10 Vikings plays that shaped season: No. 6

January, 12, 2014
Jan 12
8:00
AM ET
Welcome back to our chronological look at the 10 plays that most shaped the Vikings' 2013 season. Today: Play No. 6.

WHEN: Nov. 3, 2013

WHERE: A 27-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

THE PLAY: Christian Ponder's incomplete pass to Greg Jennings with 4:29 left.

WHAT THEY SAID: Coach Leslie Frazier: "It was there. You see Greg. He has a step and there's a chance for a big play. The guy grabs him initially, the back of his jersey and rides him and then gets in front, but we were just a hair off on that play. Would've been a huge play.

IMPACT OF THE PLAY: If the Vikings' season was defined by the five last-minute scores they gave up in four losses and one tie, the plays Ponder couldn't make to put the game out of reach also had a major say in how those games turned out. On this particular occasion, the Vikings were up 20-16 with 4:29 to play, after Adrian Peterson had run for 62 yards on the previous drive and A.J. Jefferson made his first (and ultimately last) interception in a Vikings uniform, stepping in front of a Tony Romo pass on the sideline. On first down from the Cowboys' 42, the Vikings lined up in a trips-right formation with Jennings in the slot and the Cowboys in single-safety coverage. Orlando Scandrick is covering Jennings on a flag route and initially slows Jennings down with a grab, as Frazier mentioned, but Jennings eventually gets a step on him.

Ponder, though, doesn't put enough touch on his deep pass, overthrows Jennings and misses a chance for either a game-sealing touchdown or a pass that could've put the Vikings in position to score. Two downs later, Ponder doesn't throw to a wide-open Jennings on a crossing route, forcing the Vikings to punt after they fail to draw the Cowboys offside on fourth down. Frazier said after the game the Vikings saw a matchup they liked, and were confident about the opportunity to put the game away. And with a more precise quarterback, that might have been the right call. With Ponder, though, it wound up being one of too many missed opportunities that cost both the Vikings their season and Ponder his job.

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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