The End of the Vikings First Half Still Has Me Scratching My Head

Sep 19, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals kicker Matt Prater (5) kicks a 62 yard field goal against the Minnesota Vikings during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Losing a football game on a missed field goal is about as heartbreaking as it gets in the sport, and Vikings fans went through yet another one on Sunday in Arizona. Not only is it a crushing blow in and of itself because the team lost by one point, but it’s worse because of how far spirits fall.

Things have to go right for a team to be in position to win a game off a field goal, and that’s exactly where the Vikings were this weekend. The Vikings defense forced a key three-and-out on an offense that had put up nearly 500 yards throughout the day. Then, Kirk Cousins was dealing strikes all over the field as Minnesota’s offense moved down the field. It culminated in a reception by K.J. Osborn right over the middle of the field, and on came Greg Joseph to attempt a 37-yard field goal. Vikings Twitter was very conflicted on how to feel about this.

On the one hand, momentum was on the Vikings side, and Joseph had been very reliable throughout the majority of two games. Why wouldn’t he be able to send them home happy? But, like the namesake of this website suggests, Vikings fans have been through a lot rooting for this team. Why would this be any different. At the end of the day, I think Dustin sums up the result quite well.

All in all, I bring forth all this dialogue surrounding a missed kick only to suggest that this isn’t what truly lost Minnesota the game. Rather, this game was lost much earlier on in a stretch that resulted in two completely separate kicks. With 1:33 left in the second quarter, the Vikings found themselves trailing 21-20 with one last chance to retake the lead before halftime. Kyler Murray had just made a 77-yard touchdown connection with rookie WR Rondale Moore to give Arizona their first lead of the game. It was a gut punch after Minnesota had previously gone up 20-7, but Minnesota had the chance to bring good vibes into the locker room if they could score.

The Vikings offense had been explosive for much of the first half, so this didn’t seem like a ton to ask of them. 75 yards in 93 seconds is a lot, but with two timeouts, it seemed doable on this day. This is where things get weird, though. The Vikings ran seven plays on this final possession as follows:

4-yard pass to K.J. Osborn

15-yard pass to Adam Thielen

6-yard pass to Tyler Conklin

10-yard run by Dalvin Cook

Run for no gain by Dalvin Cook

Incomplete pass to Tyler Conklin

6-yard pass to K.J. Osborn

Yeah, that’s right, on a day where offenses reigned supreme Kirk Cousins passed the ball further than 10 yards just once on this drive. For the most part, the plays seemed schemed that way too as Cousins was getting the ball out rather quickly. You’d think that with the weapons Minnesota has in the passing game, they’d have been willing to take at least one shot down the field. Even the 15-yard pass to Thielen was on a curl out route; he wasn’t planning on going much further than where he caught the ball.

Maybe when the All-22 footage comes out well see that there were more aggressive routes on these plays that simply got bottled up by Arizona’s defense, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the Vikings ran two running plays from midfield. Especially in this area of the field, you would’ve liked to see at least one deep shot, but instead the Vikings seemed to be playing for a field goal from the get-go.

That’s all good and fine if you do it right, but they still didn’t even do that. Instead, the Vikings kicked the field goal and still left 21 seconds on the clock. This is where things get really weird because for some inexplicable reason, the Vikings decided to kick a squib instead of just booting the ball deep. Sure, this ran five seconds off the clock, but it also allowed Arizona to have the ball at their own 34 instead of 25. Then right on cue, the Vikings secondary forgot how to tackle and allowed Rondale Moore to scamper 18 yards and out of bounds with one second left.

Then, to cap off this weird stretch of football, onto the field came Matt Prater, and of course, he hit a 62-yard field goal to put Arizona back on top 24-23 going into halftime. It was the sixth-longest field goal in NFL history and just put the cherry on top of this odd closing to a half.

Of course, it’s hard to point at one stretch of a one-point loss and say that’s the reason why the game was lost. That said, this part of the game just felt like the Vikings could have done so many things differently, and they just…didn’t do them. Maybe the Vikings were just cursed to lose this game, but it feels like the outcome could have been different if they had gone a different route to close the first half.