Monday, November 8, 2010

Favre, Vikings: Stop playing with fire, or you'll keep getting burned

Sunday was the exception for the Minnesota Vikings — they had been burned plenty of times this season, but apparently Brett Favre and the offense had not yet learned the lesson.

Just how many times can a team turn the ball over or make a crucial mistake and recover from it?

Every loss this season you were sitting there watching the game with your fingers crossed, hoping the Vikings defense could get one last stop to give the offense a chance to tie the game late. This time, against the Cardinals, the situation was no different — except for the result.

That’s always the case for one reason: a myriad of miscues.

First, Minnesota allowed LaRod Stephens-Howling to score a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff after Adrian Peterson gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead. Then there was yet another freak unfortunate play involving Percy Harvin when he was held up on a kick return of his own and forced to fumble the ball, which was returned for another touchdown.

And on offense, one of Favre’s two interceptions was thrown on the goal line and the other should’ve been returned for a touchdown had Greg Camarillo not have made a super-human effort type of play.

In the red zone, Minnesota turned the ball over on downs in the fourth quarter and also settled for a field goal earlier in the game — the Vikings missed opportunities.

It seems like during every Vikings game this year, the fourth quarter rolls around and Minnesota scrambles to erase the demons from the first three quarters. Usually the clock has run out, leaving the Vikings burned.

But against the Cardinals, Favre had a little bit of that magic dust left in him to squeeze two touchdowns into the final five minutes of regulation to force overtime. Maybe it wasn’t magic though. Maybe the Cardinals just aren’t that good.

Arizona only managed to score 10 points against the Vikings defense all game though. On the day, Minnesota only allowed 225 yards and forced the Cardinals to punt the ball eight times — including three to start the game and three times in the fourth quarter and overtime to help the Vikings come back.

So I’m sure it felt good to watch Favre’s rainbow pass fall right into the hands of Visanthe Shiancoe for the game-tying touchdown with less than 30 seconds left to play. Favre had just completed a 77-yard drive in less than two minutes, with no timeouts. But why should Minnesota have had to resort to that?

Clearly the Vikings were the better team on Sunday, right? Minnesota dominated on offense with over 500 yards. Well, that’s true, besides the mistakes and the turnovers that plagued the unit, until those final three possessions of the game. The defense certainly held up its end of the bargain. Larry Fitzgerald is going to get his yards, and there may have been a mistake or two on the Cardinals’ touchdown drive, but that’s forgivable compared to the offense.

There’s no reason not to expect Minnesota to win by three touchdowns if you saw how well the Vikings defense played and if you knew how talented the Minnesota offense is.

Turnovers and mistakes like the ones the Vikings make can kill teams. How can you expect to win games if you’re giving the opponent two touchdowns and repeatedly shooting yourself in the foot throughout the game. No one is questioning how talented this Minnesota offense is.

I wonder just how good are the Vikings, though.

Minnesota hasn’t been good enough, or lucky enough, or whatever you want to call it, to come back from these holes the team digs itself all season. Just because the Vikings pulled it off against Arizona doesn’t mean we should be encouraged.

Fool me once shame on you, fool me all season, then maybe that’s what this offense is: a talented group that turns the ball over, that struggles to score in the red zone at times and a group that can’t string together a consistent quality effort without a crucial mistake.

It’s easy to just say that the Vikings need to cut back on the mistakes — they haven’t done it though. There aren’t enough possessions in a game to do what Minnesota does game in and game out.

Favre finally found a way to pull off that late comeback win that the Vikings have fallen on the wrong side of all season. And 3-5 looks a whole lot better than 2-6. Minnesota still has playoff hopes today thanks to that comeback. The chance may be small, but it’s still alive. They can’t expect to continue to win games like this though.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if Minnesota is going to make the playoffs this year the Vikings need to stop playing with fire.

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