NFL Nation: Ravens-Vikings101809

 Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire
 Brett Favre and the Vikings escaped with a 33-31 win over the Ravens on Sunday.

Posted by’s Kevin Seifert

MINNEAPOLIS -- The clock showed two seconds remaining Sunday afternoon as Brad Childress leaned to his left. Childress looked at a grim-faced Adrian Peterson and spoke in confident tones.

“I just told him we’re going to win this football game right here,” Childress recounted. Television replays showed Peterson nodding his head, accepting if not agreeing with the prediction.

Pressed on what made him believe that Baltimore place-kicker Steven Hauschka would miss a 44-yard field goal as time expired, Childress smiled.
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“What else am I going to say?” Childress said after Minnesota survived a wild fourth quarter to take a 33-31 victory. “What am I going to tell them? ‘They’re going to beat us right here?’ I’m not going to say that. I stay on the positive side all the time.”

There are times when you know and there are times when you hope. Childress clearly fell in the latter category after nothing more than chance prevented his team from losing its first game of the season. You can credit quarterback Brett Favre’s 58-yard pass to Sidney Rice, which set up Ryan Longwell’s 31-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining. You can acknowledge that Childress’ conservative approach forced the Ravens to exhaust their timeouts before taking over for their final possession.

But the truth was evident to anyone who sat through this one: The Ravens simply ran out of time. They exploded for 21 points over the final 10 minutes of the game after falling behind 27-10. If they had a few more seconds, I’m quite sure they would have reached the end zone rather than trotting Hauschka onto the field at the end.

His kick sailed wide left, sparking a wild celebration. But you didn’t find many people -- players, coaches or otherwise -- crowing about a victory that nearly slipped from their hands.

“This is a game where in every facet we were dominant before the fourth quarter,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “It wasn’t a meltdown, because we didn’t lose. But it was pretty damn close. ... Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”

Remember, the Vikings led 27-10 with 10:03 remaining. Longwell’s 29-yard field goal made it 30-17 with 6:01 left. After that, everything happened so fast that Allen looked blank when asked to explain how the Vikings suddenly found themselves trailing 31-30.

“I’m not even going to try to comment until I watch the film,” Allen said. Sometimes players say that to avoid making critical statements. In this case, however, I don’t think Allen or anyone else really grasped why they got steamrolled in the latter stages of this game.

The Ravens did their damage -- 222 total yards and nine first downs -- despite possessing the ball for only 4 minutes, 25 seconds of the fourth quarter. Here’s how their three touchdown drives went down:
Minnesota's fourth-quarter defense Sunday
Points allowed: 21
Yards allowed: 222
First downs allowed: 9
Time of poss.: 4 min., 25 sec.
  1. Passes of 28 yards to Kelley Washington and 17 yards to Demetrius Williams set up a 32-yard score to Mark Clayton. Total time of possession: 1:33.
  2. A pass of 63 yards to tailback Ray Rice set up a 12-yard score to Derrick Mason. Total time of possession: 49 seconds.
  3. Chris Kluwe’s 39-yard punt, and Ed Reed’s 9-yard return, set up the Ravens at the Vikings’ 33-yard line. Rice goes untouched on a draw play for the go-ahead touchdown. Total time of possession: Nine seconds.

It’s only fair to mention the Vikings were playing without cornerback Antoine Winfield, who suffered a right foot injury in the first half and did not return. But Sunday’s collapse went way beyond questionable depth at cornerback. It sure seemed the Vikings relaxed against a team that’s too good to be relaxed upon. Once the genie was out of the bottle, the Vikings never stuffed it back in.

Perhaps that’s why a Metrodome crowd of 63,689 roundly booed when Childress played for a field goal after Rice’s catch set them up at the Ravens’ 18-yard line with 2:46 left. Did anyone think a two-point lead would hold?

“I felt like we needed to score a touchdown,” Favre said. “They were feeling it at that stage of the game. I think everyone in the building felt the same way. They had kind of hit their stride. ... We knew they needed to get to the 30, 35-yard line. ... I hate to say that I was not real confident, because I’m confident in our team, period. But I felt like maybe, for the first time this year, offensively they felt like they could probably do whatever.”

In hindsight, Favre said, “it’s easy to say we should have thrown it” on the third-down play before Longwell’s final kick. Childress, however, ordered three consecutive running plays, forcing the Ravens to take their final two timeouts. That left Baltimore with 1:56 to move into field goal range -- an eternity in terms of this game. Remember, Baltimore had completed three touchdown drives in less time in the fourth quarter alone.

In the end, Childress took the lesser of two evils. The Ravens likely were going to get the ball back one way or the other. So when I asked him about it afterward, Childress said that forcing the Ravens to take their timeouts was of prime importance.

“We knew we were going to get down inside of two [minutes],” Childress said. “That’s why [Ravens coach John Harbaugh] used his timeouts.”

Sorry to say, this victory won’t tone down harsh analysis of the Vikings’ 6-0 start. Three of their wins have come against Cleveland (1-5), Detroit (1-5) and St. Louis (0-6). Two other victories, Sunday and Sept. 26 against San Francisco, came only after a wild and unlikely turn of fourth-quarter events.

Allen called Sunday’s victory a “wake-up call,” if there is such a thing. But Allen vowed: “There’s enough character on this team that that’s not going to happen anymore.”

Afterward, Favre said he consoled linebacker Chad Greenway -- who seemed particularly upset after the game.

“They deserved to win and I think we deserved to win as well,” Favre said. “That’s the way you have to look at it. Who knows how you’re going to win them sometimes. It’s like the San Francisco game. ... All I know is we’re 6-0, I think. Pretty proud of that. There’s a long way to go but I think that’s a good start.”

Lucky or otherwise.

Posted by’s Kevin Seifert

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota played it safe Sunday afternoon … and won. I’m not sure the victory was worthy of the wild celebration we just saw on the Metrodome field, but in the end the Vikings can say they are still undefeated this season.

Vikings coach Brad Childress’ team lost a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter as the Ravens exploded offensively for 302 yards in the second half. But Childress decided to play for a field goal after the Vikings got the ball to the Ravens’ 18-yard line with 2:46 remaining, calling three running plays before Ryan Longwell kicked a 31-yard field goal with 1:56 left.

A capacity crowd at the Metrodome booed lustily, knowing how easily the Ravens had moved the ball in the second half. And true to form, Baltimore marched down the field with no timeouts at their disposal. But Childress’ strategy paid off when Ravens place-kicker Steven Hauschka was wide left on a 44-yard field goal attempt as time expired.

Was it luck? Good strategy? Brett Favre magic? I don’t know for sure. At this point, all we can confirm is the Vikings are 6-0.

Back with more in a few hours.

Minnesota leads -- for now

October, 18, 2009
Posted by’s Kevin Seifert

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota just played for a field goal after getting the ball to Baltimore’s 18-yard line with 2:46 to play. Ryan Longwell’s 31-yard field goal gave the Vikings a 33-31 lead, but it left almost two minutes for the Ravens to get into position for a game-winning field goal. Remember, the Ravens offense has 261 yards in the second half.

Good move? Or too conservative? Discuss.
Posted by’s Kevin Seifert

MINNEAPOLIS -- That happened so fast that I’m having a hard time keeping up. But the bottom line is that Baltimore has traded touchdowns for field goals with Minnesota in the second half, and the Ravens have taken a 31-30 lead with 3:37 remaining in this game.

Ray Rice’s 33-yard touchdown run -- no one was within five yards of him at any time -- has given Baltimore its first lead of the game.

Now the question is whether Brett Favre has another comeback in him, or if the Vikings are on the way to their first loss of the season. Back with you shortly.
Posted by’s Kevin Seifert

MINNEAPOLIS -- Here’s the question I have here at the Metrodome as the fourth quarter approaches: How many points will be enough for Minnesota?

The Vikings just extended their lead to 10 points on Ryan Longwell’s 22-yard field goal. But the Ravens offense has seemed more energetic in the second half, getting a nice scoring run from tailback Ray Rice and finding tight end Todd Heap on a number of occasions. It’s currently 20-10 and the Vikings’ offense hasn’t had much scoring bite since opening the game with two touchdown drives.

I’m not sure if 20 points will be enough to win this game. We’ll know soon enough.

Halftime: Vikings 14, Ravens 3

October, 18, 2009
Posted by’s Kevin Seifert

MINNEAPOLIS -- A few halftime observations from the Metrodome, where the score has changed only marginally since the last time we checked in:
  • Minnesota finished the half without two of its top three cornerbacks. Antoine Winfield was sidelined with what the team's radio broadcast reported to be a turf toe injury, while nickel back Benny Sapp has a shoulder stinger/concussion. The Vikings have not acknowledged either injury as required per NFL rules. Regardless, that left left Karl Paymah as a first-team cornerback and Husain Abdullah at the nickel. The Ravens victimized Paymah at least three times in single coverage, and that had something to do with Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco throwing for 119 yards in the second quarter.
  • That said, the Vikings have to be happy to have only given up a field goal on the Ravens’ final drive. Baltimore had the ball at the 12-yard line with 12 seconds to play but didn’t take a shot at the end zone. Instead, Flacco threw a checkdown pass to tailback Ray Rice. The Ravens called timeout with six seconds remaining but had no choice but to kick a 29-yard field goal.
  • The Vikings offense hasn’t done much since converting its first two possessions into touchdowns. They gained 107 yards and had seven first downs on those first two drives. Since then, they have 54 yards and one first down over four drives. The Ravens have done a better job of getting a pass rush out of their run-stacked defensive front.
  • Tailback Adrian Peterson has 50 yards but only nine carries in the game. I would expect a steadier diet of him in the second half.
Posted by’s Kevin Seifert

MINNEAPOLIS -- Well. Minnesota has jumped out to a near-effortless 14-0 lead here at the Metrodome. And we’ve still got 6:16 left in the first quarter.

Capitalizing on field position at the 39-yard line and the 45-yard line, respectively, the Vikings’ offense has rumbled to a pair of touchdown drives. Brett Favre and company only faced one third down along the way, and eventually they converted on passes of 19 yards to Visanthe Shiancoe and 4 yards to Bernard Berrian. The Vikings continue to take on defenses stacked against the run. So far Sunday, they have passed on five of their first 13 plays.

(Classic pick play by rookie Percy Harvin on Berrian’s touchdown, by the way.)

The Ravens, meanwhile, have gone three-and-out on their first two drives. Through two possessions for each team, Minnesota led in total yards 107 to (minus) 3. There is a long way to go, but the Vikings have done exactly what they hoped to do: Jump out ahead early -- in a big way.