The reactions came quick for the Minnesota Vikings. A season filled with unbelievable moments was topped on Sunday in Baltimore.
And instead of feeling like it let another game slip away in a 29-26 loss to the Ravens, Minnesota felt it had a win ripped away. Sunday was the fifth game this season the Vikings (3-9-1) gave up the lead in the final minute. But Minnesota believed it was taken from them by the officials.
“Feeling a little CHEATED, just being honest!” fullback Jerome Felton tweeted after the game.
Running back Adrian Peterson, who was knocked out early in the second quarter with a foot sprain, took it a step further.
“Wow talking about bad officiating & the worst fan base I’ve ever experience! They threw snow balls the entire 4q like lil kids. Smh,” Peterson wrote on his Twitter page.
Here’s five storylines from Minnesota’s nearly inexplicable loss at Baltimore:
1. Peterson’s health
While the Vikings lost Sunday and were officially eliminated from the playoffs, no aspect is bigger than the foot sprain suffered by Peterson, the reigning MVP who entered the week leading the league in rushing. Peterson caught a short swing pass early with 11 minutes, 33 seconds left in the second quarter and was tackled by Baltimore’s Arthur Brown at the sideline. Peterson fumbled the ball out of bounds and Brown fell on Peterson’s legs and feet as he tried for the tackle.
Peterson reacted quickly, rolling around on the turf and looking to be in obvious pain. He was later helped off the field and tried to test the injury before being carted off to the locker room. X-rays at the stadium apparently came up negative and Peterson was diagnosed with a right foot sprain, according to coach Leslie Frazier. He will have a magnetic resonance imaging test on Monday back in Minnesota.
Finishing with 13 yards on seven carries, Peterson fell to second in the rushing race, but his health is more important. The way Peterson reacted — he told reporters after the game he heard “pops” — one has to wonder about the rest of his season. A Lisfranc injury would certainly end his season. With three games left and the playoffs officially out of reach, the Vikings should take it cautiously with their franchise running back, who has also been playing through a groin injury.
2. An outdoor preview
Was playing in the snow the first sign of weakness against Peterson? Temperatures hovered around freezing and the snow was nearly constant all game long Sunday in Baltimore leading to sloppy conditions and tough footing. The game was Minnesota’s first in the snow since the 2010 season. When he was in the game, Peterson seemed to have trouble getting going.
All of the Vikings might need to get used to the conditions though. This is the last season in the Metrodome and the team will play outside at TCF Bank Stadium for the next two seasons, where weather will certainly have a chance to come into play in the late-season games. Minnesota’s pass rush appeared to be negated in part because of the slippery footing as well.
The Vikings won the turnover battle Sunday, getting three Joe Flacco interceptions that might have been aided by the weather. A few loose balls hit the ground, but the one lost fumble for the Vikings likely shouldn’t have been with a correct replay. There were snow games all across the NFL on Sunday and it did add a fun dimension, at least for viewers.
3. Spotlight on the officials
There was no way to really avoid having the spotlight go to the officials on Sunday. On Toby Gerhart’s fumble, he appeared to be down with a knee on the ground but officials ruled it a fumble recovered by Baltimore. Even after a review — in which the video angles appeared clear — referee Peter Morelli stuck with the call on the field. The Ravens followed up with their only points of the game before the final 2:05, taking advantage of the short field. Flacco was nearly sacked and ran for 22 yards and then threw for a 1-yard touchdown two plays later, making the missed replay so crucial.
Another call, an illegal peel-back block on Minnesota guard Joe Berger, negated a first down in the red zone for the Vikings. A pass interference penalty on Robert Blanton accounted for 37 yards on a Baltimore touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
On the final, game-winning drive, Andrew Sendejo intercepted Flacco. Instead, linebacker Chad Greenway was called for a questionable pass interference penalty. Instead of the interception which would have given Minnesota the chance to run out the clock for the win, Greenway’s penalty gave Baltimore another chance, which finished with a 9-yard touchdown with 4 seconds left.
4. No trouble for Patterson
Footing appeared to be an issue all game with the snowy conditions and non-heated turf in Baltimore. Vikings rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t have many troubles. Patterson finished with a career-high 141 yards receiving on five catches. He temporarily looked to give Minnesota the win with his 79-yard catch and run for a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game.
Patterson was explosive on a slippery field, and used change of direction to catch defenders off guard and slip on his long touchdown. He added one for 6 yards and had an 18-yard end around for a first down that was called back on the Berger penalty. He added a 42-yard kickoff return and continues to emerge as the season winds down.
5. The crazy ending
There were 13 points scored in the first three quarters and 19 total scored in the first 57:58 of the game. Then the two teams combined for five touchdowns in the final 2:05, trading blows in what looked to be game-enders each time.
Baltimore took the lead with a Dennis Pitta 1-yard touchdown with 2:05 remaining. Two offensive plays later, Minnesota scored with 1:27 left on a 27-yard reception by Jerome Simpson and a 41-yard touchdown run by Toby Gerhart. Then Jacoby Jones returned a kickoff 77 yards for a score to put the Ravens back ahead on a short high kick. Patterson struck three offensive players later for what appeared to be the final nail with 45 seconds left.
Yet, the Vikings’ late-game defensive issues came back again, allowing Baltimore to go 80 yards in five plays, with the Greenway penalty in 41 seconds. Minnesota has now lost four games this year in giving up the lead in the final minute and tied another.