Big Little Moments is a new recurring piece from Broadway Sports Media looking at the little things that made a big impact. The idea is to look beyond the splash plays to find unheralded keys that change the outcome of the game.
This series focuses on some of the less spoken for storylines and plays within the game of football. From time to time, we will shine the spotlight on events that would be otherwise forgotten.
Everyone looks at the splash touchdowns and turnovers, but there are other plays and decisions in a game which often change the flow and sometimes don’t receive their proper recognition.
These are some of those moments:
With 1:55 left in the first half, the Vikings lined up in shotgun formation with Dalvin Cook offset to the left. The Vikings attempted to run a power run with Dru Samia as the pulling guard. The play was well blocked to the intended side and would have resulted in another big gain for Cook. At the snap, however, DaQuan Jones was able to cross starting center Garrett Bradbury’s face and penetrate into the backfield right as Cook was receiving the hand-off. This caused Cook to cut back into the void left by the pulling guard and into Jadeveon Clowney and Rashaan Evans for a gain of just 3 yards.
This is a play that won’t show up on the stat sheet for Jones, but it forced the Vikings into a third-and-long. The next play was an incomplete pass on third down on an underthrown ball to Adam Thielen due to the pressure the Titans were able to generate in an obvious passing situation. Had the Vikings been able to convert this into a touchdown instead of the ensuing field goal, it would have put the Titans in a 21-9 hole at halftime, with the Vikings set to receive the kick off to open up the third quarter.
For a team that likes to build on the run game and play action, being in a three score deficit would have put the Titans in a tough spot.
Jonnu Smith’s Challenged Catch
You will hear me railing against timeout usage from coaches all the time. Second half timeouts are even more crucial, especially in late-game situations.
Look, the Vikings had the lead, so it’s reasonable for Mike Zimmer to think these timeouts would be less important as he was more interested in running time off the clock. That said, The Vikings were out of timeouts going into their final drive. They received the ball with under two minutes to play and needed just a field goal to win the game.
Zimmer lost his first timeout on an ill-advised challenge early in the half. Zimmer has a great track record of winning challenges, but that doesn’t make this one any better. Given the other angles beyond those shown on the broadcast or in the stadium, there didn’t appear to be any indication of an incomplete pass to Smith, a 21-yard gain with 10:15 left in the third quarter. Coaches have to weigh the odds of winning a challenge, especially in the second half.
The second time out was used at 12:14 left in the 4th, with the Vikings now trailing 25-24. The Vikings had gotten to the line of scrimmage and had plenty of time to get the play off before taking a delay of game. The Vikings were already in field goal range. It should be noted that the Vikings went on to score a touchdown on this drive, but given that a field goal would have regained the lead, it’s fair to question whether or not this timeout was ill-advised at the time.
The Titans forced Minnesota to call their third timeout with 1:52 to play in order for them to have a chance after the Titans’ ensuing field goal attempt.
Impact of Negative Plays
Minnesota’s longest third-down conversion came on a third-and-3. This is an offense that was in rhythm all day long. Overall, the Vikings were 4-of-10 on third downs. Why is this important? Negative plays impact all teams. The Vikings struggle to overcome them more so than most teams because of the struggles seen with Kirk Cousins. By allowing the Vikings to stay ahead of the sticks and getting into shorter down and distance situations, the Titans were unable to capitalize.
The Vikings scored exactly 0 points on any drive that had a single play with over 10 yards to gain. While the Titans only scored 6 points, their ability to overcome the negative plays — and Vikings inability to do so — was the difference in the outcome of a one-point game. It’s hard to expect the Vikings to play much better on offense than they did on Sunday, but it still leaves them with some major concerns because they are so susceptible to bad plays.
What other big decisions and moments are going unnoticed? Post your thoughts in the comments.