NFC North: 2013 Week 14 wild finishes

BALTIMORE -- The forecast for Sunday's Minnesota Vikings-Baltimore Ravens game initially called for snow and freezing rain to arrive sometime after kickoff at M&T Bank Stadium. But when snow arrived hours before kickoff, blanketing the field in white, the circumstances of the game changed dramatically.

The Vikings and Ravens both struggled to throw the ball early on Sunday. On an early third down in which the Ravens appeared to be short of a first down, officials couldn't find the yard markers through the snow, and gave the Ravens a first down. Fox's broadcast of the game superimposed the line of scrimmage and a first-down marker on the field, but the graphics juxtaposed on the white snow made players look translucent.

Even as both offenses were able to move the ball more efficiently as conditions improved in the fourth quarter, neither the Vikings nor Ravens were able to find a normal rhythm on the sloppy field. Matt Cassel completed 17 of his 38 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns, and Joe Flacco went 28-of-50 for 245 yards, but Flacco threw three interceptions and had a fourth called back because of a Vikings penalty that gave the Ravens a chance to score the game-winning touchdown.

"There was one time in New England we played in a snowstorm, but today was as bad as it's ever been (in my career)," Cassel said. "In the first half, everyone was having trouble with their footing, and we were sliding all over the place. The snow let up in the second half, and we were able to run our offense."

Until Toby Gerhart's 41-yard touchdown with 1:45 left, both running games also struggled to do much; Adrian Peterson had just 13 yards on seven carries before he left with a sprained foot, and Ray Rice wound up with 67 yards on 17 carries.

"It was hard to burst right off the bat," Gerhart said. "And I know even for (fullback) Jerome (Felton) and the other guys up front, it was hard. It was one of those 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-snow games for a while. In the second half, they cleared the field quite a bit, and people started making more dynamic plays. It was a tough situation to play in. Tough weather -- football weather, I guess. It was an experience."
BALTIMORE -- As the Minnesota Vikings stewed over their 29-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon, with nowhere to go after a catering truck hit the plane that was scheduled to take them back to the Twin Cities, many players struggled to find the right emotions for the most dramatic loss in a season that's been full of eventful endings.

[+] EnlargeMarlon Brown
Evan Habeeb/USA TODAY SportsMarlon Brown's late touchdown won the game for the Ravens.
Were they to be upset with themselves about allowing a last-minute touchdown for the fourth time this year, or angry with officials for what they felt like were a series of short-sighted calls? Were they supposed to be grateful for the chance to participate in one of the wildest finishes in NFL history, or bitter that they had come out on the losing end of it?

The overriding emotion, after a game that featured a NFL-record six lead changes in the fourth quarter, seemed to be numbness.

"That was the first time I had ever been part of something like that," said wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, whose 79-yard touchdown in the final minute put the Vikings ahead by four. "I had always wanted to play in the snow, and I got my opportunity today. It was a tough game. The way we fought on offense, defense and special teams, the way we stepped up in this game, we expected to win. And, at the end, it wasn't what we expected it to be."

So many things happened on a snowy Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium that it was hard for the Vikings to process all of it. They had reason to be encouraged by how their offense responded after losing running back Adrian Peterson to a sprained foot, by Patterson's continued emergence as a game-breaking receiver and by their secondary's resoluteness through most of the second half. But for the seventh time this year, their fate hung in their inability to stop a team in the last minute. They are now 2-4-1 in those games, and on Sunday, they allowed not one, but two Ravens touchdown drives at the end of the game, with a Jacoby Jones kickoff return sandwiched between them.

Several players -- Peterson and fullback Jerome Felton among them -- aired their displeasure with referee Pete Morelli's officiating crew, while others bit their tongues. "I'm not going to say anything to get on Roger Goodell's list," defensive end Brian Robison said. Coach Leslie Frazier said he was "bewildered," in particular, by two late pass interference calls -- one on safety Robert Blanton, the other on linebacker Chad Greenway -- that gave the Ravens 55 yards on their final two offensive series and wiped out an Andrew Sendejo interception that would have ended the game.

But in the end, all the Vikings' two quick-strike touchdowns served to do was set up their defense for another collapse.

"It was really emotional," defensive end Jared Allen said. "You try not to get too high or too low. We thought the game was over four times. But, we have to play all four quarters. Three times in the last two minutes, we had to stop them, and we didn't."