That said, there were plenty of things in last night's Vikings/Saints game that were nothing like the heartbreaking masterpiece the two teams produced nearly eight months ago. We went into that game in January with a pretty good idea of what the Vikings would bring to the table. We knew exactly what was on the line. This time? It was one of 16 games ... but one that would give us at least an idea of what to expect from the year to come. Here are our impressions:
*There are not usually moral victories for teams that fancy themselves as Super Bowl contenders, but last night was at least as optimistic a loss as we could have imagined. (When even Drew Magary is heartened in defeat -- "Not a bad loss. They'll get it together," he e-mailed -- you know not all hope is lost). The offense is nowhere near up to speed (more on that later) and has plenty of concerns. But it will get better and at least showed some flashes (the TD drive, Adrian Peterson running the ball -- though not enough in the second half, and again more on that later). The defense, with a shredded secondary, couldn't stop the run late but was overall very good. If the Saints can be considered Super Bowl contenders -- which you have to think they are -- then the Vikings are as well. They were not run out of the building. Play this game in midseason or in the playoffs again, and we like their chances.
*The main reason the Vikings lost this game is their 40-year-old QB was rusty and not on the same page with his receivers, who as a group are depleted and will miss Sidney Rice quite a bit. Favre takes the primary hit for this one. There was no second preseason this year. No warmup with Cleveland and Detroit. The most rational fear people had about Favre skipping camp this time around manifested itself last night. He wasn't in peak form against a top team, and it cost the Vikings.
*The fans leaving the game last night (as per Kare11's report) chanting "Fire Childress" are, of course, complete idiots. You can blame the Favre situation on Childress to a degree, but you pick your poison with Ol' No. 4. You get the good and the bad, and it's mostly good. You can wonder why Peterson didn't run the ball more down the stretch -- he had three carries in the final 28 minutes -- but overall the game plan was spot on.
*We want to see more Greg Camarillo, and not just because he's on one of our fantasy teams. But here's the rub: When the Vikings go with a three-receiver set (Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin and Camarillo in many cases, one would presume), that takes away a layer of pass protection. That means Favre -- playing behind blockers we still don't trust -- has less time to find those receivers. When the Vikings are in a double tight end, max protection set with two wide receivers, Camarillo sits and Favre has a better chance to throw -- but one fewer target. What we're trying to say is this: 1) The Vikings weren't going to get Favre killed in Game 1 against a team that battered him so badly last time around. So they went basic and hoped receivers got open. Sometimes they didn't. 2) The Vikings are going to have to either trust the line or trust that Favre will be a little less skittish going forward about pass rushers. With the Saints in the rearview mirror, we're guessing things will open up a bit. But this will be a development worth watching. Being in the base formation isn't bad, and probably gives Peterson a better crack at solid gains, but it changes the dynamic of the offense from what we might have been accustomed to in 2009.
*Watching a football game is different than watching a baseball game. Well, no kidding, right? But our friend Mike -- he of the famous Jason Kubel jersey story -- encapsulated this sentiment perfectly with a text last night at halftime: "I've missed feeling anxious about football like this."
Exactly. It's good to have you back, football.