Jared Allen says Vikings defense 'got lucky' to win despite breakdowns
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Jacksonville Jaguars' opening drive on Sunday brought back bad memories for a Minnesota Vikings defense that ranked 21st in the NFL last season.
Seventeen plays. Seventy-seven yards. Five first downs, including four consecutive third-down conversions, before Rashad Jennings went down at the 1 on third-and-goal.
By halftime, the Jaguars had held the ball for 19 minutes, 16 seconds and gained 170 yards. They led 9-7, thanks to Josh Scobee's 19-yard field goal to cap that opening drive and a 1-yard touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert to tight end Marcedes Lewis.
"The first half was terrible," Vikings end Jared Allen said. "We couldn't get off the field. It was tackling. We just couldn't tackle. When you get into third-and-shorts, that is what happens."
The Jaguars reached the end zone only one other time, on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to Cecil Shorts III with 20 seconds left in regulation. But the Vikings needed some opportunistic play and good fortune to escape with a 26-23 overtime win.
For starters, the Jaguars would have scored a touchdown on their opening drive if not for Blaine Gabbert's misfire to wide-open Justin Blackmon on first-and-goal.
"We just know the mistakes we made last year, and we're trying not to repeat them," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "We didn't play very good in the first half. To be able to hold them to a field goal in that first drive was huge."
In the second quarter, safety Mistral Raymond got run over by Maurice Jones-Drew on an 11-yard run, then let tight end Marcedes Lewis get loose for a 1-yard touchdown reception that gave the Jaguars a 9-0 lead after the extra point was blocked.
The Vikings settled down from there and came up with their only turnover early in the third quarter, on a botched exchange between Gabbert and center Brad Meester that yielded a fumble Kevin Williams recovered.
They also stood tall after Christian Ponder's fumble gave Jacksonville possession at the Vikings' 16-yard line, holding the Jags to one of their three field goals.
"They were doing some things offensively that created a little bit of stress," coach Leslie Frazier said, "and we went back and talked about some things at halftime and settled down a little bit and played a lot better in the second half."
But they broke at the worst possible time, with Cecil Shorts III beating Chris Cook for a go-ahead, 39-yard touchdown with 20 seconds to go.
The Vikings were playing Cover-3, leaving Cook in a one-on-one situation. He never located the ball in the air and turned the wrong way as Shorts adjusted to catch it.
"Of course, I was mad about it," Cook said. "But the quarterback and the receiver made a good play and I had a lot of confidence in our offense to go down there and score some points and get us back on the field and give me another chance to redeem myself."
After the Vikings forced overtime with one field goal and took the lead with another, the defense got the stop it needed. Rookie safety Harrison Smith made a diving breakup on a Gabbert pass for Laurent Robinson on third-and-2.
"I wish I would have just picked it off and ended the game," Smith said. "It was a good feeling to get my hand on it, but I tried not to get too excited, because I knew we still had one more play left."
Gabbert overthrew Robinson downfield against Cook's coverage on fourth down, sealing the decision. He nonetheless had one of the most efficient days of his young career -- 23-of-39 passing (59.0%) for 260 yards, two touchdowns and a 96.1 rating.
The Jaguars finished with 362 net yards, 22 first downs and nine third-down conversions in 18 chances. They possessed the ball for nearly 38 minutes.
Erin Henderson and Cook each had a sack, while Brian Robison had two pressures and batted down a third-down pass. Allen, who led the NFL with 22 sacks last season, had a sack wiped out by an offsides penalty early and wasn't credited with a single tackle.
"When you are terrible on first and second down," Allen said, "you get no rhythm for the game and it opens their whole playbook up, so the whole time we are guessing.
"We have to be a lot better. Thank God we got lucky and we got a win."