Players try to explain second-half collapse

Kevin Williams (Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire)

The Vikings' losses are coming in historical ways, but the players had few answers for why it keeps happening. There were attempts to explain it, gallows humor and frustrated faces while searching for answers.

The Minnesota Vikings aren't just losing, they are losing with historical implications.

With a 0-3 record, the Vikings are the first team in NFL history to lose three straight games after holding double-digit halftime leads in all of them. They held a 17-7 halftime team at San Diego in the opener before losing 24-17. They were up 17-0 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before losing 24-20. And Sunday they led the Detroit Lions – who hadn't won in Minnesota since 1997 – 20-0 at halftime before dropping a 26-23 overtime decision.

"We always thought this was our game. Nobody ever got down on themselves and started pointing fingers," said cornerback Cedric Griffin. "It was just like, ‘We have to keep playing, man. Whether the offense scores or not, we have to keep playing, this is still our game.'"

Detroit became only the 10th team in NFL history to win a game in which they trailed by 20 or more points at halftime, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Eight of those teams did it on the road, just like the Lions, who overcame their history of ineptitude at Mall of America Field. The previous team to accomplish the 20-point comeback was the Chicago Bears against Dennis Green's Arizona Cardinals in 2006, which prompted his infamous "they are who we thought they were" rant.

Once again, the second-half breakdowns were many and varied. With their first three drives of the second half, while trying to maintain their cushion, the Vikings went three-and-out, and only one series in the second half lasted more than five plays.

As the Vikings' players struggled for perspective in the locker room after the game, there was even some gallows humor.

"I tell you what, the junior cheer program might have 53 guys on it next year," Ryan Longwell said. "Maybe we should stay out and do that. We are certainly playing well enough in the first half."

Surprisingly, the Vikings weren't the only team to drop a 20-point lead at halftime on Sunday. The New England Patriots did the same thing in a 34-31 loss to the Buffalo Bills, making it the first time since 1999 that two NFL teams lost on the same day when they had 20-point leads.

The Vikings said their halftime locker room was focused on avoiding a second-half letdown, knowing what had happened the previous two weeks.

"It was vocalized like a son of a gun. I don't know, maybe we can just get the league to not have a second half. Give us a fair shot," said a frustrated Jared Allen. "I don't know, man, it takes us awhile. Once the crowd gets back into it you feel it. You expect to have to weather some storms. Again, I thought we did that well. We give up the touchdown on the bomb, but then we come back and hold them to a field goal, which I thought was great. At the end of the game I thought we had all the momentum. They hit one pass on us, kick a field goal and the game is over."

It was actually a little more prolonged than that. After punting on their initial drive of the second half, the Lions made quick work of the Vikings defense on their second drive, taking only four plays to go 52 yards, capped with a 32-yard touchdown toss to Calvin Johnson.

That opened the floodgates. After going scoreless in six possessions in the first half, the Lions had five straight possessions in which they scored. Two of them were touchdown passes to Johnson, and Jason Hanson added three field goals in the scoring flurry.

But it wasn't all Johnson. At the start of the second half, the Lions made hay using tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the middle of the field. After catching two passes for 24 yards in the first half, Pettigrew ended the game with 11 catches for 112 yards.

"E.J. Henderson had good position on a couple of those throws, he just reeled them in. Good plays by them," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "I think on that drive we held them to a field goal. The one play down the sideline, they were just throwing it up. We just have to make a play. They went to a straight quick game in the second half. You see the times they held it Jared Allen and Brian Robison were hitting Stafford in the back of the head. They did get great pressure all day."

In the end, it only helped their stats. Allen had three sacks and Robison two, but even that didn't put the first tally in the Vikings' win column.


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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