Hartman: Last-second losses spoil Vikings' season

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 9, 2013 - 6:47 AM

The Vikings lost another heartbreaker Sunday when the defense again allowed an opposing offense to score at will late in the ballgame.

The Baltimore Ravens scored on a pass with four seconds to play after Leslie Frazier’s squad had taken the lead on a pass to rookie Cordarelle Patterson with 31 seconds to play.

It’s amazing to think that instead of being 3-9-1 the Vikings could be in a playoff position had they not lost four games in the final seconds.

They lost 31-30 to the Bears in Week 2 on a last-second touchdown pass. They then lost 31-27 to Cleveland in Week 3 on a last-minute pass to tight end Jordan Cameron. Tony Romo threw a touchdown with 35 seconds left in the Vikings’ Week 9 loss to Dallas.

That means the Vikings lost four games, including Baltimore, by a combined 12 points. If they had won those four games — and they had the lead late in the game in each instance — the team would be 7-5-1 and in first place in the NFC North.

I hope that Frazier keeps his job. I’m not sure that the owners of the team want the record to show three fired coaches (Mike Tice, Brad Childress and possibly Frazier) in the nine years they have owned the team.

There are people involved in management who believe the Vikings should have a much better record with the personnel on hand.

However, don’t forget that this same staff coached the team to a 10-6 record last year and it made the playoffs. Plus, the Vikings are 2-2-1 in their past five games when the team could have easily quit on them.

I am pretty sure all of the assistant coaches’ contracts expire at the end of this season. So my guess is that Frazier will return unless a top-notch coach is available, but there will be some radical changes in the defensive staff.

Patterson a find

While the last-second losses are a negative, you have to credit General Manager Rick Spielman and company for the trade of Percy Harvin to Seattle. That allowed them to have the chance to have three first-round draft picks and select receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and Sharrif Floyd. The trade also included a late pick who ended up being Travis Bond, an offensive lineman who was signed by the Panthers off the Vikings practice squad earlier this year. They also will get a mid-round pick in next year’s draft from Seattle.

Meanwhile, Harvin has been injured for all but one game for the Seahawks and has one catch for 17 yards and one kickoff return for 58 yards, and questions remain about his health.

On the basis of what Patterson has done recently, he could be the equal of Harvin and be a healthier version of him. Not to mention that Rhodes has proven that he can be an outstanding cornerback and the team still has a chance to get another good player in next year’s draft, although Seattle will finish high in the standings.

Patterson had easily the best game of his young career Sunday, catching five passes for 141 yards and a touchdown, a 79-yard score late in the fourth quarter that temporarily gave the Vikings the lead.

Patterson is also the only player in the NFL with two kickoff returns for a touchdown this year.

Gophers are favorites

There’s no reason the Gophers football team shouldn’t be able to handle a mediocre Syracuse team in the Texas Bowl.

The Orange faced two Big Ten opponents at the start of the year and lost both games. Penn State beat Syracuse 23-17 and Northwestern destroyed it 48-27. The Gophers beat both of those squads.

The Gophers are 3-1 all-time against Syracuse, last winning 23-20 in 2009. Their lone loss came against eventual NFL star quarterback and former Viking Donovan McNabb in 1995.

Played Spartans tough

On the basis of how Ohio State played Michigan State on Saturday night while losing the Big Ten Championship Game, you would have to say that the Gophers played Michigan State a lot better than the Buckeyes did.

I mentioned this to Gophers football coach Jerry Kill on Sunday, and while he is not going to say that the Gophers have better personnel than the Buckeyes, the figures are interesting in how much better Minnesota played Michigan State, especially compared to when Ohio State collapsed in the second half.

First let us not forget that the Gophers controlled the football for 38 minutes against the Spartans while Ohio State had the ball for 21 minutes. The Gophers gave up 21 points to the Spartans while Ohio State gave up 34 points.

Ohio State gained 374 yards, but 273 of those came on the ground. The Gophers put up 249 total yards, but Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner combined to throw for 125 yards, which is more than Ohio State QB Braxton Miller was able to throw for Saturday. He had 101 yards passing.

The main problems for the Gophers were that they simply couldn’t finish drives and had three turnovers in the game, compared to Ohio State, which had none.

“I’ve said all along how good Michigan State is and how good they are on defense and how they played,” said Kill when asked about the championship game stats. “We played Michigan State very, very good. We just couldn’t get the ball inside the 11-yard-line.

“I think [the loss] is a great confidence builder for our young players of knowing where they’re at, similar to probably where Michigan State was a year ago. They were close in a lot of things and just couldn’t get over the hump, and this year they put it together. But I compliment Michigan State and the season they’ve had. They did a great job.”

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who I got to know a little bit when he was on Lou Holtz’s staff at Notre Dame, has compiled one of the great coaching records at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida and doesn’t have to take a back seat to any football coach in the country. But like Kill said, Michigan State does things defensively that change the game.

“I’m a coach, so I get questioned every day on every play, but I think again that Michigan State’s defense makes you do some things that gets you out of your game a little bit and so forth,” said Kill. “It’s hard to be patient against their guys, and I think Coach D’Antonio talked about doing what we did against them and that’s what they tried to do against Ohio State — control the football and be sufficient in the passing game and don’t turn it over.”

Kill who is as humble as they make them, added: “We probably, like I said, have done as good as anybody with how we played them. We just didn’t make a play or two that we needed to make.”

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
2013 regular season     
Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
Sep 15 - at Chicago NoonX31-30
Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland NoonX31-27
Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
Oct 13 - vs. Carolina NoonX35-10
Oct 21 - at. NY Giants 7:40 pmX23-7
Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay 7:30 pmX44-31
Nov 3 - at Dallas NoonX27-23
Nov 7 - vs. Washington 7:25 pmX34-27
Nov 17 - at Seattle 3:25 pmX41-20
Nov. 24 - at Green Bay Noon26-26
Dec 1 - vs. Chicago NoonX23-20
Dec 8 - at Baltimore NoonX29-26
Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia NoonX48-30
Dec 22 - at Cincinnati NoonX42-14
Dec 29 - vs. Detroit NoonX14-13

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