I am full. I have eaten too much. Yet my refrigerator remains full. In Thanksgiving-idiom, I have decided to award Vikings players/fans my leftovers...
The last piece of pumpkin pie ... much sought after, the pie remains wanted until gone. In my house we make a frozen, ice cream-filled pumpkin pie with graham cracker crust. Yummy. The award goes to Brett Favre. His veteran leadership, despite much pressure, was intense. He seemed to know what personnel to have on the field better than the coaches. His accurate passing kept alive hope when there should have been none. Top it with fresh cool whip, Brett.
The hardening green bean casserole ... not a crowd favorite. Wonderful when fresh, but loses something once reheated.This prize goes to Offensive Linemen Anthony Herrera and Bryant McKinnie. They seemed to be letting players get to Favre, much like the racist players in Remember the Titans, (not to imply actual racism, more incredibly bad blocking). This is the most glaring weakness in the 11-4 Vikings.
The last of the turkey sandwiches ... once good, can easily be overeaten. After 2-3 leftover sandwiches, they lose their appeal. The last few sandwiches are tough, fatty, and greasy.This goes to the entire special teams. From the holder, to kick coverage, these guys cost us big. Early in the season they were only burned now and then. Suddenly, it is almost every kick. The poor hold and kick eventually cost us this game. Special teams have been special, as in needs assistance.
The 3 day old salad award ... goes to the defensive line. They were so good for so long, like a Caesar, or one of those fancy fruit-type salads. But then the flavor disappears. If you keep salad more than the meal intended, it becomes wilted, wet, and loses flavor. Enter the D-line. Once the pride of the team, they have done nothing in the three losses worth mentioning. Jay Cutler had all day, to coin a phrase.
The opened but unfinished bottles of wine ... goes to the fans. With star Adrian Peterson fumbling for his life, coaches unable to adjust, linebackers unable to cover, corners below average, and a knack for losing big games, the fans need something. Just find yourself a big mug, and wait for the Giants to come to town.
That cleans out my leftovers. I still love my Vikings, but like the therapeutically sound fan I am, I have begun the grieving process. If the Vikings win (as they should) on Sunday, I will return to the Denial stage, and hope for the Super Bowl that I thought we had a shot at back when I had Thanksgiving leftovers.
Here is a condensed version of Sunday Night's conversation at home with eldest son during the Debacle of 09, formerly known as Week 15, Minnesota at Carolina.
#1 Son: "What's wrong with the Vikings. They suck."
Father (me): "Nothing. They are playing good defense.'
#1 Son: "We are playing like ----. We are gonna lose."
Father: "We are ahead. This is the Panthers. That is Matt Moore, don't worry."
#1 Son: "We suck."
Father: "We are struggling because of Julius Peppers, he is having his way with Bryant McKinnie. We will adjust."
#1 Son: "We totally suck."
Father: "Yes, number one son. We do."
The game was putrid. Our rivals had witnessed a blowout at the hands of the Panthers on national television. You could see the glimmer in Minnesota Packer fans' eyes the next day at work. Except it was through a tear called '500 yards allowed versus the Steelers in a last-second loss'. Saints fans would love to ridicule us now, but they lost to Dallas at home on Saturday, and were licking their wounds.
So, my son points out the futility of it all. Playing this bad, this close to the playoffs. All the hype was for nothing. The Eagles are better. The Saints are definitely better. The Packers (even though we beat them twice) are better. We have lost two games on Sunday Night by having no running game. Adrian Peterson is not the back he was, my son says. We cannot block. Even Antoine Winfield looked human. It is over.
What can I say? No, McKinnie just had a bad game? We will find a MLB before the playoffs? Brett Favre is not stumbling in December? Adrian Peterson is fine?
I think what I would say to him, and the rest of you purple angry-fists, is this is not cause for surrender. In recent history each Super Bowl winner suffered like this for a stretch. Not to say we are suddenly going to win it all, but I can also say with confidence we are fine. And here is why...
2008 Steelers. Lost by seventeen in Week 16 at Tennessee. Lost 2 of 3 in Weeks 8-10. Both at home.
2007 Giants. Lost last four regular season home games. One by twenty-four, to our Vikings.
2006 Colts. Lost last four road games, weeks 11, 12, 13, 16. One a twenty-seven point loss to Jacksonville.
2005 Steelers. Lost three in a row weeks 11-13, including a 26-7 loss at Indianapolis. That score is familiar. Where have I heard 26-7 loss on the road before?
I know, there is a big difference. I know, things are not the same.
But maybe we should let the North Division winning, 11-3 Vikings try and solve their issues? Instead of jumping on the bandwagon of doubt, where every bad play is an omen, maybe we should show a little patience? Next week is Monday Night, versus the Bears, a game we should win. Can we at least agree to wait on panicking until we at least lose our #2 seed?
It is not the end of the world. At least for those of us that cheer more than curse. And that is OK.
And I feel fine.
I confess to have studied football far too much in my childhood. I was the only kid on the block that could tell you the five starting linemen of the 1970s Super Bowl teams of Minnesota: Grady Alderman; Ed White; Mick Tingelhoff; Milt Sunde; Ron Yary; and later Steve Riley.
I understood early the value of the offensive line. When my Vikings were great, we had many linemen that were of the All-Pro variety. Over the years that changed. We drafted White and Yary early in the 1968 and 1969 drafts. The results were three Super Bowls. After drafting Riley out of USC in 1974, the Vikings went 20 years without drafting a quality lineman early. Finally, in 1994 they drafted Todd Steussie of California. Then in 1995, they drafted Korey Stringer from Ohio State. It was in 1998 that the Vikings went 15-1, and should have begun a Super Bowl run like the 1970s.
In 2002 the Vikings selected Bryant McKinnie with the 7th selection overall. He would be the left tackle that would return Minnesota to prominence in the passing offense once again. He came in highly touted, as a Miami Hurricane All-American who did not give up sacks. Period. In my opinion, he played great early in his career, but the last few years he has shown some weaknesses. If you look at film of Favre getting crunched this year, more than half the time it is because McKinnie got beat. Bull rush, around the corner, twisting, looping, it has not mattered. McKinnie was looking easy to beat in most of 2008.
In the 2009 NFL Draft the Vikings knew that their line was in trouble. Matt Birk was gone to Baltimore, and the right side had been severely exposed throughout the season, nowhere more than in the playoff loss to the Eagles. Combine that with the failures of McKinnie, and something had to be done. On the board when the Vikings were to select their player with the 22nd pick was offensive tackle Michael Oher. A big, powerful, good-story tackle from Mississippi. But the Vikes chose Percy Harvin, the wide receiver from Florida. In the next round with the 54th selection, Minnesota addressed tackle issues with the choice of Phil Loadholt, from Oklahoma. Oher would be claimed by the Ravens right after Harvin was chosen, having traded with the Patriots to move up.
This year the Vikings' Percy Harvin has been worth it. He has electrified an offense by presenting as a player with a variety of skills, be it return, running, or receiving. Meanwhile, McKinnie looks a little better, helped by the quick decision-making of Brett Favre. It was the right decision to draft Harvin.
My family and I just went to see "Blind Side", the film using a Michael Lewis story about Michael Oher. The opening scene is highlighting the importance of left tackle in the NFL. It is a must see for anyone who is a football fan, or likes a feel-good story. Michael Oher was available to us with that 22nd pick in the draft. We needed him very badly. Instead, we went skill position and chose Loadholt later. After returning from this move, I question if we made the right move. My history tells me when we pick offensive linemen early, we see good results. This time, we found an incredible athlete in Harvin, but missed maybe a more incredible story of an offensive tackle. And McKinnie? Right Guard? Well... we are waiting.
Two thumbs up?
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