When we dissected the schedule in the summer, we all knew that the first half was better than the second. Home games vs. the Jaguars, Titans, Cardinals, and Bucs were winnable. And then there was the powerful 49ers, who most assumed would defeat us along with road games vs. Redskins and Lions. Naturally, we would win the game vs. the Colts.Sic.
A 5-3 start. Possible, with five home games. (Sure, most people thought we would not be any better than last year's 3-13 team. Naysayers were baying 4-12 and 2-14. But we eternal purple optimists could see a better season. And the purple kool-aid drinkers envisioned the playoffs; like they do every year.) We knew then the schedule changed like the beginning of a Minnesota winter. Games at Seattle, Chicago, Green Bay, and later Houston. Home games against our division rivals. Only a single game in St. Louis appeared plausible for an easy win,
Maybe a 2-6 finish, given winning at least one home game vs. division. That was the thinking. A 7-9 season would be an improvement. Hope for the future. And realistic. Maybe 6-10 or 8-8 if things worked out well or not. A good year compared to the last few.
But something happened in 2012. Like magic. Maybe it was the community leaders rallying behind the team and helping pass the stadium bill. Maybe it was maturation of young players, or the addition of even younger. The front office? Leslie Frazier? Whatever happened, we got back our defense. The good one.
You noticed it Game One vs. Jacksonville. Maybe not so much Game Two vs. the Colts. But when Minnesota held both the 49ers and Lions to thirteen points, you knew. The Titans' win affirmed the obvious: we have a very good defense in 2012. Even in the 38-26 loss to Washington, two TDs came off of Christian Ponder turnovers deep in our territory. And only the immensely talented Robert Griffin III could run for 138 yards and two scores. Alfred Morris was bottled up. The Redskins threw for under 200 yards.
(Interesting to note that our two losses have come to the top two rookie quarterbacks.)
And now we enter the game vs. Arizona with expectations of winning. And certainly we will be favored against Tampa Bay the following Thursday. Two wins and we would end the first half 6-2. At 6-2 we would need a 4-4 finish to dream playoffs...
Suddenly the purple kool-aid has tainted the well. I see Christian Ponder returning to protecting the football, and trading 350 yard games for ball control. I see Jerome Simpson returning to the lineup, staying there, and producing down field. I see Adrian Peterson taking over the NFL rushing lead as he remains injury free all year (including recent ankle). Matt Kalil All-Pro in his rookie season. Jared Allen going nuts with sacks. Chad Greenway tackling everyone. Harrison Smith making a difference.Solid cornerback play. Winning all three division home games in the second half. Lots of Percy Harvin...
I am finding it difficult to remember just how bad we were last year. I know there were close games early, but after that it is hazy..
I may have a fever.
Joe Montana was phenomenal. He won four Super Bowls (XVI,XIX,XXIII,XXIV) and is considered among the greatest quarterbacks to have ever played the game. Others on the elite list include: Dan Marino, John Elway, Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw. Most of these QBs played their entire careers with one team, Unitas' brief stint in San Diego notwithstanding. Favre and Montana are different in that they led new teams to the Conference Championship games in the twilight of their careers.
Montana joined the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993, along with Marcus Allen. They were hyped in the media and instantly produced. In 1993 Montana led the Chiefs to a 13-3 record and the AFC Championship, which they lost to the Buffalo Bills. But Montana came back for a second year. In 1994 he played in fourteen games as a thirty-eight year old. He faced his old team the 49ers with their reason to let him go: Steve Young. Montana beat his old team and Young in an NFL Classic. He got them back to the playoffs where his final game turned out to be a 27-17 loss to Miami and Dan Marino, despite 314 yards and two tds and an early lead. He retired before the 1995 season.
Brett Favre is back for his second stint with the Vikings. In his first year the Vikings finished the two seed and he took Minnesota back to the NFC Championship, where they lost an OT affair, despite 310 yards and a td. Now he will play his last season for Minnesota in 2010. He will face his former team at least twice, and the reason they could let him go: Aaron Rodgers. Last year Favre tore up his former team and swept them in the home-home series. How will he fare in his final year?
Joe Montana, the four-time Super Bowl winner is considered one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever don a uniform. So too is Brett Favre. If this is Favre's final finale, can he bring Minnesota back to the playoffs again? Will he go farther than Montana did in his last season? Can he add a 2nd Super Bowl win to his resume?
One thing is certain. His contests with Rodgers and Green Bay will be fun to watch.
I am thinking about trying out for the Vikings or Twins pretty soon. I still throw hard and I am in my forties. Isn't that enough? I wouldn't have thought so last week, but August 17th has rekindled my desire to become the pro athlete I dreamed of being in the 1970s. I think I can.
The news of Brett Favre's return after three teammates tracked him down was blasted in the media by some. How could the Vikings grovel like this? Offering millions more to a forty year-old to rejoin the team after his umpteenth retirement. Have we no backbone? Letting the old man skip training camp, again. Treating Tarvaris Jackson like he is a wicked step-child. Certainly now, as a forty-something, teams will simply copy the Saints plan of violently attacking him and he will not make it through the season. Minnesota is grasping at straws.
To that I say Jim Thome. Last night Thome rocked a home run to win a dramatic event against the White Sox. Thome is at that forty year level. Thome was basically let go by teams because all he could do is hit. As a matter of fact, he can hit. And the last team to tell him goodbye found that out last night. It was old-timer's day yesterday, what with the Return of the Favre and Thome's blast. It was the kind of night that makes forty-somethings like me reconsider their career paths.
Is it crazy that these old guys want to keep playing a young man's sport? How can they remain successful? They cannot last an entire season, can they? What fools these elderly be, right?
Let me introduce the greatest of oldies: Gordie Howe. Gordie played a violent sport (hockey) full of collisions and injuries. He started at sixteen in the minors and finished as a fifty-one year old in 1980 for the Hartford Whalers. He played in all eighty games that year. Gordie's best year scoring wise came in the 1968-69 season, when at the age of forty he topped 100 points for the only time in his career. This guy was so tough he survived a fractured skull in the 1950 playoffs, returning the next year at the start of the season. He also knocked out Maurice "Rocket" Richard with one punch as a rookie. Sounds a lot like a quarterback I know. As a side note, Howe did play a shift in the minors for the Detroit Vipers in 1997, at the age of seventy.
Besides Thome, baseball boasts many present forty-something. Jamie Moyer and Omar Vizquel to name a few. Baseball has had players like Satchell Paige (59 years old), Hoyt Wilhelm (49), Phil Niekro (48), and Jesse Orosco (46). Others whom have pitched into their forties include: Nolan Ryan, Tommy John, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens. But these are pitchers in baseball. These are not QBs in an NFL game, where opponents aim to knock you out of the game. Pitching in the MLB is not the same thing.
True. Maybe Gordie Howe was the exception and pitchers are not comparable?
George Blanda was a place kicker and quarterback who started in the NFL in 1949. He retired in 1958. Then he came back again in 1960. Familiar? Blanda starred as a quarterback/kicker in the AFL for the Houston Oilers. He was the leading passer in the league many times. In 1967 he switched teams, joining the Oakland Raiders as a thirty-nine year old. He was released in 1970 but came back again in his forties. Where have I heard that before? Blanda won two games in relief of an injured QB that season. Blanda went on to start an AFC Championship Game at the age of forty-eight, nearly winning until two late interceptions (yes, heard that before, too).
But George Blanda was far from the only QB to be active in his forties. Other quarterbacks at the same age range included: Doug Flutie, Steve DeBerg, and Vinny Testaverde. Even linebacker Junior Seau has neared this level. It can be done.
I am happy that Favre has returned. I laugh at those who laugh at us. I know there is a great history of we old people doing tremendous things throughout sports. Jim Thome reminded over forty thousand people first-hand last night. I have a feeling Favre will convince more than that. Old people are no different than you and me. Or was that short people?
Anyway, I am stretching out right now in lieu of the 2011-12 NFL season. Or maybe the 2011 MLB season?
What are they smoking down there near Lake Michigan? Trading away picks for quarterbacks who like to throw interceptions; drafting more quarterbacks; limiting growth to five overall picks. Times are tough in Illinois.
By the time they draft their first selection, most fans had tuned out of the NFL Draft. Pick 75 was a free safety, Major Wright, from Florida. The Bears best pick may have been at 141, where they added Joshua Moore, a cornerback from Kansas State. Then, with pick 181, they added another QB despite glaring needs all over the place. Dan LeFevour was one of the many QBs to drop off the charts, expected to go about three rounds earlier. The Central Michigan thrower is respected, but c'mon, he is a MAC quarterback.
Grade: Incomplete (I cannot fail students who try .. I think they tried).
I almost thought they would go a whole draft without taking a wide receiver, but with pick 255 they chose Tim Toone from Weber State. Watch him be better than all their first round picks of years' past.
The Lions had six picks, having traded up to get Jahvid Best with the 30th pick (with the Vikings). Of course, Ndamukong Suh, 2nd overall, is the focus of the draft, and he should be very good. But Best is small, and has a history of concussions already. The much needed corner was drafted at 66th, a slow one from Iowa, Amari Spievey. OT Jason Fox taken at 128th, fits a need. Detroit had two of the three first round picks for the North. They should improve the most, but, that is a misnomer.
Grade: B. Feels like an A compared to last 10-15 years with Matt Millen and friends.
Green Bay Packers.
After witnessing the Vikes batter Aaron Rodgers senseless for a couple of seasons, and Chad Clifton hobbling around like a one-legged sloth, we knew linemen would be chosen. But how many?
The Packers are close to the Vikings, and definitely a choice for wild-card early predictions, if not ready to usurp Minnesota. Green Bay had three selections at 23rd, 56th, and 71st. They added Bryan Bulaga, an OT from Iowa; Mike Neal, a DT from Purdue; and Morgan Bennett, a free safety from Georgia Tech. Of the three, Neal was the biggest stretch,as many 'experts' felt there were better DTs on the board. And back-to-back Big Ten athletes? Don't they watch the Bowl games? As expected, the Pack added a 2nd OL with the 169th pick in Marshall Newhouse, a OT or OG, from TCU. He could be a nice find. Late, Green Bay found James Starks, a 6'2, 220 RB from Buffalo, with the 193rd pick. He may make the squad as GB running backs are not that good.
Grade: B-. I expected more from a smart organization, I hold them to a higher standard than Detroit or Chicago, whom both are horrid at this draft thing.
It was the draft to protect Brett Favre's return. Minnesota got him some protection in Toby Gerhart and Chris DeGeare. And we addressed some of the defensive concerns, but not all. Lifers were wondering why no Jimmy Clausen or late Tony Pike selections?
I love the efforts Favre gave us last year, and think he will return. With Chester Taylor gone, Minnesota had to find a replacement, and Gerhart from Stanford comes with high hopes. Experts wondered if Ben Tate of Auburn would not have been a wiser choice, but Gerhart could be a great extra blocker in passing situations, at least as good as AP; hopefully as good as Taylor. CB Chris Cook of Virgina, 34th pick, helps a sore spot as the team wonders what Cedric Griffin can bring after the late injury of 2009-10. Lito Sheppard, a Childress reunion player, will help. Experts love the choice of Everson Griffen, DE of USC, with the 100th pick. A potential steal as he dropped from early round possibilities. Pick 167 was local phenomenon Nate Triplett who played as Delano. He is a beast who could rival Farwell on special teams. Pick 199 is Joe Webb, a running quarterback from Alabama-Birmingham, who may move to WR or that funky Wild-Cat spot.
Grade: B+. I wanted Vikes to address OG earlier, and QB later. But there is a reason I am not in the draft room. Assuming my home team knows more than I do, I give them the best grade. Because I can.
In baseball, hockey, and basketball you can play poorly in the playoffs. You can give up hat tricks, be shutout, go hitless, or be unable to buy a basket. It will be OK, you have another shot, or two, sometimes many more. Not in NFL football.
The Vikings play the Cowboys today and we get ready for that ultimate fate. So far the Saints and Colts have shown that the divisional round belongs to home teams with good quarterbacks. Both defenses rose up and played well. Turnovers were in favor of the winning teams. The Cardinals and Ravens could take solace in the fact that they each beat a good team to get there, but they won't. Football ends rather harshly in the playoffs.
All week I have been told that the Cowboys will fare well in our Dome. Recent play by both teams suggests that may be true. The single game to decide if these people are full of it, or possible soothsayers, will happen in a couple of hours. I am nervously optimistic. We have all the tools to win, we have the loud fans, and home teams are two for two so far in this round.
Whatever happens the 12-4 ride has been a good one. We have earned the right to play this game at home. We have everything in place for this game. If we lose, we (Vikings fans) will certainly be unhappy. The NFL delivers grief in just over three hours, as opposed to the 5-10 days it takes the others. The recovery time is longer than the blow. But if we win, the electric feeling lasts until the next game, a week away.
Time to mourn? Time to celebrate? It is only a few hours away. Like an inevitable car wreck that you can/may survive.
Fasten your seat belts, join me in prayer, let this be a purple day.
|Vikings (124)||AFC (9)|
|Bears (45)||Ex-Vikings (7)|
|Football on TV (11)||Lions (48)|
|NFC (47)||NFL draft (18)|
|NFL post-season (28)||Packers (70)|
|Super Bowl (61)||Vikings coaches (12)|
|Vikings defense (13)||Vikings fans (44)|
|Vikings injury report (3)||Vikings management (6)|
|Vikings off the field (3)||Vikings offense (16)|
|Vikings quarterbacks (13)||Vikings road games (5)|
|Vikings rookies (7)||Vikings roster moves (17)|
|Vikings special teams (2)||Vikings training camp (2)|
|Off the field (4)||On the road (10)|
|Quarterbacks (16)||Rookies (2)|
|The draft (21)||Twins fans (1)|
|Vikings players (15)||Adrian Peterson (71)|
|Anthony Herrera (4)||Antoine Winfield (23)|
|Ben Leber (2)||Bernard Berrian (9)|
|Bobby Wade (1)||Brad Childress (13)|
|Brett Favre (61)||Brian Robison (11)|
|Bryant McKinnie (9)||Cedric Griffin (14)|
|Chad Greenway (21)||Chester Taylor (4)|
|Chris Kluwe (1)||E.J. Henderson (4)|
|Heath Farwell (1)||Jared Allen (26)|
|John Sullivan (6)||Kevin Williams (16)|
|Leslie Frazier (14)||Madieu Williams (3)|
|Pat Williams (5)||Percy Harvin (41)|
|Phil Loadholt (15)||Ray Edwards (14)|
|Sage Rosenfels (3)||Sidney Rice (18)|
|Steve Hutchinson (7)||Tarvaris Jackson (15)|
|Tyrell Johnson (4)||Visanthe Shiancoe (9)|
|Brad Childress (13)||Leslie Frazier (14)|