By Joe Gunther
The Minnesota Vikings kept their playoff hopes alive with a 25-16 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at EverBank Field. The Vikings got four field goals from kicker Kai Forbath and trailed into the fourth quarter. However, touchdowns from Matt Asiata and Kyle Rudolph gave Minnesota the victory.
It wasn’t pretty by any means: The offense had two opportunities in the first three quarters in goal-to-go situations and came away with zero points. Asiata was involved in both. He was stopped on fourth down the first and then fumbled while reaching for the goal line. Minnesota had three big plays in the first half that netted nearly three quarters of the team’s offensive yards.
The fourth quarter was better. The Vikings got into the end zone on their two goal-to-go opportunities and made enough plays to win the game.
The defense made more plays than the offense, but failed in situations that could have put the game away. Two drives in particular stand out: The first came after the Vikings were stopped on fourth down at the Jaguars’ one-yard line; the second came on the Jaguars’ second drive of the second half.
With the Vikings leading 9-6 nearing half time, the Jaguars were backed up to their goal line. A three-and-out would have given the Vikings the ball in excellent field position and some momentum they lost on the fourth down stopped. Instead, Xavier Rhodes was called for pass interference on a terribly under thrown ball and the Jaguars went all the way to the Vikings’ seven-yard line before tying the game on a short field goal.
Then after Forbath gave the Vikings another lead, the Vikings defense allowed the Jaguars to go 90 yards—including 35 yards worth of penalties—to score a go-ahead touchdown with 3:50 left in the third quarter.
Those two drives could have been back breakers that forced the Jaguars to give up. Instead, they kept the inferior team in the game.
Special Teams: C
Kai Forbath made all four of his field goals and an extra point, but missed an extra point after a false start penalty. Jayron Kearse blocked a punt and Linval Joseph blocked a field goal. However, Adam Thielen failed to catch a couple punts that cost them a bunch of yards. David Morgan had the best kick return opportunity and only got 18 yards. All-in-all, it was an average performance that could have been very good.
Mike Zimmer returned to the sideline with a bandage over his eye and sunglasses to lead the team, but some conservative decision-making and play calling in short yardage situations could have been disastrous. The Vikings had the ball fourth-and-one with a three point lead and a defense that dominated their first drive. Instead of going for it and trying for the two-score lead, he sent out the kicker. Given their inability to get a yard when needed, the decision he made is understandable, but the reverse call could have given them a two score lead.
That leads to point number two: The play calling on third and fourth-and-short was suspect. They haven’t been able to get those short tough yards all season, and yet, they keep giving the ball to Asiata. Interim offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur made a few good calls to get big yards in the first half, but couldn’t draw up a one-yard play at the goal line.
The Vikings continue their must-win string of games at US Bank Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts.