Issues With Leslie, Part Two

So after the first part of "Issues With Leslie," there were some folks that noticed that I didn't mention anything about clock management, which seems to be another problem that our new head coach is struggling with.

That's why this is in parts, ladies and gentlemen.

I do have an issue with Leslie Frazier's clock management, but not in the spot you might think from this past Sunday's game.

As "filbert33" pointed out in the FanPosts, ESPN's Kevin Seifert pointed out that, in the mathematical sense (which I'm not sure if Frazier could have possibly known at the time, but anyway), attempting to stop the Broncos from scoring on the game's final possession was the right move.

I checked with ESPN's analytics team to see if the Vikings would have increased their mathematical win probability with such an unorthodox move. The short answer from Alok Pattani was no, based on an ESPN model built off thousands of individual play results over the past decade. The Broncos had a 95.3 percent chance to win the game the moment they made the interception. Had the Vikings allowed an immediate touchdown, their chances of driving the field for a touchdown on their ensuing possession and ultimately winning the game in overtime was 2.5 percent. So statistically speaking, the Vikings had a better chance of stopping the Broncos' final possession, as they tried to do, than pulling off a non-traditional miracle.

Now, I know that allowing the Broncos to score would have given Percy Harvin the chance to potentially return another kickoff (provided that Matt Prater wouldn't have blasted it nine yards deep like he did on the previous kickoff), but either way, after the interception, the chances of winning were basically in Lloyd Christmas territory regardless of what path the Vikings would have taken.

So, I'm not going to kill Leslie Frazier for that. However, one of the drives leading up to that is where I have an issue.

The Vikings started their second-to-last offensive possession at their own 20-yard line with 8:52 left on the clock. In ten plays and five minutes, after a hands to the face penalty against the Broncos, the Vikings had a 1st-and-10 at the Denver 20-yard line with 3:54 left on the clock.

The Vikings had a huge time of possession advantage in this game, and the Broncos' defense was clearly getting worn out. You would think that this is the sort of situation that would have been tailor-made for Toby Gerhart to pound into the middle of the Denver defense and, if necessary, force Denver to burn their timeouts, as they had all three of them left at the time.

Here's how the play calling sequence went from there.

1-10-DEN 20 (3:54) 7-C.Ponder pass incomplete short left to 19-D.Aromashodu.
2-10-DEN 20 (3:47) 7-C.Ponder sacked at DEN 21 for -1 yards (98-R.McBean).
3-11-DEN 21 (3:15) (Shotgun) 7-C.Ponder pass incomplete deep right.

Three consecutive pass plays, two of which wound up being incomplete. Pretty much no time taken off of the clock, and Denver being allowed to conserve all three of their timeouts in case they had needed them later on in the game.

That's the issue I have here, folks. I know that Christian Ponder was rolling and everything, but when you've worn out a defense and you have a running back that has been doing a great job of being a sledgehammer for most of the afternoon, you can't afford to be taking sacks and throwing incomplete passes. The Vikings probably could have afforded to run on first and second down, if not on all three downs. If Denver burns their timeouts, fine. . .that's what you want them to do. If they don't call their time outs, you're taking time off the clock and leaving yourself less of an opportunity to get Tebowed. But the Vikings basically did their job for them.

I'm hoping like heck that these are just growing pains for Leslie Frazier, because I really, really want to like the guy as a coach and I want to see him do well. Heck, he had two successful challenges in this one, which is something I'm not sure has happened for the Vikings since the challenge system was instituted, so the man isn't completely clueless or anything. I'm just under the impression at this point that he, like everyone and everything else about the current incarnation of the Minnesota Vikings, can only get better from here.

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