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Vikings/Buccaneers: A Tale of Two Halves

At halftime of this afternoon's game, most of the folks that were posting in the game thread, including myself, were pretty happy with the way things were progressing.  The Vikings had compiled a 13-6 lead, they had scored the game's lone touchdown on a 4-yard flip to Bobby Wade that capped a 76-yard playoff drive, and Adrian Peterson had carried the ball 13 times for 71 yards.  Even though Jeff Garcia kept running around and avoiding Viking defenders and the Buccaneers had actually outgained the Vikings yardage-wise, the momentum seemed to be in the corner of the Vikings.

Then they had to stop the game for this crazy "halftime" thing and everything changed.

Jeff Garcia kept running around all over the place and avoiding Viking defenders until the Bucs got down to the Vikings' 17-yard line and found themselves with 2nd and 10.

Then they committed a holding penalty to make it 2nd and 20.

Then they committed another holding penalty to make it 2nd and 30.  And at this point, I was crazy enough to start thinking to myself, "You know, we can hold them to another field goal here, keep the lead, keep the momentum. . ."

Then, after a Minnesota offsides penalty, Garcia stepped up and lofted a ball down the heart of the field that found its way into the hands of Jerramy Stevens.  The play got the Bucs down to the Minnesota 1-yard line, and even though the B.J. Askew TD run on the ensuing play merely tied the score at 13, people who have watched the Vikings long enough knew that the game was effectively over at that point.  Teams don't convert 2nd and 25 and lose. . .and teams don't allow other teams to convert 2nd and 25 and win.

The offense was fairly horrific in the second half.  There was a drive that had some promise and concluded with an incomplete pass to Adrian Peterson on a 4th and 1 play (where Peterson may or may not have been interfered with. . .since we're not Packer fans, we won't sit here and whine about it), and that was really the last time the Vikings would threaten on the afternoon.

I said in the lead-up to the Game Thread that in order to win today, the Vikings needed to contain Jeff Garcia. . .and it's safe to say that they did not.  Garcia completed nearly 80% of his passes for 255 yards, and just basically ran around any pressure that the Vikings got on him all day long.  The stats say that he was sacked once, but for the life of me, I don't remember that happening.  The Vikings were getting pressure on Garcia, but they just couldn't drag the wily old veteran down when they needed to.

I really don't know why the Vikings' offense basically went to sleep in the second half, and in particular in the fourth quarter.  You know those 13 carries for 71 yards that AD had in the first half?  He ended the game with 19 carries for 85 yards. . .and he touched the ball ONCE in the fourth quarter.  ONCE, people.  And that was on a kickoff return.  That is incredibly unacceptable, and I'm starting to think that the wheels didn't come off of the "Fire Brad Childress" bandwagon, but that said wagon just pulled into the nearest 7-11 for gas and cherry slurpees.

By this point in his coaching tenure, Brad Childress HAS to know that Adrian Peterson is the best running back in the world, and possibly the best player in the National Football League.  It blows my mind that such a player can go an entire quarter, and in particular a fourth quarter of a tied game, without touching the ball on offense.  San Diego doesn't do that crap with LaDanian Tomlinson, Washington doesn't do that crap with Clinton Portis, and the Vikings certainly shouldn't be doing that crap with Adrian Peterson.

Really, there's not a whole lot else that needs to be said about today's game.  It was pretty much the same as most of the games we've seen in the Brad Childress era.  It was the 8th of Minnesota's 10 games this year that was decided by 7 points or less.  In addition, the Vikings entered the fourth quarter still very much in the football game.  As Pacifist Viking pointed out, these are the Brad Childress era Vikings.  Be conservative, play it close to the vest, get down to the end of the game, and hope that either a) your team makes a big play or b) the other team screws up.  Neither of those things happened today, and as a result the Vikings are part of a three-way tie atop the NFC North instead of sitting in sole possession of first place.

So how does that bode for the rest of the season?  We'll take a look at that tomorrow morning.  Also, I hope to announce the winner of the writing contest either late this week or early next week.  I keep trying to work it in around everything else I have going on.  Until then, keep enjoying the rest of your Sunday, and we'll see you tomorrow!