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Vikings defend not letting the Broncos score

Kevin Williams AP

There are times in football when the smartest strategy for the team on defense is the most counterintuitive thing for a defensive player: Let the other team take the ball into the end zone. The Vikings faced one of those situations on Sunday against the Broncos and decided against it.

With 1:12 remaining, the score tied and the Broncos facing first-and-goal at the 4-yard line, all the Broncos had to do was run three plays to take the remaining time off the clock, call timeout with two seconds left and kick the game-winning field goal. And that’s what they did.

For the Vikings, letting the Broncos score a touchdown on first-and-goal would have at least given them enough time to attempt a last-minute drive to score a touchdown of their own and send the game into overtime. But Minnesota instead stopped Denver running back Lance Ball twice, rather than letting him into the end zone.

So why didn’t the Vikings let Ball score? Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he thought about it but figured it would make more sense to try to block the Broncos’ game-winning field goal.

We have been in that situation where we’ve blocked a kick,” Frazier told the Pioneer Press. “Let’s try to block it.”

Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams offered up a common sentiment for defensive players: He said that letting the opposing team score is like “giving up to me.”

“You might have a better chance of him shanking the field goal or a bad snap,” Williams said. “It’s three or four processes to getting that field goal off.”

If Williams thinks the chances of the Broncos missing a field goal, indoors, from inside the 5-yard line are better than the Vikings’ chances of driving down the field and scoring, then Williams doesn’t have a lot of faith in his teammates on offense. Then again, considering how the Vikings’ offense has played this year, it’s hard to blame him.

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47 Responses to “Vikings defend not letting the Broncos score”
  1. broncfanor says: Dec 5, 2011 12:16 PM

    Unless you have Rogers or Brady as your QB letting a team score to put you offense back on the field doesn’t make sense.

    They made the right choice.

  2. jallen69 says: Dec 5, 2011 12:18 PM

    Broncos could be just as criticized for not taking a knee to run down the clock. At least they still have playoff hopes, whose to say they don’t fumble it away there? Vikings are sucking for Kalil at this point.

  3. claymatthewsisonsteroids says: Dec 5, 2011 12:21 PM

    So it is a higher percentage chance to be able to block a 20 yard field goal scoring a touchdown in over a minute? I like Frazier, but he has no business being a head coach in the NFL. Simply overmatched.

  4. seeq20 says: Dec 5, 2011 12:25 PM

    Just another reason why Frazier shouldn’t be a head coach in this league. I’d need a refresher on the last time they blocked a game-winning kick inside the 5 also. He probably thought up that genius quote while standing emotionless on the sidelines with his arms crossed. Just like every … game … this … season.

  5. fofofotey says: Dec 5, 2011 12:25 PM

    Coaches don’t do it because they don’t want the heat, but it was definitely the smart play. The field goal was basically an extra point. Those are made about 99% of the time. So they had a 1% chance of going to overtime.

    The chance of a touchdown to tie in one minute has to be better than 1%.

  6. mvp43 says: Dec 5, 2011 12:25 PM

    If your playing Madden football then you let him score. If your playing real football then you do what Frazier did. Allowing another team to score is a slap to your defense.

  7. marvsleezy says: Dec 5, 2011 12:26 PM

    It’s a no brainer let them score – Just look at the statistics – These dumb jocks just cant figure it out.

  8. grizzlyfox says: Dec 5, 2011 12:26 PM

    What is the miss rate on kicks from 20 yards? It’s probably around 2-3%. If you include extra points, it probably gets closer to 1%.

    What percentage of teams, down by 7, score a touchdown when they get the ball back w/ a minute or less remaining? Probably more than 3-5%.

    So no, it wasn’t the right play, and never will be the right play.

  9. immejor says: Dec 5, 2011 12:27 PM

    It was the same distance as an extra point. Extra points are converted in the NFL at over a 99% success rate.

    The Vikings had more than a 1% chance of scoring with 1:15 on the clock.

  10. lawrinson20 says: Dec 5, 2011 12:29 PM

    Every year, someone proposes the ‘matador’ defense, allowing a team to score. Before we continue with that, i’d like to know the history/statistics/results from when that actually happened.

    @brocfanor:
    Add Breeze and a healthy Peyton Manning to that list.

    Who do the Vikes have? Ponder? Yeah, i think you pray for one of those ‘reverse miracles.’ A Romo-ed snap? A Pisarcik? Heck fire — Phillip Rivers gave one away only a few weeks ago.

  11. sonvar says: Dec 5, 2011 12:29 PM

    They made the right choice. Really the onus is on Ponder who got picked off that allowed them to just kick a FG to win. If Ponder doesn’t get picked off then at worst the Vikings go to OT right there. Not to mention when a TD is required to take a game go to OT it’s much easier to defend that.

    I agree with broncfanor they made the right choice.

  12. ammarradhi says: Dec 5, 2011 12:32 PM

    What gave the Bronco’s great field position, was Ponder’s second interception, its hard to have faith in your offense at that point, but with under 2 mins and not time outs, letting them score is your only chance at tying the game.

  13. acieu says: Dec 5, 2011 12:35 PM

    And get his leg broken by a Las Vegas bookie for messing with the point spread ? Get real.

  14. fmlizard says: Dec 5, 2011 12:42 PM

    Logic and probability have no place in the tough-guy world of the NFL, where it is considered better to lose fighting your guts out than to win by making the smart play.

  15. cbt22 says: Dec 5, 2011 12:48 PM

    The going rate for missed extra points this season is about 1 miss for roughly 250 attempts, this field goal was just slightly longer then a PAT, and with ponder actually playing well enough and driving pretty well they would have had a much greater chance letting them score and trying to drive.

  16. db105 says: Dec 5, 2011 12:52 PM

    Most people do not understand odds and probabilities. Most football coaches are no different from the common simple minds.

  17. steelersteven says: Dec 5, 2011 12:54 PM

    Never let them score!!

  18. justwinbaby29 says: Dec 5, 2011 12:55 PM

    Should have let them score. Miami made the same mistake on Thanksgiving against Dallas. You’re odds aren’t good scoring a TD with a minute to go but they are nil letting the other team bleed the clock. Of course if the other team is smart they pull a Maurice Jones-Drew and take a knee at the one. You ALWAYS play the clock in addition to the scoreboard. It’s amazing (Jason Garrett) these coaches don’t manage the clock better. Yes they are doing a million things but their assistants should be on top of it at least.

  19. davemeisner says: Dec 5, 2011 12:56 PM

    When you lose you didn’t make the right call… Even if they let the Broncos score and they failed to tie the game this article would be reversed.

  20. chris6523 says: Dec 5, 2011 12:59 PM

    Betting on the kicker missing that field goal was a loser. Ray Rhodes made a similar decision when he was the Pack’s coach in a game against Carolina. I still believe to this day that the way Rhodes botched the end of that game was the reason why he got fired.

  21. tundey says: Dec 5, 2011 1:07 PM

    Before you play Monday Morning QB, how about you tell me the last time the Vikings scored a TD in less than 60 seconds (because it’ll take at least 10 seconds to allow a TD and then the kickoff). I don’t have Elias Sports Bureau on speed dial but I don’t think that’s something they’ve done consistently. So why would you give up a surefire TD for the probably that your team can drive 80 yards for a tying TD. It’s just an impossible position to be in but they made the right choice.

    Also, I like how you present your choice like it’s common sense when you provide absolutely no stats to back it up.

  22. citizenstrange says: Dec 5, 2011 1:09 PM

    You have to play to be the LAST team to touch the ball. 100% of the time.

    With no timeouts of their own left to stop the clock the Vikes should have let the Broncos score.

    It’s just like blackjack in Vegas when the dealer shows a 10 and you have a 16.

    It’s a crap hand and you will probably lose but you have to hit it 100% of the time.

  23. prime311 says: Dec 5, 2011 1:15 PM

    The media loves the Vikings. No one is calling out LANCE BALL for not attempting to lateral the ball at the goal line while getting tackled. That could’ve been a TD easy.

    -Ronnie

  24. earthtopft says: Dec 5, 2011 1:16 PM

    I don’t know why it would have been so hard on the Viking defensive players to let the Broncos score at the end of the game. You’d think they would have been used to it by that point in time.

  25. earthtopft says: Dec 5, 2011 1:18 PM

    Given the Vikes’ defense success stopping the Broncos from scoring earlier in the game, Frazier probably thought he didn’t have to tell them to do things any differently.

  26. prime311 says: Dec 5, 2011 1:19 PM

    P.S. Ronnie doesn’t care that Lance Ball plays for the Broncos.

  27. fngs1 says: Dec 5, 2011 1:27 PM

    Could be wrong, but i remember a game few years ago where the RB had a shot at scoring, but was smart enough to stop on the 1 yard line to let the clock run down so the other team won’t have a chance to get the ball back. so where doe’s that fit into the probabilities.

  28. madmike66 says: Dec 5, 2011 1:38 PM

    You don’t let them score, period. Too many things can happen if you try to stop them, to include a fumble and recovery, a stupid penalty on the offense that pushes them back, bad snap, bad hold, shanked kick, etc. Allowing the TD is a terrible decision. It sends the wrong message to your team, especially your defense, that you have no faith in them. Also, at the end of a game, teams readily march down the field for FGs, because of prevent defenses, but it is VERY hard to march down the field and score a TD against a prevent D in under a minute. Allowing the TD is exchanging one bad situation for another. You let your defense try to win for you.

  29. dougy1970 says: Dec 5, 2011 1:40 PM

    Is the objective to win or to go down nobly in flames with your ego intact?

  30. fwippel says: Dec 5, 2011 1:55 PM

    It’s hard to blame the Viking defense for not letting them score. The example for doing this comes from Super Bowl XXXII, when the Packers let the Broncos score and take the lead, thinking that Favre would take the Packers down and tie the game. Well, that approach failed. I understand the argument, but I just don’t agree with it; you never intentionally give up the lead late in the game.

    On the other hand, earlier this year, the Vikings defeated the Panthers when Olindo Mare pulled a 30 yard field goal attempt wide right that would have sent the game to OT. Sometimes the ‘gimmes’ aren’t.

  31. jrizzo575 says: Dec 5, 2011 1:58 PM

    If the score was tied at 3 or 10, you probably play D and hope to block a kick or force a fumble. But the score was what, 32-32? This indicates that the Ds weren’t exactly playing like the ’85 Bears, so I would have let them score, much like the Pack did against the Broncos in the Super Bowl (admittedly, that didn’t work out).

    Also, if the turf was chewed up or you’re playing outdoors in bad conditions, playing D and forcing a FG is probably the better play. But this was indoors of course.

  32. sbxxix says: Dec 5, 2011 2:03 PM

    I remember the Packers doing that against the Broncos in SB XXXII and it didn’t work but at least they were trying to win the game. You gotta do what you gotta do when time is against you but I guess pride is more important when your team is 2-9 (2-10 now)

  33. mr86ism says: Dec 5, 2011 2:09 PM

    The people saying its better to let them score are idiots. Obviously the only football they can say they know is madden. If the probability is less than whatever percentage, then you play your heart out for that percentage. But hey, what do I know? Just bend over and take it Vikings and after we score, dont expect a call in the morning

  34. mistersmith22 says: Dec 5, 2011 2:11 PM

    People criticizing Frazier: You’ve got a rookie quarterback making what, his 6th start, with your best offensive player in street clothes, and Devin Aromashadu at WR2. You’re not exactly built like a quick-strike team. Sure, Percy Harvin can (and did) break a big one, but you think, with no other real threats, he’s not seeing double and maybe triple coverage when you need 80-plus yards? Ponder looked good, he made sharp throws, good accuracy, etc., but he’s not yet Rodgers, Brady, or Brees.

    If Frazier had let them score on the hopes that they could drive, score a TD, and probably get 2…you’d be burning him in effigy.

  35. anarchopurplism says: Dec 5, 2011 2:15 PM

    This was a “in game miss” by Frazier. However, keeps the Vikes in for a better draft pick! We haven’t heard that conspiracy yet…….

    After the RB got the 1st down (previous play where they tackled him at the 4), they should have let him walk in.

    Way better odds to either get a return TD or 1 minute drive vs. Broncos missing a FG inside the 10. This is obvious.

  36. apm says: Dec 5, 2011 2:23 PM

    In the season leading up to Super Bowl XXXII the Packers lost to the Colts in a game where the Colts ran the clock out at their goal line before lining up to kick a short FG. That was the background for the Packers doing the matador thing against the Broncos. Favre had the time on the clock to win that game in the final drive, he just didn’t get it done.

  37. geezohman says: Dec 5, 2011 2:38 PM

    i get a kick out of media saying how good the Bronco defense is…

    duh… minnesota scored like crazy on them…

    and how good Tebow is… you’re playing the Vikings…duh…

    show me playing good teams.. whats their opposition win-loss record?

    Five of the Broncos wins are against losing teams. One of those wins against Miami in OT

  38. tlippert says: Dec 5, 2011 3:14 PM

    To those who say the Vikings haven’t scored in under a minute all year, remember that they have Harvin to return the kick. He’s returned 4 for TD’s in 93 career returns (along with the 104 yarder last week that wasn’t a score). That stat alone puts the odds in your favor to let the Broncos score. If they squib it, then you get it around the 40 with around a minute to go.

  39. stealthjunk says: Dec 5, 2011 3:18 PM

    How’d the “let them score” strategy work out for Green Bay and Brett Favre in the 1997 Super Bowl against the Broncos? I don’t see Green Bay’s name on the Lombardi trophy for that year…hmm.

  40. stavreafavre says: Dec 5, 2011 3:46 PM

    They figured that even if they gave up a field goal, they might have an opportunity to kick one of the opponents in the groin. Have to have priorities.

  41. theytukrjobs says: Dec 5, 2011 3:55 PM

    It is kind of a 50/50 type of thing. But with only 1:12 remaining you are probably better off trying to block the kick or hoping for the running back to fumble. You are only going to have 1 minute by the time you return the squib and I think there were no timeouts at that point. Vikes don’t have a jump ball WR or deep threat so that makes it even harder.

    Sure the Vikes offense lit up the scoreboard a bit in regulation but most of their scores were against reckless blitzes and by churning out long drives with power football. They really aren’t built to score quick when the opponent knows you are throwing deep.

  42. vikes69 says: Dec 5, 2011 4:18 PM

    Let them score!!! Ponder was playing very well, he had a better chance of leading them down field to score. and the chances of them missing that field goal was about 1%…. the vikings had about a 5% chance of running the kickoff back for a touchdown

  43. hendeeze says: Dec 5, 2011 4:38 PM

    sounds like a stubborn Singletary influence.

  44. mediasloppy says: Dec 5, 2011 7:53 PM

    I hate this hind site is 20/20 stuff. It was the right call. IF I actually seen the Viking score a touchdown in one minute during the season I might think differently. Ponder is playing good, but not that good.

  45. brewdogg says: Dec 6, 2011 12:09 AM

    While I like the idea of putting the kickoff in Harvin’s hands and seeing what happens, a coach can never, EVER look his defense in the eye and tell them to let the other team score. Never. You tell them to get jacked up and go get the ball back. Any coach who plays it differently might as well turn in his resignation after the game, because he just lost his team.

    So let’s get some votes for draft pick. I think Blackmon goes to St Louis if they get the #2 pick, so it’s either LT or CB after that. Kalil, Martin, Claiborne, or Kirkpatrick?

  46. truthserum4u says: Dec 6, 2011 6:56 AM

    This of course assumes Denver would have their RBs actually go into the endzone. The plays they ran, and the way they ran them implied the RBs would have gone down on their own, short of the endzone (ala Maurice Jones-Drew a few years ago). John Fox has been around the block a few times, so I’m sure he realized if the Vikings never touch the ball again the Broncos probably win.

  47. truecoat says: Dec 7, 2011 10:54 AM

    Ok, I know a fg wouldn’t tie it if you let them score. I had a brain meltdown at the end. Even so, your best chance at that point is to let them score and try to tie it. Some would say never let them score, it’s giving up. Giving up is watching the clock tick down to 3 and seeing the ball go through the uprights and there’s nothing you can do.

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