Sunday was a very good day for Vikings fans. If there was lingering tension about a late-season slide following a narrow but troubling loss at Carolina the previous week, that feeling was wiped away quickly in a 34-7 thrashing of the Bengals.
The Vikings followed a perfect script — score early, score often, don’t let up — in playing a near-perfect game against a far-from-perfect (but perfect for the Vikings on Sunday) opponent.
They even got Teddy Bridgewater into the game — a moment that will be remembered as heartwarming but could have practical merit if anything happens to Case Keenum down the stretch. Aren’t you glad that Bridgewater’s first pass attempt — where he looked a little skittish in the pocket, then threw late and high to his outlet receiver, leading to a tipped interception — came in a meaningless game where he could work out any jitters instead of a time when the stakes were much higher?
Vikings fans even got to watch the Packers lose in Aaron Rodgers’ return, putting Green Bay on the brink of playoff elimination (an Atlanta win Monday at Tampa would finish the job). In practical terms, a Green Bay win over Carolina might have been more helpful to the Vikings’ playoff positioning, but the heart trumps the mind in cases like this.
If you’re a Vikings fan who shut off the TV shortly after 3 and didn’t watch any more football the rest of the day, football made sense and made you happy Sunday.
If you kept watching through the afternoon and evening, the NFL became bizarre and bad. To recap:
*The Steelers lost 27-24 to New England because a Pittsburgh touchdown in the closing seconds was overturned because of the NFL’s absurd catch rule. Jesse James caught a pass from Ben Roethlisberger around the 1-yard line, had his knee hit the ground, crossed the goal line with a lunge and had the ball move a little as it hit the ground.
In a fair and reasonable world, where the rule does not require you to catch the ball, take 17 steps and then pull out a staple gun and adhere the ball to your chest to make sure it doesn’t move, this would have stood as a touchdown. But the NFL’s catch rule, which is topped in its arcane complexity only in its unpopularity, turned it into an incomplete pass upon further review.
The CBS crew working the game was as dumbfounded as you are. “They’re going to verify it upstairs, and there’s no doubt it will hold up,” Jim Nantz said initially before starting to grasp that it might not be a catch because of the NFL’s precise definition of a catch.
The call could very well determine home field advantage in the AFC between the Steelers and Patriots, which could influence which team is coming to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.
*If that wasn’t enough, there was this: Sunday Night Football. Dallas and Oakland are tied 17-17 late. Dallas decides to go for it on 4th-and-1 from its own 39. Dak Prescott does a QB sneak. Officials spot the ball — a task that is basically impossible in terms of a perfectly precise measure of where it should be on every single play. It’s very close. They bring out the chains. It’s still very close.
Official Gene Steratore TAKES OUT A FOLDED INDEX CARD and sees if he can fit it between the ball and the chain pole. It seemed to prove nothing, but the Cowboys were awarded the first down, and afterward Steratore had the guts to tell a pool reporter that the card didn’t make the decision — it only reaffirmed what he could see from looking at the ball and the pole. All I will say about that is this: Those who proclaim the loudest that they are sure they are correct are often those who are in the most danger of being incorrect.
That was SO CLOSE pic.twitter.com/oGFMdByTBt
— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) December 18, 2017
Dallas uses the new life to drive for a go-ahead field goal. Oakland gets the ball back, drives down and then loses when Derek Carr fumbles the ball out of the end zone while lunging for the pylon and the go-ahead touchdown. That’s a touchback — not necessarily the worst NFL rule, but an overly punitive one.
Folks, I don’t know how this Vikings/NFL season is going to end. The dream of many Minnesotans is for the Vikings to finally win a Super Bowl, and to be the first NFL team to do so in their home stadium.
Short of that, let’s at least hope that this Vikings season is not decided by a folded up index card or some interpretation of what is or isn’t a catch.