No Win; No Playoffs

williamsondrop (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

The Vikings showed grit and determination late in their Week 17 match-up against the Denver Broncos. Down 19-3 in the 4th quarter and looking flatter than roadkill, the Vikes managed to mount a furious rally, highlighted by a pair of Tarvaris Jackson-to-Bobby Wade touchdown passes, and two runs for 2-point conversions by Jackson himself. This tied the score at 19-19 – a tally that would hold through regulation. Unfortunately, on the first possession of overtime, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson fumbled, giving the Broncos the ball deep in Minnesota territory. Jason Elam then put a 30-yard field goal through the uprights to hand Denver the 22-19 win, slamming the door on the Vikings’ 2007 playoff hopes.

The late scramble was an unlikely one for the Vikes, who spent much of the afternoon mired in listlessness and ineptitude. Early on things actually looked promising: The Vikings’ offense appeared in-sync, but the momentum shifted completely when Chester Taylor, while trying to dive for a touchdown, lost control of the ball and fumbled it through the endzone for a touchback, handing possession back to Denver. Then a second blow: The Vikings, down 7-3, called a deep pass to Troy Williamson, whose blazing speed carried him ten yards clear of Denver’s defenders. Tarvaris Jackson delivered the ball perfectly to Williamson who, true to his reputation, saw it fall through his arms for an incompletion. The offense, which had been productive up to that point, seemed to shut down afterward.

It was not only the drops and fumbles that hurt the Vikings for the first three-and-a-half quarters. There was also the continued ineffectiveness of Adrian Peterson, who has not been close to the same player since injuring his knee against the Packer. And defensively the Vikings showed again why they have the league’s worst statistics against the pass. Jay Cutler and his dynamic receiver Brandon Marshall, a refugee from the Dolphins’ practice squad who has passed the 100 catch mark this year, carved up the Purple secondary, with assistance from tight ends Chad Mustard and Tony Scheffler. On top of this, the Broncos found great success running to the outside, aided by unusually poor Vikings tackling.

Then there were the penalties, the most damaging being a Ryan Cook illegal hands to the face call in the endzone for a safety (on a play where Bobby Wade had made a first down catch). Every bad habit the team got out of during their 5-game winning streak came back to haunt them. Of course, after falling to 3-6, the team looked out of it, and probably believed itself that it wasn’t going anywhere. The result of this non-pressure situation was a looser, more effective squad. As soon as games became meaningful again however, the team reverted to its tight, mistake-prone ways.

The critics will have a field-day now wondering why the Vikings came out the last two games and stunk it up in the first half. They’ll also question Brad Childress as to why, in each of these games, the team was able to rally after falling well behind – largely because the ineffective running game was scrapped in favor of a more wide-open pass attack. We’ve got the whole off-season now to wonder what could’ve been had the Vikes adjusted sooner to other teams’ run-stuffing defensive schemes.

In other news…the loss made no ultimate difference to our playoff hopes, as the Redskins were able to easily defeat an unmotivated Cowboys squad. Good luck to Washington in the post-season.

Notes:

Adrian Peterson tied with Tarvaris Jackson for second on the team in rushing today with 36 yards. Chester Taylor led with 83 yards on 10 carries. Jackson and Taylor tied with two lost fumbles each.

Bobby Wade had his best game of the year – 5 catches, 92 yards, 2 TDs.

Troy Williamson had 0 receptions and 2 drops.

Garrett Mills, inactive for most of the season, caught 2 balls for 26 yards. Visanthe Shiancoe and Jim Kleinsasser combined for 0 receptions.

The Vikings out-performed Denver in third-down efficiency 50% to 25%. The Broncos outgained the Vikings 362 yards to 332.

Jay Cutler was 26/37 for 246 yards and 2 TDs. Brandon Marshall caught 10 balls for 111 yards and 1 TD, much of this after injuring his leg being tackled by Cedric Griffin.

Topics: Adrian Peterson, Bobby Wade, Chester Taylor, Garrett Mills, Jim Kleinsasser, Minnesota Vikings, Ryan Cook, Tarvaris Jackson, Troy Williamson, Visanthe Shiancoe

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