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If you want to take a positive stand about the Vikings' 14-9 loss Thursday to the Super Bowl champions, your attitude would have to be that the defense of coach Brad Childress did a good job by holding the Saints to only 14 points after giving up 31 in the NFC Championship Game overtime loss at the Superdome in January.
If somebody had said to me before the game that the Saints would score only 14 points, and seven of those would be on a touchdown barely three minutes into the game, I would have believed the Vikings would win. And furthermore, the Vikings defense did a good job despite having to be on the field for 21 minutes, 7 seconds in the second half compared with 8:53 for the Vikings offense, which found it nearly impossible to move the ball except in the second quarter.
One criticism is that the Vikings defense couldn't stop the Saints in New Orleans territory in the fourth quarter when it had to to get the ball back, although you have to consider that the defense was tired, having played so much.
There's no doubt the team missed injured receiver Sidney Rice. The Vikings' best receiving threat Thursday was Visanthe Shiancoe, but the tight end had no second-half receptions after catching four passes for 76 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The Saints could certainly focus more on Shiancoe as the game went on with no Rice on the field and with the Vikings wide receivers catching a total of four passes among them, on 12 attempts. Bernard Berrian, who had nine catches for 102 yards in the playoff meeting, caught only one pass for 3 yards Thursday. Percy Harvin had one catch for 12 yards.
The offensive line included center John Sullivan playing for the first time after missing most of the preseason, and it lacked Bryant McKinnie after the left tackle injured a finger in the fourth quarter, forcing Phil Loadholt to move to his spot and Ryan Cook to enter the game at right tackle. Despite this situation, Brett Favre was sacked only once. He wound up completing 15 of 27 passes for 171 yards, but he was only 4-for-12 for 44 yards in the second half.
Like many players had talked about going in, regardless of the result, the game is only one of 16, and a loss wasn't going to end the Vikings' hopes of a good season.
So the only conclusion you can come to is that the Saints were the better team on this particular night.Butera follows father
As a 4-year-old, Drew Butera got his first taste of a Twins celebration, because his dad, Sal, was a backup catcher on the 1987 World Series champions. Naturally, Sal's wife, Gina, took young Drew to most of the games.
Drew Butera is now 27 and the backup to Joe Mauer as the Twins hope to win their sixth AL Central title since 2002.
Sal Butera especially recalled the 1987 celebration at the Metrodome after the Twins came back home following their American League Championship Series in Detroit. The Dome was packed with fans celebrating the Twins' first pennant in 22 years.
"When we came on the field here, my wife was carrying him on the field," said Sal, now a scout for the Toronto Blue Jays. "It was great; we had to plug his ears because it was so loud in the Dome that time."
Drew is hitting only .188 in his rookie season, but he has done a fine job when called upon and over the past few months has caught every game that Carl Pavano pitches.
Like father, like son, as Sal wasn't a great hitter either. He played 201 games for the Twins (1980-82, '87), hitting .233 with 40 RBI.
It was Sal, who was in town for the Twins-Rangers series, who persuaded his son into converting from a shortstop in high school to a catcher at Central Florida, where in 2005 he was a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top collegiate catcher.
"He wasn't quick enough to play the infield rangewise," Sal said. "But he had good hands, good feet and a good arm, and it seemed like a natural transition. He wanted to play the position, and that's half the battle."U made progress
While the Tim Brewster isn't happy with the Gophers' win-loss record since he took over as coach in 2007, he is convinced that the program is making progress.
"Obviously, we would have liked to have won more games," he said. "We would have liked to have won most trophy games at this point. But we are proud of the accomplishments that we've had in our program.
"When you take over a program there are so many different elements that people don't comprehend. ... So we have tried to build a great base, a great foundation for our program, and we have done that. We feel that we have recruited well. We've taken the steps necessary to have the type of program that legitimately says we've got a chance to compete for a championship as we move forward."
A lot of people might not agree with what Brewster had to say, but as someone who is around the university a great deal, I do believe Brewster has made a lot of progress. They could beat Southern Cal next week.Jottings
• Among players with at least 200 plate appearances this season, the Twins' Jim Thome is tied with Rangers star Josh Hamilton for the highest slugging percentage in the major leagues at .635. Thome has only half of the at-bats of Hamilton and is well short of qualifying for year-end batting awards, but he remains one of the most powerful hitters in baseball.
• New Iowa State men's basketball coach Fred Hoiberg said that Royce White, the former Hopkins standout who never played for the Gophers last season, is in school at Ames. However, the NCAA hasn't made a decision on whether White must sit out this season as a transfer.
• Former South Dakota standout defensive tackle Ko Quaye, a Champlin Park product, didn't survive final cuts of the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they signed him to their practice squad Sunday. Quaye was an All-America for South Dakota last year after finishing with 31 tackles, including seven for loss.
• Quarterback Max Shortell of Bishop Miege in Mission, Kan., a Gophers recruit, completed seven of 11 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown in a 54-7 victory over Blue Valley Southwest of Overland Park, Kan. ... Tight end Peter Westerhaus of Holy Family in Minneapolis caught four passes for 33 yards and caught a two-point conversion in a 21-20 victory over Holdingford.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • email@example.com