I was talking to Vikings Hall of Famer Alan Page on the sideline in Mankato last month. Mr. Page knows a thing or two about good football and, um, judging things.
Looking back on that conversation, the one thing he said that sticks out to me came after I asked him the simple, "So, how ya think the Vikings will do this year?" question.
He said, "Well, if they come together as a team, they'll be good. They have a lot of talented individuals, but football is about coming together as a team. If they can do that quickly, they'll be OK."
Yeah, I know. If you've been around the NFL as long as some of us, that's cliche material that usually goes in one ear and out the other.
But Page nailed it.
Right now, the Vikings have the individual talent to be competitive and lead a Super Bowl contender by 10 points on the road at halftime. But they're also a team in transition at one of the worst times in NFL history to be a team in transition. New faces at key positions, a new offense and a head coach in his first full season are not the recipe for success coming out of a 4 1/2-month lockout. It's tough to take baby steps as a team when you're playing a quarterback like Philip Rivers and last year's No. 1-ranked defense for 60 minutes.
A Percy Harviin can spot you seven points on the opening kickoff. An Adrian Peterson can shake free now and then for 46 yards down to the 3-yard line. But over the course of a full game, the best team will win.
I picked the Chargers to win 28-17, so I'm not surprised the Vikings lost. Yeah, it's surprising how they lost. Few expected them to be up 10 points at halftime or three points in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings say they found a lot of positives in that first half. The negatives in the second half outweigh the positives of the first half, but those first-half positives do make you think the team can at least stay competitive.
In that first half, the Chargers' offense was held to seven points, and all of them came on a six-yard drive. Few teams do that to the Chargers.
A year ago, the Chargers averaged 27.6 points per game (No. 2 in the NFL) to become the first team in NFL history to average at least 25 points per game for seven consecutive seasons. San Diego also led the league in total offense, yards per play and yards per pass attempt.
So it's not surprising that San Diego found a way to score in the second half. It's also not surprising that the Vikings were competitive but lacked the overall consistency that comes with team continuity to finish the job on the road against a better team.
Chat alert: I'll be doing a live online chat at noon today.
Practice squad alert: Cedric McKinley, the former Gophers defensive lineman, has been added to the Vikings practice squad.