You know where the Vikings didn’t expect to be after seven games? Tied with the Lions at 2-5. But that’s exactly where they find themselves after yet another frustrating defeat. Once again, they were in the game at half time, but saw it slip away in the second half. Unlike the Packer game, where most of the blame for the collapse fell on the shoulders of Brett Favre, this one was largely on the defense. The Vikings gave up only 7 first half points to the Patriots, who looked sluggish throughout the first two quarters and only scored those 7 because Madieu Williams failed to make the pick on a Tom Brady-to-Brandon Tate pass he had gotten a great early break on, but it was a different story after the break. The meltdown started early in the third, once again thanks to Tom Brady and Brandon Tate, who hooked up on a sick 65-yard TD play that featured a scrambling Brady doing a 360 and firing downfield to his receiver, who during the course of Brady’s improv act had gotten behind cornerback Asher Allen. Madieu Williams – tough day for him – had a chance to make a tackle on Tate but got faked out, and could only watch the receiver stroll in for the score. New England struck again later in the third after a flukey Brett Favre interception left them a short field. The two quick scores left the Vikings defense looking shell-shocked.
The fourth quarter turned into a comedy of terrors. With the Vikings driving to get themselves back in the game, Brett Favre took a shot up under the chin, suffering a laceration that required him to be helped off the field, then driven to the locker room on a cart. The shot of Favre being driven off looked for all the world like the final image we would ever see of the Silver Fox on a football field as a player, an image as startling and pathetic as the famous shot of Y.A. Tittle bloody and on his knees. Favre as it turned out was not that badly hurt – a few stitches in his chin and some wooziness but probably not a concussion, and definitely not the broken jaw we all feared when we saw the shot of him lying on the cart apparently near expiration. With Favre being tended to, Tarvaris Jackson entered the game and promptly hit Naufahu Tahi for a touchdown. The two-point conversion to Percy Harvin was good, making it 21-18 Vikings with plenty of time left in the fourth. Fans’ minds immediately went back to the end of the first half when Brad Childress passed up an easy field goal, electing to go for it on fourth and goal, only to watch Adrian Peterson get stuffed. Would those 3 lost points come back to haunt us?
Well, as it turned out, the Patriots would follow the Vikings’ TD with a workmanlike, clock-eating scoring drive, putting the game out-of-reach with time running down. The big play on that drive was a Danny Woodhead 16-yard-reception on 3rd-and-12, a conversion that could’ve been prevented had Asher Allen succeeded in making an open field tackle. The Vikings defense by now looked utterly defeated and helpless. For the first time all season, the D failed to come up big when it was needed. One stop on a drive that featured two successful third down conversions of longer than five yards and the Vikes still would’ve had a shot, needing only a field goal to tie. Once again, the Vikings were in it, but came one or two plays short. Afterward there would be a lot of questions for Brad Childress, questions about his decision to go for the TD instead of the field goal at the end of the half, about his questionable challenge of the Brandon Tate reception on the ball Williams should’ve picked in the first half; questions about the defensive line’s inability to bring down Brady (though, in all fairness, they did get decent pressure on him at times), about Brett Favre’s health, about Randy Moss‘ dedication to the team after a ranting and bizarre post-game presser. The Vikings face lots of such questions…and they are running out of time to get them answered.