In football, momentum means a lot. Whether that be game to game or moment to moment. Momentum shifted back and forth in Sunday's game between the Raiders and Vikings. The Vikings started with it, the Raiders claimed it, and then the Vikings took it back and didn't let go of it.
You can mark when those shifts take place. There is often a pivotal moment that swings it one way or the other and it is not always easy to take it back.
Right from the start the Vikings had moment in this game with an opening drive touchdown. They were up 13-0 before the Raiders had even had a drive that lasted more than four plays. The Raiders offense in the first quarter was on the field for a total of ten plays with 29 yards and a turnover.
When the offense took the field for the first time in the second quarter, the first play was a first down throw to Amari Cooper for 15 yards. It was only the 4th completion of the game and it started a drive that more closely resembled the offense we had seen from the Raider the previous three weeks, picking up yards in chunks and not even facing a third down until they were setting up at the 10-yard line at which point Derek Carr connected with Clive Walford for the touchdown.
On the ensuing Vikings possession, the defense had what amounted to a three-and-out aside from the penalties. It looked at that moment like the Raiders had taken the momentum. They got the ball back and in four plays were in the endzone again on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Carr to Andre Holmes.
With under two minutes left in the half, the Raiders were ready to take their new lead and momentum into the half. That feeling was stomped out in a matter of eight seconds when Vikings return man Cordarrelle Patters ran back the kick return for a touchdown to take a 20-14 lead.
"That was a huge play by them," Derek Carr said of the kick return touchdown. "It certainly caught me off guard. I was reading the drive review and getting ready for the next series and I looked up and the guy was already on their side of the field and knowing who their returner was, when he gets open he's so fast. He made a great play, obviously, they must of blocked it up real well and that's always hard but to us our mindset literally when that happened was just hey at least we get the ball back with another chance."
The Raiders weren't able to use that time well. Suddenly it was another Raiders three-and-out and the Vikings drove into field goal range in the final seconds but missed it from 53 yards out. That momentum the Raiders had grabbed was gone with the wind.
"There was a lot of football left," said Jack Del Rio about the return touchdown. "Certainly it was a momentum breaker. We captured the momentum and were playing well at that time so it was definitely a blow."
"It was big," said Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. "It gave us a chance to get the lead back. I felt like we had dominated the first half. We gave up two bad plays, defensively, but I thought we did a lot of good things in the first half. So, it was good to get back and get a chance to have the lead again."
After that, this game was all Vikings. The Raiders had their window, it was slammed shut, and they couldn't open it again. Even with it being a one score game throughout the third quarter, they couldn't retake the lead or even close the gap. The offense didn't run a single play in Vikings territory in the third quarter.
The first time the Raiders set up in Vikings territory in the second half came with under three minutes remaining. By that point, it was a two-score game and in desperation to put it in the end zone, Derek Carr threw an interception. That interception was followed immediately by an 80-yard touchdown run from Adrian Peterson to put the nail in the coffin. Peterson was among those Vikings players who took energy from the kick return.
"It was like I got electrocuted after that play," said Peterson. "I was kind of down going into the half, it kind of reminded me of last week and how that played out. But it was a great special teams play-- it gave us the momentum. We were actually able to get the ball back, and we didn't finish it off with three points, unfortunately. But Blaire [Walsh] came back and made a big kick there in the fourth quarter. It gave us a nine point lead, and the defense did a great job of getting us the ball back and we were able to finish it off."
This Raiders team has shown great resilience this season to come back from behind. Against a team as talented as the Vikings, you don't get many chances to do that. As we seem to say most weeks, this was another learning experience for this young team and another milestone they have to cross on their way to becoming the team they want to be.