Picking on an offensive coordinator’s play-calling is among the lowest-hanging fruit in the wide world of sports fan second-guessing. It is so often outcome-based instead of decision-based. It so often takes into account only an isolated snapshot of a game instead of factoring in the big-picture rhythms.
With that preamble, and with the knowledge that most of what the Vikings did offensively in the second half was in-step with their strengths and provided a good mix, the seeds of Minnesota’s 31-30 loss to the Bears were more than planted in what proved to be their final three offensive plays of the game.
They were watered. They were nurtured. They were all but harvested as a mature plant for anyone who has watched the NFL, and particularly the Vikings, in recent seasons.
Leading 27-24 and driving for a dagger touchdown with barely over three minutes left, the Vikings and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave choked. A 22-yard bullet from Christian Ponder to Greg Jennings set the Vikings up with first and goal at Chicago’s 6. It was another in a sequence of encouraging plays from Ponder, who was hardly flawless but showed at least enough acumen to keep his starting job.
From there, the Vikings ran Adrian Peterson off tackle (2 yards), ran a predictable, low-percentage pass play resulting in an incomplete attempt for Kyle Rudolph and then, on 3rd-and-goal from the 4, again ran Peterson (for no gain).
The first play was tepid, though excusable. Peterson is your go-to player. The second play was marginally forgivable since we don’t have keen insights into whatever matchup advantage the Vikings thought they saw.
The third down play? No way. A TD run from there, with so many defenders in the area, is exceedingly hard to come by. It was settling for three points, and it showed a lack of faith to let Ponder try to make a play. You can argue whether Ponder has earned that faith, but if he is your QB, you have to put the ball in his hands and say “go get us six points.” The clock was not a factor at all. If the Bears got it back with 3:40 or 3:15 left, either is an eternity to lead a TD march.
The Vikings showed guts twice going for it on fourth down and succeeded. They showed a nice mix in the second half and got Ponder into a good rhythm. They were one more sequence away from a massive road victory and a season-changer.
But as soon as they came up lame on that drive, we exchanged texts with our good pal Drew Magary.
Technically the Vikings could have stopped the Bears’ winning TD drive.
But we both knew 31-30 was inevitable. It was just a matter of how it would happen.
Your thoughts, as always, in the comments.