There's plenty to go around. The team was guilty of six fumbles, five turnovers, and a couple costly penalties. While none of the turnovers sting like the late-game interception that Brett Favre threw, he's far from the only person catching flak for what happened.
Vikings head coach Brad Childress has never been a wholly popular figure in Minnesota. His personality -- or lack thereof -- didn't win anyone over during his first two years, and the fact this team missed the playoffs both those years didn't help. But the mistake he made in the final minute Sunday may have been his biggest yet.
This isn't about the 12-man penalty that cost the Vikings five yards with 19 seconds to go, forcing them to try a pass play to get closer for a Ryan Longwell field goal. While the head coach ultimately takes the blame for a personnel mistake like that, common sense dictates that others on the sideline, including the players, could have prevented that from happening.
However, the buck stops with Childress when it comes to clock management, and he fell woefully short in this important area.
From the start of the Vikings' final possession, they were making some odd decisions. They got the ball at their 21 with 2:37 to go in regulation. The first play was an Adrian Peterson run for no gain. Inexplicably, the Vikings allowed the clock to run all the way to the two-minute warning.
Sports Illustrated scribe Peter King was among the incredulous.
"Is Brad Childress playing for overtime?'' I asked seatmates Don Banks and (Tim) Layden in the press box.After the two-minute timeout, the Vikings ran Peterson for another short gain. It was here that New Orleans burned a timeout. If the Saints hadn't done that, we may have been looking at overtime without a disastrous Favre interception and an embarrassing lack-of-communication offensive penalty.
Maybe, I figured, he thinks Favre's hurt and he'd just rather drain the clock and take his chances with the coin flip. But what sense did that make? What if Minnesota lost the coin flip and never saw the ball in overtime? Here it had three timeouts, and on the previous two possessions, even with a battered Favre, the Vikings had gone 70 and 57 yards and found the cracks in the Saints' defense they needed to find.
Only after the Saints' timeout did Childress finally turn Favre loose. Two completions and a nice Chester Taylor run later, the Vikings had the ball at the New Orleans 33. The Saints burned their last timeout with 1:06 left. At that point, Minnesota had two timeouts.
This is plenty of time to call a couple safe pass plays for Favre, get the ball inside the 20, and try what would be considered a chip shot with a kicker as reliable as Longwell.
Instead, Childress chose to burn the clock. He ran Peterson twice for no gain, then called a timeout with 19 seconds to go.
That's 47 seconds -- enough time for Favre to lead a long drive under duress -- that Childress wasted. He did it to sit on a 50-yard field goal try in a postseason where kickers are missing field goals at a stunning rate. In fact, there has not been a single made field goal of 50 yards or longer in the playoffs in four attempts.
Only after the 12-men penalty did the Vikings try to move the ball through the air. You probably know the result by now.
Childress literally had no choice at this point. Longwell's career-long field goal is 55 yards (during the 2007 season), and there is no guarantee he could have gotten the ball far enough now. 50 yards was shaky, and 55 could have been impossible.
Even though he called a pass play designed to let Favre make a safe play, he should know by now that nothing is safe with Favre. He made a bad decision and a worse throw, leading us to overtime.
But before you chastise Favre for his gaffe, remember that the Vikings are likely golfing on Sunday were it not for the season he had.
In the end, bad Brett cost the Vikings, but Childress' poor clock management put the quarterback in a position to fail.