BALTIMORE (AP) -- All season long, the Minnesota Vikings relied
on their defense to win.
The unit collapsed Sunday night, and so did Minnesota's
flickering playoff hopes.
Needing a win to stay alive, the Vikings (8-7) came up with
their worst defensive performance in two months. Minnesota, which
hadn't given up more than 23 points since Oct. 30, allowed the
Ravens to go 10-for-15 on third down.
"We didn't play well at all. Our offense gave us enough points
to come out with a win," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "What
hurt was third down. They kept drives going. We can't do that."
The loss gave the New York Giants (10-5) a playoff berth.
"The two biggest things in the game are not staying on the
field on third down, and not getting off the field on third down,"
Minnesota coach Mike Tice said. "Defensively, the coaches tried a
lot of different things."
None of them worked.
"We're sick to our stomachs for not getting this win," tight
end Jim Kleinsasser said.
Baltimore (6-9) was long ago eliminated from playoff contention,
but the Ravens came up with a solid performance anyway.
"We tried to frame it as a playoff-caliber game because it was
for them, and therefore it was for us," Ravens coach Brian Billick
said. "The whole team -- and Kyle -- stepped up to the challenge."
Baltimore trailed 20-17 before Boller threw a 39-yard touchdown
pass to Derrick Mason with 14:47 left. Then, after Minnesota punted
from the Ravens 38, Boller directed a 68-yard drive that produced a
38-yard field goal by Matt Stover with 1:55 to go.
Any chance the Vikings had of winning their fourth straight road
game vanished when Brad Johnson fumbled on a sack by Adalius
Thomas. Baltimore turned it into a field goal with 1:03 remaining,
and the Ravens followed Paul Edinger's 46-yard field goal by
recovering the ensuing onside kick.
Boller backed up a breakthrough three-touchdown effort Monday
night against Green Bay. The third-year quarterback still hasn't
assured himself the starting job in 2006, but he has at least
provided the Ravens a reason to consider the possibility.
"I haven't made bad decisions the past two games. That's given
us a chance to win," Boller said.
Mason had nine catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. He has 83
receptions this season, breaking the team record of 76 by Michael
Jackson in 1996.
"It feels good," Mason said. "This is what we envisioned
happening at the beginning of the season."
Johnson was 25-for-36 for 248 yards and two scores.
The announced crowd was 70,246, but several thousand fans
decided to spend Christmas night at home rather than watch the
Ravens conclude their home schedule.
For the third time, the Ravens answered a Vikings score with one
of their own. On a third-and-7 from the Minnesota 47, Boller hit
Mark Clayton with a pass over the middle, and the rookie ran the
final 20 yards to tie it.
On the ensuing drive, the Vikings moved 18 yards after a holding
call on a third-down play by Baltimore's Chris McAlister, and
Edinger kicked a 40-yard field goal that put Minnesota back in
The Ravens responded again, this time with a 79-yard drive that
gave them their first lead. After Darren Sharper was called for
roughing the passer on a third-and-9 incompletion, Mason got behind
Dovonte Edwards for the score that made it 24-20.
"You have to answer, especially against a team that's going for
the playoffs," Boller said.
Minnesota scored touchdowns on its first and last possessions of
the first half to take a 14-10 lead. The Vikings were 6-0 this
season when leading at halftime.
Baltimore finished 6-2 at home. ... Heap's seven touchdown
catches are a career high. ... Smith recorded his first career sack
and recovered a fumble for the second time in as many games. ...
Boller improved to 13-4 in home starts.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady issued a statement Friday night on his Facebook page, expressing excitement over being able to play but also disappointment over the Deflategate ordeal.
The Seattle Seahawks have agreed to terms with free-agent running back Fred Jackson on a one-year deal, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
The Philadelphia Eagles traded quarterback Matt Barkley to the Arizona Cardinals on Friday, clearing the way for Tim Tebow to potentially be the Eagles' No. 3 quarterback.
NFL owners plan to talk about possibly changing commissioner Roger Goodell's role in the disciplining of players, the Washington Post is reporting.
The Colts have added depth at linebacker by trading a sixth-round pick for Sio Moore, who had fallen out of favor with the Raiders' coaching staff.
A young Chicago Bears fan who named his brain tumor after Aaron Rodgers will get to attend the season opener against the Packers on Sept. 13 at Soldier Field, courtesy of his favorite team.