You know, I've been watching Minnesota Vikings football since 1984 at the tender age of eight. I've seen a lot of games involving this team over the course of my lifetime. And I can honestly say that what we saw at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday is the craziest thing I have ever seen on a football field. And it's probably the craziest thing you've ever seen on a football field, too.
The Vikings, having lost Adrian Peterson in the second quarter to a foot sprain, trailed the Baltimore Ravens at halftime by a score of 7-3, and trailed after three quarters by a score of 7-6. So, let's just get to the fourth quarter where all the good stuff happened anyway.
The second play of the fourth quarter saw Matt Cassel throw his first touchdown pass of the day when he found Jerome Simpson in the back of the end zone from eight yards out to give the Vikings a 12-7 lead. The two-point conversion failed, so the score stayed a five-point Minnesota lead.
On the next drive, the Ravens pushed all the way down to the Minnesota 21-yard line, where they faced a 4th-and-1. They tried an inside handoff to fullback Vonta Leach, but the Minnesota defense stonewalled him and the Ravens turned it over on downs. Unfortunately, all the Vikings could do was go three-and-out and punt the ball back to Baltimore.
On the Ravens' next drive, Joe Flacco threw his third interception of the day, this one going to Marcus Sherels (after Chad Greenway and Andrew Sendejo registered interceptions earlier in the game). But, again, all the Vikings could do was go three-and-out, and they punted back to the Ravens with 6:22 on the clock, still nursing that 12-7 lead.
And then. . .as we've said numerous times about this Vikings season. . .things got weird.
The Ravens pushed the ball down the field, and took the lead back when Flacco found the returning Dennis Pitta for a 1-yard touchdown pass. Baltimore made good on their two-point conversion, and they took a 15-12 lead with 2:05 left in the game. Vikings fans were fearing another late loss as Cordarrelle Patterson returned the ball to the Minnesota 32-yard line on the ensuing kickoff.
It took the Vikings just two plays to answer back. A 27-yard pass from Cassel to Simpson moved the ball to the Baltimore 41-yard line, and Toby Gerhart. . .yes, Toby Gerhart. . .handled it from there, as he dashed into the end zone from 41 yards out for a touchdown. The extra point from Blair Walsh made the score 19-15 with 1:27 left to play, and it looked like fortune may have smiled on the Vikings.
But there was still time left.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Vikings attempted to pooch kick the ball short, but it still wound up in the hands of Jacoby Jones, one of the league's best returners. Before anyone knew what was happening, he had gone 77 yards for a touchdown for the Ravens, with their extra point making the score 22-19 with 1:16 left in the game after another Patterson kick return. Fans were hoping that maybe the Vikings could get into field goal range for Walsh and send the game into overtime for a third straight week.
Patterson wasn't having any of that.
After a couple of incompletions, the Vikings were staring at 3rd-and-10 from their own 21-yard line, and Cassel flipped a pass short right for the rookie out of Tennessee. Patterson made a couple of great moves, and before you could blink, he was in the end zone for a 79-yard touchdown reception, and the extra point by Walsh put the Vikings ahead by four again, 26-22, with 45 seconds left on the clock. Jones downed the ball in the end zone, and Joe Flacco and company went to work with 80 yards to go and two time outs at their disposal.
It appeared that the game was over after Flacco overshot Pitta and threw his fourth interception of the day, which would have been the second of the afternoon for Sendejo. However, an iffy. . .and I do mean very iffy. . .pass interference call on Chad Greenway gave the Ravens new life. With ten seconds to go, Flacco found Marlon Brown in the back of the end zone, and after a review, the Ravens had another touchdown and the Ravens took the lead back 29-26. That's how it ended, as the Vikings just didn't have another miracle left in them in this one.
Neither quarterback was terribly impressive on the day. Flacco completed 28-of-50 pass attempts for 245 yards, and while he had three touchdown passes, he was also intercepted three times. Matt Cassel completed less than half of his passes (17-for-38) for 265 yards and two touchdowns. Toby Gerhart wound up leading the way in rushing for the Vikings with 89 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, while Ray Rice had one of his better games of the year for the Ravens, with 67 yards on 17 carries.
The big story for the Vikings on offense, in my opinion, is Patterson. He had his first 100-yard game as a pro, reeling in five catches for 141 yards, and a kick return where he absolutely flattened Baltimore placekicker Justin Tucker.
He was responsible for over half of the Vikings' passing yardage in this one, and is looking more and more like a top-flight NFL wide receiver at this point. It's becoming more apparent why the Vikings gave up what they did for the ability to be able to draft him.
The Vikings fall to 3-9-1 with the loss, and are officially eliminated from post-season contention as a result.
We'll have more updates on the injuries to Adrian Peterson (foot), Xavier Rhodes (ankle. . .and who played another outstanding game), and John Carlson (possible concussion. . .yes, another one) through the rest of the day today and tomorrow. For now, I think we all need to take a rest for a little bit after one of the craziest finishes of this or any other day in Minnesota Vikings' history.