Leslie Frazier made 'a bad mistake' on Vikings' failed fourth-and-goal
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
ATLANTA -- The Minnesota Vikings' last gasp on Sunday ended with a failed fourth-and-goal run that coach Leslie Frazier wished he'd never attempted.
"That's purely on me. Just a bad mistake on my part putting us in that position," Frazier said after the Atlanta Falcons finished off a 24-14 win at the Georgia Dome.
"The guys, they battled. They battled right to the end. Just got to be smarter on my part in that situation and not put us in that situation. I let my emotions get in the way, because we had to get back in the game."
The Vikings trailed by 10, so kicking a 19-yard field goal would have made it a one-score game. Instead, the offense stayed on the field, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave called a gap-scheme run with right guard Joe Berger pulling and strong-side linebacker Sean Weatherspoon exploded off the edge to dump Toby Gerhart for a 2-yard loss.
"Just the fact that we're at the 1 and just believing that we can get that 1 yard," Frazier said. "I just really thought that we could and, when we get the ball back, we'd be going to win the game instead of trying to tie the game. Just didn't work out that way. Something we have to learn from, personally."
It all began after the Falcons appeared to have put away the game on Michael Palmer's 3-yard touchdown catch with 6 minutes, 40 seconds to play. Percy Harvin returned the ensuing kickoff 104 yards to the Falcons' 3-yard line to give the Vikings new life.
On first-and-goal, Christian Ponder couldn't find anyone open and scrambled into a sack that pushed back the Vikings to the 5. The next two plays were inside runs to Harvin, who thought he crossed the goal line on third-and-goal from the 2.
"One of (the officials) ran up to me and he was about to put his hands up, and then two from the side came up and they said, 'No,'" Harvin said. "I figured they didn't get a good look at it. I tried to get Coach's attention to maybe challenge it, but he had a lot of stuff going on at the time."
Trying to figure out a fourth-down play, Frazier said he "couldn't see it well enough to say he was in or out, and nothing was coming from upstairs to say that he was close enough to challenge it. There was no dialogue on that. If there were, it was close, we would have challenged it, if we had thought he'd gotten in. I don't know if they didn't show the pictures or what may have happened. But there was no dialogue."
So, the Vikings put in Gerhart on the field in a three-wide set to run a play that has worked at least once before this season.
Michael Jenkins went in motion and the Falcons were ready for the call, with Weatherspoon coming free before Berger had any chance of trapping him from across the formation.
"They had a good defense called for it," Musgrave said. "Tough one to stomach."
Gerhart, who was lined up 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage, called it "a dead play" the moment Weatherspoon came upfield.
"When someone's untouched off the edge screaming upfield on a play like that and you're 7 yards deep," Gerhart said, "you get hit at 3 or 4 in the backfield and try to fight to get there."
Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was blocking down on the play next to a double team by left tackle Charlie Johnson and left guard Steve Hutchinson, giving him little chance to adjust and get a piece of Weatherspoon off the edge.
"The end had removed himself (and) sliced down," Shiancoe said. "I just seen the sam free, and so I tried to salvage the play, but I couldn't."
Asked if he considered using a timeout based on the Falcons' alignment, Frazier said, "No, it wasn't a check-with-me play. It was a play that was called to run it, and we felt like we had people blocked based on where the play was going. They did a good job of standing up and making a play. We have enough people to block that backer if we execute the play."
The Falcons took over on downs and ran out the last 4:16 off the clock, holding on to a game they led 17-0 at halftime -- but might have squandered if the Vikings had emerged from the possession with any points at all.
"I think we all saw it materializing," Musgrave said. "We would have liked to have not been in that spot in the first place."