the playoffs and have a measure of success there this season. If Jackson can play as he did in the first half, the Vikings can be outstanding. If, however, he resorts to his passing antics late in the game--or, worse yet, is encumbered by the long-reach of Childress' smothering and choking offense in a tight game--the season might already be over.
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