I don't get it.
I don't get why the Minnesota Vikings, up by 10 points with about two minutes left in the third quarter, and seemingly in control of their Monday-night game against the New Orleans Saints, punted to Reggie Bush.
Bush returned the punt 71 yards, energizing a previously dormant home crowd and putting his team just three points back.
I don't get why the Vikings, having seen what Bush could do, punted the ball to him again in the waning seconds of the same quarter. Bush almost broke free for another score, tripping after a 29-yard return. It wasn't a touchdown, but the return put the Saints on the Minnesota 49-yard line, and a few quick plays from tying the game up with a long field goal.
And I don't get why the Vikings, three minutes into the fourth quarter, punted the ball back to Bush yet again. He took the punt 64 yards for another score, giving the Saints a seven-point lead.
Yes, the Vikings still pulled out the victory, but Brad Childress and the Minnesota coaching staff might want to abide by a new mantra: Punt the ball out of bounds.
The Minnesota coaches obviously spent a lot of time preparing the defense to contain Reggie Bush. Bush caught seven balls for 64 yards but struggled to find running lanes and managed just 29 yards on 12 carries.
But when it came to special teams, the Vikings didn't show any reservations in punting the ball to Bush, despite his reputation as a fast, agile playmaker that is tough to tackle in the open field.
If the goal is to maintain Bush, why not just keep the ball out of his hands entirely?
Football is a game of variables. Whether it's bad calls, bad weather, bad luck, etc., there are a lot of aspects of a single game that players and coaches can't control. The coaching staff's job is to reduce the impact of those variables by balancing risk with reward, and putting the players in the best position possible to execute a game plan and win.
Punting the ball out of bounds would have forced the Saints to piece together several successful scoring drives (something they hadn't done in the second half) over the last 17 minutes of playing time. But even with the New Orleans offense struggling, and the Minnesota defense clicking, the Vikings elected to punt to Bush.
The Vikings' players failed to tackle the former USC standout, and Childress repeatedly put the team in the high-risk, low-reward position of pitting his over-matched special teams unit against the Saints' return man.
And with two games against the Bears still to come, beware, Minnesota fans—Devin Hester's waiting to make some big plays.
If Monday night was any indicator, he'll get his chances.
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