Notebook: Indecision, then wrong decision

Leslier Frazier (US Presswire)

The Vikings may have had three things go wrong on one crucial play in the fourth quarter, from decisions to execution. Plus, Donovan McNabb played through a wrist injury and the Vikings didn't consider pulling him. And Kenny Onatolu talks about a key penalty before Minnesota's final possession.

The game of inches may have cost the Vikings a win on Sunday. If it wasn't Toby Gerhart's failed fourth-down run, then it was head coach Leslie Frazier's decision to go for it, and then to go with Gerhart.

In a loss, all things are scrutinized, and all three of those facets are up for debate as the team, media and fans analyze what went wrong in the Vikings' third straight loss after having a double-digit halftime lead.

"We thought we had a good play and we were confident and thought we could get the inches, but they did a good job of stopping us," Frazier said.

With less than 12 minutes to go in regulation and the Vikings holding a 20-17 lead, the Vikings were finally in scoring position after three straight three-and-out series to start the second half. The offense was set up by a 68-yard kickoff return from Lorenzo Booker. After a holding call backed them up, Percy Harvin converted first-and-20 with a 21-yard gain on a bubble screen. Four plays later, the Vikings were facing fourth-and-1 at the 27-yard line and a crucial decision.

Initially, Frazier sent out his field goal unit for what would have been a 44-yard try, but they quickly retreated to the sideline. Frazier said the offense didn't influence his decision.

"We were thinking about if the field-goal unit wanted to kick or not. We were confident that we had a good play that would get us the first down and that was about it," Frazier said.

The Vikings had Adrian Peterson and Gerhart in the same backfield. Gerhart got the call.

"Yeah, I wanted the ball, but you know what? I have a lot of faith in Toby," Peterson said. "He's a great back. I was confident that he would get it also and their defense did a great job of stopping us.

"… Did I want the ball? Of course, that's just my mentality and how I play the game, but Toby has picked up first downs on that play before. I had confidence that he would get it in, but you have to give credit to the defense of Detroit. Those guys stepped up and made a play."

Quarterback Donovan McNabb liked the call.

"We kind of got things rolling. I thought it was a great call," he said. "Obviously, as you look at it now, everyone would say give the ball to Adrian. But we thought we had a great call. No one expected Toby to get it, and I thought we had it."

The play was supposed to go inside, but Gerhart said the play forced him to try to bump it outside.

"We tried to find some daylight. I saw two guys on the back side unblocked, and you don't want to take the ball there. But the play kind of forced me to go there," he said. "… It was supposed to be in the ‘B' gap, front side, and the plan was to just follow the wall. But the play collapsed and I just tried to go hard and get that yard."

Frazier said he was "positive" they could get the first down with that play, but Gerhart was stuffed by Andre Fluellen and Sammie Hill, two backup defensive tackles.

"The conversation was, ‘Whether we got it or not, we're going for it.' That's the mentality that we had," Peterson said. "That's being aggressive and I felt like it was a good decision. Their defense made a play and we have to live with it."

The Lions responded with a 12-play, 51-yard drive on their ensuing possession that ended with a 50-yard field goal by Jason Hanson to tie the game, 20-20.

On their next possession, the Lions took a 23-20 lead when Hanson hit a 40-yard field goal, but the Vikings came back with their only points of the second half, a 49-yard field goal, on the next drive to send the game to overtime.

The Lions won the game on their first possession of overtime when a 40-yard pass to Calvin Johnson put them in field goal position and Hanson delivered a 32-yard field goal.

Even defensive end Jared Allen, who was the most outwardly upset with the loss in the locker room after the game, didn't second guess Frazier's fourth-quarter decision.

"That's not my call. I mean we can sit here and say, ‘Yeah, looking back we wanted the points,' but no, you get that first down and now you are going for the jugular," Allen said. "I like that kind of football. I would bet my paycheck that these guys can get one yard. I'm not going to sit here and question offense or defense; I can only control what I can control."

NO QUARTERBACK CHANGE

Through three games, Donovan McNabb has completed 58 percent of his passes for 478 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for a 78.1 rating. Despite the lack of pop in the passing game, Frazier said he doesn't plan to make a quarterback change, at least not yet.

"I don't think the quarterback position is our problem right now. No. We're not thinking about anything at the quarterback position," Frazier said.

On Sunday, McNabb completed 22 of 36 passes for 211 yards with one TD, no interceptions and taking four sacks. One of those sacks midway through the third quarter left him shaking his throwing hand.

"I took a shot on the sack. The wrist kind of stiffened up a little bit, but it loosened up as we continued on," McNabb said. "I had a missed throw to [Michael] Jenkins when I was trying to loosen it up, but I went back out there and continued on."

McNabb missed on his next throw and the Vikings punted, but he didn't miss an offensive down.

Later, with the game tied at 20, McNabb overthrew McNabb on a deep pass down the right sideline.

"I feel like I left some plays out there, and that's just being a quarterback. You recognize the opportunities you had that you didn't take advantage of," McNabb said. "We made some plays in the passing game; we made some plays in the run game. Things can get cleaned up, and for me that's the part that I look forward to – cleaning up."

PLENTY OF PENALTIES

Once again, the Vikings could blame penalties as one of the reasons they lost. Against the Lions, they committed 10 of them. Even Steve Hutchinson was called for a hold.

"We are hurting ourselves with some costly penalties. We just can't win games in the NFL with the way we are playing if we keep putting ourselves in a tough spot with crucial penalties," Frazier said.

The worst of them came toward the end of the fourth quarter, when the Vikings were receiving a punt and a 10-yard return by Marcus Sherels into Lions territory with 11 seconds left was sent backwards 15 yards when Kenny Onatolu was flagged for a late hit.

"I didn't hear the whistle. I was running and I was just trying to play. After the play, I saw the flag and I looked back, kind of looked at the referee and he just looked at me and made it seem like a penalty," Onatolu said. "I'd have to see the film. If he called it, then I guess that's what we have to go by.

"… You never want to stop unless you hear the whistle. I didn't hear the whistle and just kept going and it ended up being a late hit."

Instead of starting at the Detroit 45, where a 10-yard completion could have put the Vikings in position for a 53-yard field goal, they were starting at the Minnesota 40. McNabb connected with Michael Jenkins for a 24-yard pass play, but his desperation pitch to Bernard Berrian as time expired was an illegal forward pass and sent the game to overtime.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.


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