In any fight, the outcome is rarely determined by the first punch. Sure, every once in awhile that first punch is an absolute knockout, but more often than not the final result is determined by the reaction of the "punched" to the "punch-ee".
On Sunday in Week 2, the Minnesota Vikings most definitely landed that first punch...
McNabb was slinging the ball around to Harvin, Shiancoe, & Jenkins, while Peterson (and even Gerhart) were running strong.
However, halftime of an NFL is a strange beast sometimes. It allows the team behind to catch their breath and come up with a new game plan, while sometimes producing "mental tightness" (or anxiety) in the leading team.
Thus, the retaliatory punch came from the Bucs right away...
After that, it was clear that the "first punch" momentum the Vikings owned in the first half was over and out. All of a sudden, the team seemed to get nervous on both sides of the ball. The offense desperately needed one TD drive to seal the game...and couldn't get it. The defense desperately needed a big stop...and got one (the pick in the end zone) but it wasn't enough.
The final, decisive blow ended up going to the visitors...
More than anything, I think that the current edition of the Minnesota Vikings lack that "mental toughness" (as Mike Tice was so fond of indicating) to stop the flow of another team's momentum. Once San Diego got going in Week One, the Vikings folded. Ditto Week 2 against Tampa Bay.
I know that using Brett Favre as an example of anything right now is kind of a touchy subject, but he had perhaps the greatest mental (and physical) toughness of any player to don the pads. Actually, his weakness was TOO MUCH mental toughness, thinking he could make every throw and score on every drive and taking chances as a result.
If only we had a few more guys like that on our squad right now.
One final note:
-I really disagreed with the time management from Leslie Frazier on that final Bucs drive. I understand his reluctance to use his timeouts due to the likelihood of Tampa Bay milking the clock, scoring, and then leaving the Vikes no time whatsoever, but I think Frazier needed to remember that we still had the lead at that point. No matter what the momentum was when the visitors were knocking at our door, the onus was on them to score. Thus, why not use the time outs early, make TB run a few more plays, and then put the decision on THEM to FG or TD?
Up next: Detroit, who hasn't won at the Dome since 1997. Gulp.