In an effort to age all of their fans at least a decade every week, the Minnesota Vikings played another roller coaster of a game against the Cleveland Browns in the final home opener at the Metrodome. Unfortunately, the Vikings managed to lose a game to a team that looked like they had all but given up on the 2013 season, collapsing late on defense again to fall by a score of 31-27.
Things looked good for the purple and gold at first, as they went 80 yards on their first drive, concluding with a 2-yard touchdown run by Adrian Peterson to take a 7-0 lead. After the teams exchanged punts, the Browns got the score back to even thanks to a 47-yard pass from Brian Hoyer to Josh Gordon in which Gordon ran a stop-and-go route that left A.J. Jefferson completely flat-footed.
The score was tied at seven going into the second quarter, but on the first play of the second stanza, Hoyer found tight end Jordan Cameron for a 19-yard touchdown pass to give the Browns a 14-7 lead. But, the Vikings answered back, marching down the field on another 80-yard drive, and that one concluded with a 6-yard touchdown run by quarterback Christian Ponder to even up the score at 14.
After a 38-yard field goal from Billy Cundiff to make the score 17-14 in favor of Cleveland, the Browns got a little tricky. Having already successfully pulled off a fake punt in the game, the Browns lined up for what looked like a 29-yard field goal, but after the snap, Browns punter/holder Spencer Lanning simply stood up and fired to a wide open Jordan Cameron, who was literally all by himself, for an 11-yard touchdown pass to make the score 24-14. That gave the Browns more points in the first half of this one than they had in the first two games of the season combined.
A Blair Walsh field goal made it 24-17 just before halftime, and the crowd at the Metrodome was none too pleased, particularly after the Vikings' final drive of the half ended on a sack/fumble of Ponder deep in Cleveland territory.
Near the end of the third quarter, the Vikings found their way to the end zone again. The Vikings came out in a rare five wide receiver formation, and the middle of the field opened up for Ponder, who sprinted up the field for an 8-yard touchdown run, his second of the day, to make it a tie game again at 24-24.
The Vikings drove deep into Browns territory early in the fourth quarter, but had to settle for Walsh's second field goal of the afternoon, this one from 30 yards out, to give them the lead for the first time since the early stages of the game at 27-24. The Vikings forced the Browns to punt it away, but went three-and-out to give the ball back to Cleveland at their own 45-yard line with a little more than three minutes remaining in the game.
That was all the Browns needed, as they drove into Minnesota territory and had Hoyer hit Cameron for his third touchdown pass of the day, this one a 7-yard strike to make the score 31-27 with 51 seconds left.
The Vikings' final possession started at their own 29-yard line, and managed to push down to the Cleveland 34-yard line, but Ponder was sacked again to seal it for Cleveland.
Make no mistake, folks. . .this was awful. And it wasn't just one player. . .this game, just like the previous two games, was a full-team meltdown. In their home opener, the Vikings lost to a team that started their third-string quarterback and traded their star running back in the middle of the week.
I'm sure there will be a lot more discussion of this through the course of this week. The Vikings fall to 0-3, and it's starting to look like that it might be time to blow this whole thing up.