The Top 10 reasons it will be the Vikings and not the Saints heading to the Super Bowl in 2010.
10. The Saints defense. It was the first game of the season when the Saints won 45 to 27 over the Lions. Only later would I learn just how wrong it is to give up that many points to Detroit. Then, the Dolphins would score 34, mostly in a single half. The Redskins 30, which was about 20 more than average. The Saints are not winning by defense.
9. The 40 omen. This is the 40th NFC Championship. Our new quarterback, Brett Favre, just turned 40. Gives you goose bumps, doesn't it? I remember when George Blanda quarterbacked as a 38 year-old. I thought that was ancient.
8. The 0-39 streak. The Saints, along with the aforementioned Lions, are the only two teams in the NFC that have never won an NFC Championship. This is the Vikings 8th try, while New Orleans is 0-1. Makes you almost content with losing four Super Bowls. Almost.
7. Chris Kluwe. Kluwe is wise. Kluwe learns from mistakes. Last year when the Vikings won in New Orleans on Monday Night Football, Reggie Bush performed a Billy "White Shoes" Johnson show on the Vikings kick coverage. After watching him perform masterfully against the Cowboys, I am expecting Kluwe to avoid Bush.
6. MNF. Last year's game against the Saints had fans partying all day to prepare. As someone who has partied with the people of New Orleans, I can state that it would easily rival Packers fans. They were obnoxious, they were loud. They chanted "Who Dat". And we won. That game was the best preparation for this one possible.
5. Childress and Staff. Not so much for their play calling, but for adding Phil Loadholt, Percy Harvin, and Brett Favre to our offense in 2009. We are far better. And people are always grateful when you pick them up at the airport, should one do that.
4. The Hurricane. No, not the effects of Katrina, I am not going there. It was that drink that I had too many of... people in New Orleans drink a lot! Maybe the reason teams never win it all in Louisiana is that they party too much. This atmosphere is not counducive to winning Championships. Fun, but not dedicated.
3. Superdome experience. The Vikings played and won last year in the Superdome. Brett Favre won his Super Bowl with the Packers there. It is safe to say every Viking player has enjoyed their time in the Superdome. Call it a home away from home.
2. Who Dat Syndrome. At first it was catchy, like the Icky Shuffle. The it was familiar, like the electric glide of LT. Now, it feels more like Rain Man. Without the ability to count numbers.
And the number one reason the Vikings will win on Sunday ....
1. Destiny. Seriously, think about it... Remember when you were watching us lose to the Eagles last year in the Dome? Now fast forward to the team that just beat the Cowboys 34-3. That type of change is not human. The addition of Favre transformed us to the mystical. Nothing can stop us now. There is no point in denying what will be.
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.
Life is brutal. Whenever anyone gets ahead, thinks they have life 'by the tail', fate comes along and slaps you across the face. Kismet. Swwaaappp. Every time, it seems.
Vikings' Land was confident. The Saints were using up every bit of good luck a team can have to survive a loss in Washington D.C., and Minnesota was waiting for the Sunday Night game against the Cardinals. The place where Tarvaris Jackson lit up Arizona last year. Where time and time again, the Cards have struggled in 2009. It was looking too good. But then winter came. The Arizonans closed the domed roof due to chilly temperatures (60s), and lit up Minnesota to the tune of a 30-17 victory. Worse yet, the Vikings had numerous injuries in the game, including losing stellar MLB E.J. Henderson. Rookie Phil Loadholt and fellow tackle Aaron McKinnie were also out with injuries, along with others. The blooming season of 10-1 experienced a change in the weather, to the extreme.
First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter.
Now we stare at a team with a hurting offensive line, the most important part of Brett Favre's health, if not his success. When Hicks, Cooper, and whomever are in, we know our limitations. We are suddenly missing an All-Pro level MLB. Our secondary is suspect. For the first time all season, we feel the defensive line did little. Adrian Peterson held to near nothing in rushing yards. When the athletes on this team do not perform, we realize that our play calling is non-lethal. Favre in December? Childress? Suddenly, it is raining and sleeting doubt. Blizzards of worry loom, ready to pounce on the Twin Cities.
In the garden, growth has it's seasons.
OK, Henderson is gone. Maybe for 2010, too? But many others are still ready. Yes, we are short some linemen, but guys like Sullivan and Herrera are having good seasons. McKinnie, too. Antoine Winfield is coming back soon. Ben Leber and Chad Greenway will both continue to play well, and help whomever replaces E.J. And I guess Childress and Bevell aren't actually the ones making the plays. It will be fine.
Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Or how about before the playoffs start? Seriously, we face the inevitable falls of injuries and losses that are a part of every season. We realize that as long as our nucleus is solid, we are still the same team. It will be fine. Really.
Just listen to Chance. It's simple.
Hope eternal, or hope anew, the Vikings hit the bye week at 7-1, having won a big rivalry game at Lambeau to take control of the North Division. As we are given two weeks to rest for the upcoming second half of the season, we pause and reflect as to why we are who we are.
The first difference, and biggest, is Brett Favre. He has brought leadership and skill to the QB position. His numbers are solid. In the NFL he is 5th in pass completions (174), 5th in attempts (256) and 4th in percentage (68). His yardage total of 1,925 is 8th best, his yards per attempt at 7.52 is 10th overall. Favre is tied for first in TD passes with 16, and he has only been intercepted three times, while sacked eighteen. His passer rating (106) is 4th in the league.
Newest addition Percy Harvin has had a great impact with kick returns and receiving. Harvin has modest numbers in the offense with 8 rushes for 39 yards, and 28 receptions for 369 yards and three TDs. However, as a kick returner he rivals the best in the game. Harvin has outperformed Josh Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns, considered by many to be the best in the NFL. Harvin has three less returns (31-28), for the same 860 yards, and has two TDs to Cribbs' one. Harvin is in the top three in the NFL in attempts, yards, average, and TDs. He is on pace for 2,536 total yards and ten TDs. Not bad for a skipped over first rounder.
The emergence of Sidney Rice, along with the red-zone efforts of Visanthe Shiancoe has boosted the passing game in 2009. Rice has 37 catches for 585 yards (6th in NFL). Shiancoe has 22 catches for 203 yards and 6 TDs (2nd). Rice seemingly hauls in everything thrown his way, unlike his predecessor Troy Williamson. Shiancoe appears to be faster and stronger than anyone expected to cover him. Rice is on pace to break 1,000 yards while Shiancoe is headed for double-digit scores.
The running game is Adrian Peterson, and he has not disappointed. He is regularly running by, around or over opposing tacklers, a human highlight reel on a game-by-game basis. Peterson is on pace to rush for 1,568 yards and 18 TDs. He averages 4.81 yards per attempt. Critics point to a reduction in numbers from 2008, but we in the know see the same guy. Maybe better. AP has 19 receptions for 189 yards this season, and is on pace for near 2,000 total yards.
The Vikings offense is 2nd in scoring to the Saints, albeit nine points behind. We are 10th in the league in yardage, 12th is rushing, 12th in passing. A balanced attack that scores better than it moves the ball.
Defensively, the Vikings are first in the league in sacks. That, combined with their overall 7th rating in rush yardage allowed (94.8 ypg) makes them strong. Only one team has allowed fewer rushing TDs. We are 23rd in the league in pass yards allowed, averaging 237.9 per game. The Achilles heel of the team is exactly that. Most realize that this will have to be addressed in order to go deep in the playoffs.
Finally, Brad Childress and the coaching staff have had a decent year. If you polled all Vikings' diehards, you might find more disagree, but no one can argue with 7-1 record and a sweep of the Packers. That is Bud Grant like. How much Childress contributes to drafts, free agents, and roster selection is unknown to me, but I would assume he has input. No one will argue with our last few drafts. No one will complain now about the arrival of Brett Favre. Sorry diehards, but that contract extension is looking as likely as a cold February in the Twin Cities.
Yes, we are a good football team this year. The pessimists have less and less ammunition each game. The critics, well they will never stop until the day we win the biggest, most unattainable prize. So far, in this season, we seem to have another solid chance. Hope eternal, for me.
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