MINNEAPOLIS – Was this the wrong room?
The quarterback was bemoaning the way his team finished, the coach was offering a dissertation on his team’s lack of fourth-quarter scoring and what he clearly felt was some disastrous officiating. But hadn’t the Oakland Raidersjust won, on the road, assuming first place in the AFC West with a 27-21 victory over the Vikings at Mall of America Field?
But perhaps it’s a testament to the expectations of head coach Hue Jackson and quarterback Carson Palmer that they chose instead to focus on what had to improve.
“We haven’t played a complete football game yet,” said Palmer, who completed 17 of 23 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown. “It’s scary to think, when we do, what it’s going to look like.”
He might be right. Down 7-0 in the early going, the Raiders (6-4) reeled off 27 straight points – 17 off turnovers, most of the rest off mistakes – to take a 27-7 lead into the fourth quarter. That the Raiders allowed the bumbling Vikingsto rally for two fourth-quarter scores? It just gives the Raiders more to work on. And maybe it will take Jackson’s mind off what he felt was horrible officiating.
Not likely. His team was whistled for 12 penalties for 117 yards. A number of those were personal fouls, including three that facilitated the Vikings’ first TD drive. It set Jackson off.
“I am going to reach out to the league myself, personally,” Jackson said. “Normally I don’t complain about the officiating. I don’t make any bones that way, ’cause I said I wouldn’t. But, today, I truly felt like it was a little unfair. As a head coach it’s my job to look out for my players.”
Jackson said he was rebuffed and, at times, ignored when questioning officials about calls. “Sometimes I get brushed aside, sometimes I get talked to as if I don’t know what I’m asking. I don’t think that’s fair,” he said. “But we won the game.”
That’s because the Vikings (2-8) did their best to give it to them. Up 7-3, things started going south for the Vikings pretty quickly. First they lost star running back to a sprained left ankle on a run late in the first quarter. Then the team started making mistakes in all facets of the game. To wit:
–Christian Ponder’s pass to Percy Harvin near the goal like on third-and-5 from the Oakland 21 was intercepted by safety Matt Giorgano and returned 42 yards to the 47. Seven plays later Palmer’s 11-yard pass to Chas Schilensmade it 10-7.
–The Vikings’ next drive ended with a botched hold on a field goal attempt, giving Oakland the ball at the Oakland 43. Eight plays later Michael Bush powered over from 2 yards out for the score with 1:20 left in the half for a 17-7 lead.
–Vikings return man Lorenzo Booker fumbled the ensuing kickoff, setting Oakland up for another TD in the final 2 minutes on Palmer’s 1-yard sneak. It was 24-7 and it was all but over.
“We’re not good enough to overcome some of that we’re doing to ourselves,” said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier.
The Raiders saw the victory as another step by an improving team. “For being a young team, it’s rare to come on the road and play a big game,” said Palmer, whose team assumed a one-game lead in the AFC West over Denver. “This environment is loud, it’s intense, they needed a win desperately and they’re willing to do anything. So it shows that we do have a young team, but we’re resilient.”
For Ponder, it was another rookie symposium. He completed 19 of 33 yards for 211 yards and two scores, and he ran five times for 71 yards. But he threw three interceptions, two of which resulted in Oakland scores. He rallied the team with two fourth-quarter TD passes and the Vikings has the ball, down six, late. But his fourth-down pass to Harvin fell incomplete near midfield with 1:52 left.
“Not a fun loss,” Ponder said. “Especially when so much of that loss was contributed to my play. A lot of mistakes by me. Three turnovers is never good, two in the red zone. Bad decisions by me.”
But this day belonged to the penalty-prone Raiders. Michael Bush ran the ball 30 times for 109 yards, keying a running game that gained 162 yards. The Raiders front seven harried Ponder all day, sacking him five times, intercepting him thrice.
But they left Minnesota wanting more.
“The main thing I think we need to look at is the fourth quarter and finding ways to finish the game,” Palmer said.
NOTES: Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was immobilized and carted off the field with 11:52 left in the game after making a catch, then appearing to take a knee to the head from linebacker E.J. Henderson as he was tackled. Oakland coach Hue Jackson said Heyward-Bey, who lifted his arm to the crowd as he was being taken off the field, never lost consciousness and had full movement. But he did sustain a spine injury and was being examined. “I think, and I hope and pray that he’s going to be OK,” Jackson said. … Other injuries sustained by the Raiders included hamstring injuries for running back Taiwan Jones and defensive end Jarvis Moss and a concussion for center Samson Satele. … Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was lost to a left ankle sprain late in the first quarter. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said more would be known about the severity of the injury on Monday. … For the first time this year Vikings defensive end Jared Allen was held without at least a half a sack.