Reflecting on 10 Defining Moments of Minnesota Viking's 2013 Season
As expected, the Minnesota Vikings fired head coach Leslie Frazier Monday morning following a 5-9-1 season, as reported in the Pioneer Press. Frazier's dismissal shouldn't come as a surprise. This was a make-or-break season for Frazier after making the playoffs last season with a 10-6 record.
The season could not have started any worse for Frazier and the Vikings, with the team losing two of its first three games in the final minute. They finished 1-7 for the first half of the season.
Here are 10 defining moments from the Vikings' 2013 season.
The Minnesota Vikings First Offensive Play of the Season
In the Week 1 matchup with the Lions in Detroit, the game could not have started any better for the Minnesota Vikings. The defense held the Lions to a field-goal attempt on the opening drive of the season—an attempt that resulted in a botched hold and a turnover on downs.
The Vikings' first offensive play of the season gave hope that perhaps 2013 would pick up where 2012 had ended—with running back Adrian Peterson leading the way. Peterson's first carry of the season resulted in a 78-yard touchdown run, giving the Vikings an early 7-0 lead.
While that looked to be a defining moment, the reality was that Peterson finished the game with only 93 rushing yards on 18 carries. The Lions held him to only 15 yards on his next 17 carries.
After rushing for 2,097 yards in 2012, and setting a goal to rush for 2,500 yards in a season, Peterson finished with only 1,266 yards—his injury-shortened season of 2011 was the only season in which rushed for fewer yards.
Peterson's average of 4.5 yards per carry is the second lowest in his seven seasons, and his 10 rushing touchdowns match the lowest single-season total in his career.
The Vikings were only as good as their best player, and Peterson had an ordinary season by his standards.
The Vikings Lose to the Bears in the Final Minute
The Minnesota Vikings opened the season with consecutive division games on the road. After losing to the Detroit Lions in Week 1, they had a chance to even their record on the road against the Chicago Bears.
The Vikings used three second-half field goals from Blair Walsh to turn a 24-21 halftime deficit into a 30-24 lead with just over three minutes left in the game.
The Vikings defense had held quarterback Jay Cutler and the Chicago offense scoreless in the second half—all they needed was to come up with one more stop.
It didn't happen.
The defining moment came on a 3rd-and-10 from the Vikings' 16-yard line with 0:16 left in the game. Cutler connected with tight end Martellus Bennett for the touchdown and a 31-30 win for the Bears.
That moment would replay itself several times in the 2013 season, with the opposition scoring in the very last minute of the game to beat the Vikings.
In Week 3, it was a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brian Hoyer to tight end Jordan Cameron with 0:55 left in the game. The Browns won, 31-27.
In Week 9 against the Dallas Cowboys, Tony Romo connected on a seven-yard pass to wide receiver Dwayne Harris with 0:42 left in the game. The Cowboys won, 27-23.
In Week 14, quarterback Joe Flacco connected on a nine-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marlon Brown with 0:09 left, and the Ravens won a wild game in Baltimore, 29-26.
That's four wins the Vikings could have had—if only the defense could have come up with one more play in each of those games.
A Record-Setting Performance by a Rookie
When the Minnesota Vikings traded away wide receiver Percy Harvin in the offseason, and then used one of their first-round draft picks to select his replacement, the expectations were set pretty high.
Cordarrelle Patterson did not disappoint this season.
His defining moment came in Week 8 at home against the Green Bay Packers. On the opening kickoff, Patterson set an NFL record with a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was his second kick return for a touchdown this season, tying him with Harvin for the franchise record.
He also set the Vikings single-season record with 1,393 return yards, breaking Buster Rhymes record of 1,345 yards set in 1985.
Week 13: Wide Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson Makes His First Start on Offense.
According to Pro Football Reference, rookie wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson started only five games this season. He didn't make his first start until Week 13 against the Chicago Bears.
Looking back, you've got to wonder what took so long.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave seemed hesitant to turn Patterson loose. Last season at the University of Tennessee, Patterson led the Volunteers with 1,858 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns.
In the first eight games of the season, Patterson had 16 receptions and two rushing attempts for a total of 148 yards and no touchdowns.
Over the final eight games of his rookie season, he had 29 receptions for 323 yards and four touchdowns. He also had 10 rushing attempts for 156 yards and another three scores.
That's seven touchdowns in eight games.
If only the Vikings had decided to incorporate Patterson more into the offense sooner in the season
The Vikings Sign Quarterback Josh Freeman to a 1-Year Contract
Perhaps one of the darkest moments of the Vikings' season came when they signed free-agent quarterback Josh Freeman. Actually the darkest moment came 15 days later—when Freeman started a Monday night game against the New York Giants.
In that Week 7 matchup against Ne York, Freeman became the Vikings' third starting quarterback of the season. It would be the last time he stepped onto the field during a game.
He finished the game 20-of-53 passing with 190 yards and an interception. His passer rating for the night was 40.6. Later that week, the team indicated that Freeman had suffered a concussion during the game.
Looking back, the decision to sign Freeman was more than a $3 million mistake—it was a distraction for a good part of the season and made the front office look inept.
It's obvious that the Vikings learned too late what the Buccaneers already knew about Freeman.
Blair Walsh Misses a 50-Yard Field Goal
Another setback in the Week 7 matchup against the New York Giants was when kicker Blair Walsh missed a 53-yard field goal.
It was bound to happen eventually.
After setting the NFL record by converting all 10 of his attempts from beyond 50 yards in 2012, Walsh proved he was human.
Walsh proved he was human four times this season. Fortunately for Walsh, none of his misses cost the Vikings a game—they never found themselves in a position for a game-winning field goal attempt.
He finished the season converting 26 of 30 field goal attempts—an 86.7 percentage. This season, his 121 points are the 10th-most in franchise history.
Last season, he converted 35 of 38 field goals, a 92.1 percentage and his 141 total points in 2012 were the second most scored in a season for the Vikings.
Matt Asiata Puts His Name in the Minnesota Vikings' Record Book
In Week 15, the Minnesota Vikings were not only without their MVP running back Adrian Peterson, they were also without his primary backup, Toby Gerhart.
That meant third-string running back Matt Asiata would finally get a chance to carry the football this season. Making the first start of his NFL career, Asiata rushed for only 51 yards on 30 carries—but he scored three times.
The Vikings Turn a Win into Tie
In their Week 12 matchup with the Green Bay Packers, it looked like the Minnesota Vikings were going to win a road game at Lambeau Field.
With quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the sideline with a broken shoulder, the Vikings built a 20-7 lead after three quarters.
Then the bottom fell out in the fourth quarter, as the Packers scored 16 points to tie the score at 23.
Their game-tying drive started on their own 31-yard line with 2:27 left in the game. This time, Minnesota's defense prevented the Packers from scoring the game-winning touchdown, holding them to a field goal.
The teams exchanged field goals in overtime, ending the game in a 26-26 tie. It was the first tie for the Vikings since 1978.
Toby Gerhart Makes the Most of His Opportunities
Perhaps one of the toughest jobs in the NFL is to back up running back Adrian Peterson. The NFL's MVP in 2012, Peterson carried the ball 348 times that season. Gerhart got only 50 carries the entire season—that was fewer than half the number he had in 2011.
This season, Gerhart actually finished with even fewer carries due to a hamstring injury. He finished with only 36 rushing attempts, but he made the most of them.
Gerhart was one of the surprises for the Minnesota Vikings in their tie with the Green Bay Packers. He carried the ball eight times for 91 yards—an average of 11.4 yards per carry. In the previous 10 games, he carried the ball only 11 times.
Two weeks later against the Ravens, filling in for an injured Peterson, Gerhart had 89 yards on 15 carries. His defining moment came with 1:45 left in the game, when he broke free on a 41-yard touchdown run that gave the Vikings a 19-15 lead.
Gerhart averaged 7.9 yards per carry this season—the highest average in his four years in the NFL. The pending free agent proved he can be a top running back for a team in 2014.
Xavier Rhodes Emerging as Top Cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings
Like fellow rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, cornerback Xavier Rhodes didn't get a chance to showcase his talents until deep into the season.
It wasn't until after cornerback Josh Robinson suffered a broken sternum in Week 11 against the Seahawks, that Rhodes was a regular on the Vikings defense.
Making only six starts on the season, Rhodes still led the team with 10 passes defensed. He really made his mark in Week 13 when the Vikings hosted the Chicago Bears.
In that game, he limited wide receiver Brandon Marshall to four catches for only 45 yards. Rhodes' defining moment came when he broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Marshall.
His efforts helped the Vikings to a 23-20 overtime win.