Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

You’re 2-0 going on the road against a team that had yet to win in their frist two games.  Seems like we called it – it’s a trap game.

Even though the Minnesota Vikings were a desperate team the Carolina Panthers mustered a 10-0 lead by playing solid defense and doing just enough on offense.  Mistakes were being held to a minimum and they seemed to have control.

That’s when Minnesota takes over the ball at their own 22 with 9:55 left.  Fifteen plays later, at the Carolina nine yard line, the Vikings had dented the scoreboard and suddenly we had a game again at 10-3.

What happened next is something straight out of a nightmare.  With only 1:40 remaining in the half and holding a touchdown lead, Jake Delhomme ran three straight passing plays.  The third one was a disaster.  Jake had time to release it but no one was open.  Antoine Winfield blitzed late off the corner and managed to be stealthy enough that Jake never saw him.

After a big hit, Jake fumbled, Winfield had the ball and a touchdown.  A game that had gone Carolina’s way was now tied at 10.

The question is this – why was Jake throwing on three consecutive plays with a 7-point lead and less than two minutes to go?  That goes against everything that John Fox would normally do.  Maybe he wanted to put up at least three more before the half to answer the last Minnesota score but allowing the clock to run out would have at least insured that you hold the lead going to the locker room.

It wasn’t just a game anymore.  The Hubert H. Humphrey Dome was rocking and the noise didn’t stop in the third quarter especially after Minnesota drove 80 yards in five plays finishing with a 34 yard touchdown pass to Visanthe Shiancoe.  Now, the crowd was roaring.  It was time to answer.

Jonathan Stewart fielded the ensuing kickoff, hesitated but returned it anyway.  He didn’t go down until he had brought it back 87 yards.  The problem?  Jeff King was called for a block in the back which brought the ball back to the 7-yard line.

Things were beginning to snowball and they got worse, believe it or not.  A deep pass over the middle to Steve Smith should have resulted in a pass interference call.  The officials thought otherwise and Carolina was eventually forced to punt.

The low point was still to come.  The Vikings embarked on what would wind up being a 19 – YES a NINETEEN-PLAY DRIVE!

Things got strange when the drive got them inside the 15.  Minnesota was called for holding not once but twice and were backed up to the 23.  The bailout came when Thomas Davis was called for illegal contact on a screen pass.  With a new first down, Minnesota managed little more but were closer and were prepared to put up three more.

Every Panthers fan was hoping for a block.  Their prayers were answered.  But wait!  The official comes running onto the field to announce that Chris Harris’ block wouldn’t count.  Someone had called timeout for Carolina – John Fox.  The subsequent try was good and Minnesota had all the points they needed.  They would go on to win by the same 20-10 score.

Let’s face it, this one was pretty ugly after spending all that energy to earn a 10-0 lead.  Things snowballed.  It got ugly and then got uglier.  Here are some thoughts from the game.

  • Jeff King has had two horrible weeks.  HORRIBLE!  Two false starts and a bobbled pass that was intercepted last week leads to this week when he managed yet another false start and a stupid penalty at a most critical time of the game.
  • The Panthers were called for 12 penalties for 67 yards.
  • Julius Peppers rang up his first sack of the season in the third quarter.
  • Charles Johnson looks like a serious threat against the run.
  • Gus Frerotte hadn’t played in a game for nine months.  The last action he saw was in mop-up action for the Rams when he played in the final two games of ‘07 throwing all of 12 passes completing only 4.  Yet against the Panthers he was 16 of 28 for 204 yards one TD and one int.
  • Adrian Peterson was out of the game on a number of occasions.  His hamstring was likely bothering him.  Despite this, he put up 77 yards on 17 carries.
  • There should be some concern in the Carolina locker room about defending screen passes.  With the game on the line, Minnesota was able to use the play extremely effectively.
  • DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for a paltry 42 yards rushing.
  • Jake Delhomme was sacked five times.
  • Steve Smith had 3 catches in the first half for 60 yards but had only one more the rest of the game finishing with 4 catches for 70 yards.

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Tags: Adrian Peterson Carolina Panthers Gus Frerotte Jake Delhomme Minnesota Vikings Steve Smith

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