Notebook: Lorenzo Booker's 'mental lapse' proves extremely costly
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MINNEAPOLIS - In a game filled with mistakes, Lorenzo Booker had one of the most costly Sunday in the Minnesota Vikings' 27-21 loss to the Oakland Raiders at the Metrodome.
The running back fumbled a kickoff return late in the second quarter after Oakland had scored to take a 17-7 lead. The Raiders recovered with 1 minute, 14 seconds left in the half and four plays later quarterback Carson Palmer scored on a 1-yard sneak to make it 24-7 at halftime.
"I just had a mental lapse and was worried about doing other things instead of my fundamentals," he said. "I was worried about scoring, worried about hitting the hole and the bottom line is none of that matters if you don't have the ball.
"Even though it was a split second that's all it takes. This is professional football. Split seconds, that's what it is. You take that touchdown away, we win 21-20."
Booker, who is averaging 23.7 yards on 19 kick returns this season, took Sebastian Janikowski's kick at his own 4-yard line and got to the 19 before losing the ball. The Raiders' DeMarcus Van Dyke recovered at the Vikings 16.
"Something happened and I jumped in the air," Booker said when explaining what happened on the play. "But regardless, no matter what happens throughout the course of a play, it's my responsibility to bring the ball back."
Booker said other than getting being injured, losing a fumble is the worst feeling a player can have.
"I always feel like going into a win or a loss, I want to be part of the solution," Booker said. "No matter what happens, I want them to be able to put the red dot on my guy and say, 'He was trying to be part of the solution.' I can't say that today and there's nothing I can say to rectify that. I wasn't part of the solution today."
Booker wasn't the only member of the special teams to make a costly mistake.
Punter Chris Kluwe, who holds on field-goal and extra-point attempts, failed to successfully get the ball down for what would have been a 48-yard field-goal attempt by Ryan Longwell in the second quarter.
If Longwell had made the kick, the score would have been tied at 10. Instead, Kluwe lost 12 yards on the play after he muffed the snap and the Raiders' ensuing drive ended with Michael Bush's 2-yard touchdown run.
"We have to be able to catch it in the center, place it on the ground so our field-goal kicker can kick it," coach Leslie Frazier said. "We've done that throughout the year; we've done well with that. That's very unusual for that to happen with Chris. He's done this a thousand times. ... In that sequence it really clipped the game."
What down is it again?
Referee Jerome Boger and his crew weren't at their finest either.
This was especially true in the first quarter when a holding penalty on Vikings wide receiver Michael Jenkins negated a 35-yard touchdown run by Percy Harvin and eventually created mass confusion about what down it was.
On what should been third down-and-8 for the Vikings from the Oakland 33-yard line, the referees signaled it was fourth down. The Vikings knew that was incorrect and called a timeout.
"It was just a madhouse," wide receiver Percy Harvin said. "We were looking at the ref, not understanding how he didn't get the call corrected. ... It was about 50 of us calling the timeout. We all knew it was supposed to be third down. It was just a matter of the referees getting together and getting it right."
Boger finally realized his error and thus did not charge the Vikings with a timeout. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder threw a 9-yard pass to Harvin on the next play and a face mask penalty against Raiders safety Tyvon Branch moved the ball to the Oakland 12.
Adrian Peterson then scored on a run up the middle to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead.
Success on the ground
The Raiders were without running back Darren McFadden but that didn't appear to hinder their rushing game.
Bush rushed for 109 yards on 30 carries and a touchdown and had 49 yards in the opening half. The Raiders had 82 yards on the ground in the first 30 minutes and 162 for the game.
"We've got to play better rush defense," defensive end Jared Allen said. "The first half was terrible. It was terrible. It's always like that. It's always a couple plays here, a couple plays there. Unfortunately, we're not making them."
Sunday marked the sixth time in 10 games this season a team has rushed for more than 100 yards against the Vikings.
Bush is the first running back to go over 100 yards against the Vikings this year.
"He could rush for 200 if we win," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "We don't want any back to get 100, no matter who it is, or what the game. We're playing flag football, we don't anybody to rush for 100 yards. (But) if you get a win, it doesn't matter how many yards they had."
Sack drought ends
Williams' sack of Carson Palmer in the fourth quarter was his first of the season and first since the second game of the 2010 season.
A six-time Pro Bowl selection, Williams had only one sack last year and now has 50.5 for his career. That makes him the 10th player in franchise history to reach 50 career sacks.
Williams joked that Sunday's sack should have been his second of the season because he had one taken away last Monday night at Green Bay and given to Allen.
"I just take what they give me," Williams said. "Sometimes I'm getting the one-on-ones, sometimes not so many. But I just blocked that out today. Stopped worrying so much.
"I think I've been putting too much pressure on myself to get a sack and just make plays in general. Just blocked that out today and last week for the most part and just played ball. I think it's getting me back where I need to be."
Williams dealt with plantar fasciitis in his left foot early in the season and said he still feels some pain. "For the most part, I'm able to take off pretty good," he said, adding that the pain is actually worse when he's not playing.
A scary moment
Oakland coach Hue Jackson said wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey had total movement in his limbs and was diagnosed with a neck injury after he took a hard hit to the head following a fourth quarter reception.
Heyward-Bey caught a 4-yard pass from Palmer on third down and as he was being tackled by cornerback Cedric Griffin, linebacker E.J. Henderson's knee inadvertently connected with the back of Heyward-Bey's head.
His helmet came off and he fell to the ground. Heyward-Bey had no visible movement as he was immobilized on a stretcher and transported to a local hospital.
"I didn't see the replay, I just know when I was running I thought my knee hit him," Henderson said. "I saw his neck snap back. Hopefully, he's all right. ... I'll definitely check on him and make sure he's (OK)."
"It's tough. I'll definitely feel better when I hear that he's OK. Hopefully I can get his number and try to reach out to him but I've been on the other end of that. I've been in the ambulance before. So it's definitely hard."
Henderson suffered a gruesome broken leg late in the 2009 season in Arizona and had to be transported to the hospital in an ambulance. He ended up having to undergo surgery.
"To see him down like that and not moving, and get the cart out there, anytime you see that you've got a bad feeling," Henderson said. "To know that I've participated in that is even worse. He gave us a thumb's up when he was leaving the field."
Said Jackson: "(Heyward-Bey) is going to be fine. I truly believe he's going to be OK, but obviously we have to take all the precautionary measures to make sure he's going to be OK."
• The Vikings again had Asher Allen match up against an opposing wide receiver. That meant Allen, who started in place of the injured Antoine Winfield, and Cedric Griffin frequently ended up switching sides. Allen was assigned to Denarius Moore, who had one catch for 14 yards, and Griffin was on Bey. The Raiders only touchdown reception came from Chaz Schilens and came at Allen's expense. Heyward-Bey caught four passes for 43 yards.
• Benny Sapp, who was signed by the Vikings last week after having not played since Week 1, estimated he was in for between 15 to 20 snaps as the inside corner in the nickel defense. "I felt all right," said Sapp, who played for the Vikings in 2008-09 before being traded to Miami in 2010. "It came back pretty quick."
• Sunday's game marked the fourth time this season the Vikings have been called for nine penalties. Their season-high was 10 penalties in last Monday's loss at Green Bay.
• The Raiders' 12 penalties for 117 yards were easily a season-high for a Vikings opponent. Jackson wasn't pleased with all the flags thrown against his team. This included a very questionable unnecessary roughness call against linebacker Aaron Curry in the first quarter after a 2-yard reception by tight end Kyle Rudolph. "I asked several times for explanations (from the officials) and I wouldn't get them," Jackson said. "I will deal with it."
• Rudolph's touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was the first of his career. Harvin's TD catch earlier in the quarter was his first of the season. Harvin had six touchdown receptions as a rookie and five last season.
• Allen's streak of having at least a half-a-sack in a game came to an end after 11 games. Allen had a full sack or more in the past eight games entering Sunday and he had a half-sack in the season-opener at San Diego. He also had a half-sack in the 2010 regular-season finale at Detroit and started the streak with a sack last Dec. 28 at Philadelphia.
• Cornerback Lito Sheppard, who spent last season with the Vikings and had no real impact, tied for the Raiders team lead with six tackles. He also had a sack, a tackle for a loss and tipped a pass that led to an interception.