Vikings Survive (But Barely)

The first two offensive drives of the game for the Vikings? Dominant. The first half defensive effort? Very impressive. The defensive line? Quite good.

The defense's performance in the fourth quarter? An absolute embarrassment. An absolute collapse.

That's the kind of day it was.

And after a heart-stopping game, the record remains perfect as the Vikings get ready to face Pittsburgh next week.

On the offensive side of the ball, Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson came out with all guns blazing. Favre was targeting Visanthe Shiancoe and Sidney Rice, and things were looking way too easy for the Vikes. Two drives resulted in two touchdowns, and there was still a great deal of time remaining in the first quarter after those quick strikes.

And then, complacency set in. The Vikings would have four more offensive drives in the first half, three of which resulted in three-and-outs. They played not to lose, rather than playing to win. Rice and Shiancoe had been hot -- but they vanished after those first two drives. The Baltimore defense tightened up on the running game. After working to reestablish the running game at the outset of the second half, the Vikings were rewarded with a field goal and a 17-3 lead. But all of a sudden, a 22-yard Ray Rice touchdown put the Ravens within seven. We had a ballgame.

Sidney, though, reappeared in a big way. A 63-yard connection from Favre to Rice put the Vikings inside the 10, and although the drive didn't conclude in the endzone, an easy field goal by Ryan Longwell gave the Vikings some breathing room. The Vikings extended that lead to 17 on their next offensive drive. A commanding lead.

Or was it commanding? Well, theoretically, a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter is a commanding one. But if your defense proceeds to humiliate itself in front of a home crowd, such a lead is hardly commanding.

And indeed, Leslie Frazier should be embarrassed after Vikings fans witnessed one of the most stunning defensive collapses I've ever seen. Three touchdowns by the Ravens in the fourth quarter. Unreal. The pass coverage was absolutely pathetic. The absence of Antoine Winfield had a lot to do with that, but then again, giving up three touchdowns and the lead in the fourth quarter can hardly be blamed only on the absence of one player.

(Oh yeah, along the way Adrian Peterson stopped the heart of every single Vikings fan by limping off the field in the fourth quarter. Percy Harvin also re-injured his shoulder. It was that kind of game.)

But Brett Favre has been big in the fourth quarter before, and today, he was big once again. Favre-to-Rice, 58 yards, inside the Baltimore 20. Longwell knocks it through. Despite the defense's best efforts to lay down and die on Baltimore's final possession of the game, Steven Hauschka missed a potential game-winning field goal.

Game. Whew.

6-0 is the record. Thankfully, there isn't a category in the standings for games that teams should have lost but ended up winning anyway. Amazingly, the Vikings head into Pittsburgh undefeated.

But I've got three words to describe this game: Complacency, complacency, complacency. The offensive playcalling became complacent after two quick touchdown drives. They played not to lose instead of playing to win. Shiancoe and Rice were hot early on, but after the quick start, they were ignored for much of the second and third quarters. The defense became embarrassingly complacent after the Vikings captured a three-score lead in the second half. Frazier had better hope teams don't look at this film when doing their head coach hiring this offseason. To be fair, the loss of Winfield was huge -- but the pass defense had been suspect even before this disaster.

We saw the same script against Green Bay -- not to the extent that we saw it today, but we have nevertheless identified a horrible weakness of this team. The inability to put teams away. The tendency to allow them to hang around.

The Ravens are a good team. We should have expected a close game. But the Vikings missed numerous chances to put Baltimore away. And there is no excuse for blowing a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. Baltimore was given every opportunity to hang around, and good teams will take full advantage when given such an opportunity.

Not a win worth celebrating -- not by any means. But the record remains perfect.

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