The Minnesota Vikings’ season hung in the balance. Another loss and the team would drop to 0-3, a deficit that few teams have overcome to claim a playoff berth. Rolling into town were the 2-0 Carolina Panthers, with star wide receiver Steve Smith back in the lineup. The Vikes’ starting quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, was so abysmal in his first two games this year that the team called in a journeyman backup to fill the void.
And so it was that Gus Frerotte became the embodiment of Minnesota’s hopes and dreams.
The 50-year-old engineer with the Canadian Pacific Railway began rooting for the Vikes when legendary coach Bud Grant left the helm of Davy's beloved Winnipeg Blue Bombers for purpler pastures in Minnesota. He's been hooked ever since.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Brett Favre is a hall of fame quarterback who still shows flashes of brilliance. I get it. But Favre’s off-field theatrics are anything but great.
Every year every football fans across the country have to put up with the saga in Wisconsin that occupies every corner of the NFL offseason. Is Brett Favre retiring or will he be back for one more year?
It’s as predictable as a Michael Bay movie. First, there are the rumors and interviews about his plans for the future followed by the eventual teary-eyed press conference when Brett gushes about the game and the fans and how much it all means to him… but he has given the team his all and he must move on. How will we live? Cue the highlight montages and the speculation about the Packers’ future prospects.
But wait. A story breaks about some unnamed source hinting that Brett made a terrible mistake. He does want to play after all. He’s coming back!
Tom Brady ripped ESPN yesterday, saying that the network's coverage of the Patriots' spying controversy is manufactured controversy. Can't we just keep news of our organization's illegal spying on opposing teams in the past, Brady asks? He alleges the typical media sensationalism.
The NFL Draft is the annual two-day event where the 32 NFL teams choose former college football players and everyone is treated to Mel Kiper Jr.’s endless rants and impossible pompadour.
Only in America can a guy with no football playing, coaching, or scouting experience get a plush gig on national sports television making wild predictions about a player’s “raw athleticism”, “explosiveness”, and the curious ability to be “faster than the stop-watch suggests.”
I don't know about you, but I would rather hear about how a player does on the Twinkie Test than on the nebulous Wonderlic Test.
The Minnesota Vikings made they’re biggest splash the week before the draft when they sent their first round pick (no. 17 overall) and two third round picks to Kansas City for defensive end Jared Allen. A guy my brother-in-law pinned as a “someone very capable of saying some really outlandish things” after games. Indeed.
This guy should help drag the Vikes out of the cellar when it comes to pass defense.
A lot has been made of giving up so much for one player, not to mention the contract the Wilfs shelled out. But the draft is a crapshoot, getting a fifth year player before or at his peak, in a position the Vikes needed to address, is hard to put a price tag on.
With one move the team established the most feared defensive line in football. It makes me giddy thinking about opponent’s 3rd downs in the dome with the crowd on its feet with Allen coming hard off the corner and Kevin Williams busting up the middle.
Former QB Steve Young from ESPN pointed out that Jon Kitna may now be the best quarterback in the division. That's scary. But it also means that Minnesota should now be positioned to make a run at the crown. Chicago is a mess especially after the re-signing of Rex Grossman; enough said. Green Bay returns most of their team from a year ago with one glaring exception, the retirement of Brett Favre, which will at the very least will cause some growing pains that come with breaking in a new signal caller. As for Detroit, they’ll find some way of mucking it up, they always do. In addition, they lost their force in the middle Shaun Rogers to the Cleveland Browns.
For the Vikes, the passing game remains a big question mark. Will Tarvaris Jackson show marked improvement this year and connect with new wide receiver signee Bernard Berrian? It remains to be seen. Another looming area of concern is the offensive line. Center Matt Birk is in the last year of his contract and less than happy with the team’s attempts to resign him. Throw in Bryant McKinnie’s recent run-ins with the law, and the long-term health of this formidable unit is in jeopardy.
However, this fan is beyond optimistic for this season. With the reigning rookie of the year in Adrian Peterson and a defense that has only gotten stronger with multiple offseason moves by the front office, hopes and expectations are high.
Minnesota Vikings (8-7) at Denver Broncos (6-9), 3:15pm
As Howard Cosell might have said, “It all comes down to this.”
The Vikings shouldn’t be in this spot. Then again, would they even be the Minnesota Vikings if they didn’t toy with our emotions like this? Two games decide this team’s fate. One takes place at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium, always a difficult place to get a road win. The other, in our nation’s capital where the Redskins, if they beat the Brad Johnson-led Dallas Cowboys, earn the final NFC spot, regardless of what happens in Colorado.
Think helpless. Think wrong. We have to cheer for Brad Johnson again.
Makes one wish the team would have showed up last Sunday and not just mailed it in when facing a team playing with a lot of emotion compounded by the death of one of their players.
The situation is too bad for a lot of reasons. By all accounts the Vikings have over achieved this season. Very few fans would have predicted Minnesota would battle for the post season up until the last game of the regular season. 6-10, or maybe 8-8 was a realistic guess for a squad with a new quarterback, virtually no quality receiving options and a secondary with a shaky track record. But during a lot of games it didn’t matter, great line play combined with a star in the backfield and minimizing mistakes was enough down the stretch and surprised this fan. The whole scenario this afternoon in Denver and DC stinks. A win for the Skins or a loss by the Vikings will sweep all the surprises under the rug.
Of course if Brad Johnson has it in him and the Vikings take care of business...
Such is the life of a Minnesota Vikings fan.
Minnesota 3, Denver 14
Dallas 3, Washington 13
This was a half of missed opportunities. Whether it was Chester Taylor losing control of the ball while reaching for the pylon (worst rule in the NFL by the way) resulting in a touchback, or a Wide open (with a capital W) Troy Williamson dropping a long pass from Tarvaris Jackson that would have resulted in 6 points, the first half of football today continued the very poor play of the Vikings.
Add to this the fact that Washington is looking like their headed to Seattle next week with a strong first half against Dallas, a score every Vikings player is peeking at on the Denver scoreboard, and this could be long second half.
The Vikes look tired, slow and resigned to an extended vacation. If they don’t turn things around in the last thirty minutes, that’s exactly what’s awaiting them.
Minnesota 19, Denver 22 (OT)
Dallas 6, Washington 27
Washington clinches a playoff berth
The dream is over. The season was doomed by halftime of the week 16 contest versus Washington. Opportunities are few and far between in the National Football League, and when you’re presented one at home, an inability to capitalize will be quickly snatched up by the next team down the line.
Today’s game was not pretty. Very few games this season were. Adrian Peterson had the opportunity to capture the league’s rushing title but for some reason did not play the 1st quarter and had only 11 carries in the game. (This would be my first question to coach Brad Childress after the game.) Chester Taylor ran well, but cost the team with two fumbles. The passing game was quiet until the fourth quarter and we saw two terrible drops by former #7 overall draft pick Troy Williamson who will hopefully be shown the door after another disappointing season of an uninspiring career.
In true Vikes fashion, hope was this team’s greatest undoing.
One final note (and I might be crazy, but) I’m cautiously excited about Tarvaris Jackson as the Vikings quarterback. At times he has you scratching your head saying, “What the hell is he doing in the NFL?” But other moments, like the 4th quarter of today’s game against the Broncos, he makes sense. He obviously has a tremendous amount of confidence in his ability. A confidence that will sometimes cause him to make a throw into coverage or from his back foot but also is necessary in this league to make the big play.
Jackson is a second year player and certainly needs more time to develop into the quarterback the Vikings need. Perhaps if the Vikings can pick up a quality receiver, his options and game will improve.
Remember, when there’s nothing left to believe in, believe in hope.