RB Adrian Peterson perhaps best summed up his team's Week Two failure, the second Sunday in a row the Vikings have lost a lead and turned a win into a loss. "Yeah, there's always room for improvement, work on the red zone and things like that," Peterson said. "But giving the game away is a totally different feel, and that's how it's been the past two weeks." Just like in Week One against the Chargers, the Vikings held a second-half lead against the Buccaneers; and just like the first game, the Vikings gave it away.
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The first-half statistics paint a picture of how the Vikings were controlling the action in Week Two. They held major edges in points (17-0), yardage (284-62), first downs (17-3) and time of possession (19:13 to 10:47). Donovan McNabb rallied from an awful Vikings debut to throw the ball efficiently and with far more zip, converting several key first downs. Peterson was dominating with 15 rushes for 83 yards and two TDs, and Jared Allen was wrecking the Bucs' blocking schemes.
Then everything unraveled.
After the Vikings went backward on the opening possession of the second half and had to punt, the Bucs took only two plays to score — on a 27-yard TD run by LeGarrette Blount. Tampa then got the ball right back with the ensuing surprise onside kick, which they fell on, but Husain Abdullah (who is off to a very nice start this season) bailed the Vikings out with an interception in the endzone. Still, the momentum shifted from this point and never really tilted back the Vikings' way.
Back-to-back big defensive screwups led to a Bucs field goal. DE Brian Robison was called for offside on a Buccaneers fumble (on 3rd-and-17) and there were at least two missed tackles on WR Preston Parker's 51-yard reception (on 3rd-and-12) that set up a field goal to make it 17-10 Vikings.
They extended the lead to 20-10 on the following offensive series but continued their misgivings and sloppy play. The Vikings' confidence appeared to be waning to the naked eye because it was.
Defensively, the Vikings played softly. They allowed Josh Freeman — who already has a reputation of leading fourth-quarter comebacks in his young career — to heat up late and poured fuel on the fire by not throwing many different defensive looks at him. Offensively, the team played not to lose and it missed opportunities to score more points when plays were there to be had.
The errors were not restricted to the play on the field, either. Head coach Leslie Frazier justifiably was grilled for not using timeouts — despite having all three — when the Bucs were driving late.
"I really thought that we were going to stop them on defense," Frazier said. "We had a chance for a turnover there in that drive at their goal line. I really had confidence that we would get a turnover or force a field goal."
They did not. Instead, Tampa Bay scored a touchdown and the Vikings took over on offense with only 31 seconds remaining and not enough time to forge a drive. The timeouts essentially became useless as the Vikings ran out of time.
The fact that there have been a series of miscues in each of the first two games is far more concerning than if there were one or two major shortcomings. The team actually looks more solid than many originally had expected, but the combination of errors and frightened play late have the Vikings sitting at 0-2 with few answers heading into a key divisional game against the 2-0 Lions.