Alexander Mattison could have cut to his right to pick up a game-winning 1st down deep in Seattle territory. Mike Zimmer could’ve gone for two after a TD put his team up by five points. And Zimmer could’ve used a timeout on defense on Seattle’s final possession to give his offense more time on its last possession.
These are all examples of mishaps for the Vikings during the 4th quarter of Sunday night’s heart-breaking loss to the Seahawks. These are all mistakes so many are focusing on right now as Vikings Nation tries to digest the fact that their team, once again, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Granted, these plays all happened in the final quarter and there’s no question that more emphasis is placed on events that transpire late in games than on events that transpire in the middle stages.
But truth be told, the Vikings made mistakes in the 3rd quarter on Sunday night that were every bit as costly as anything that happened in the 4th quarter. It’s just that they didn’t happen in the final quarter, so it’s easy to gloss over them in favor of the high-visibility decisions and plays.
After dominating the first half, the Vikings came out of the locker room in the 3rd quarter and appeared to have simply his the “resume” button. Seattle fielded the opening kickoff of the second half and the Vikings promptly shut them down, forcing a punt after a three-and-out.
But that’s where the game turned. The Vikings following three possessions ended like this: punt, fumble, interception. The fumble and interception actually came on back-to-back Vikings snaps. Cousins was hit and fumbled on a 3rd and 17.
Seattle recovered and scored two plays later. Then on the first play of the ensuing Vikings possession, Cousins rolled to his right and lofted a pass toward WR Justin Jefferson. LB KJ Wright snared it with one hand to give the ball back to Russell Wilson and Co. On Seattle’s first play of that possession, Chris Carson rumbled 29 yards for a TD.
So in a span of five plays – or 1 minute, 58 seconds – the Vikings went from leading 13-7 to trailing 21-13. Yikes!
To their credit, the Vikings didn’t go away following such a sharp – and sudden – turnaround. After losing the lead, the Vikings took the ball back and drove 77 plays in 11 yards to score another TD and make the score 21-19 in favor of Seattle.
Zimmer decided to go for two, but the attempt failed and the deficit remained two points. The Vikings forced another Seattle punt, and then the offense went on another monstrous TD drive, going 97 yards in 15 plays to tack on six more points to take the lead.
That’s when a series of bad outcomes on interesting decisions ultimately doomed the Vikings and gave Seattle a chance to secure the comeback win. Yes, had any of those 4th-quarter events gone the other way for the Vikings, we may be talking about an improbable road victory for the Vikings.
But because of costly mistakes in the 3rd quarter, we’re talking about an improbable road loss for the Vikings. Allowing the QB pressure that led to the sack-fumble of Cousins. The INT thrown by Cousins. Missed tackles by Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith on Carson’s TD run. These are also mistakes that led to Sunday night’s loss.
Ultimately, the time for rehashing the loss must end and it must end quickly. Watch film, meet about it and move on. This League moves too fast to sit there and mope about close losses. Up next for the Vikings is a winless Atlanta Falcons team that just fired its head coach and GM. This is a game the Vikings must win.
Their bye follows the Falcons game and then comes the toughest game remaining on their schedule – a road game against the Packers. After that, it’s a stretch of four home games in five weeks as well as a stretch of games in which the Vikings could well be favored. They will likely be underdogs at Soldier Field, but they could be favored in home games against Carolina, Dallas, Detroit and Jacksonville.
All of that, though, is putting the cart before the horse. The Vikings, with a 1-4 mark through five games, are in “every week is its own seasons” territory now. The next season must begin now, with preparations for Matt Ryan and the Falcons.