The Vikings' 2008 season ended Sunday when they lost in the first round of the playoffs 26-14 to the Eagles, a better football team. Some fans might be unhappy with the way the season ended, but Mark Wilf, co-owner and president of the Vikings, made it clear after the game that there will be no changes regarding coach Brad Childress.
"We have a great team, we have a lot to be proud of this year and there's something to build on for next year," Wilf said. "But it's obviously very disappointing, and we'll move on."
Asked whether Childress and his staff will be back, Wilf, the younger brother of owner and chairman Zygi Wilf, replied, "Absolutely."
Mark Wilf made it clear that as owners of the team, he and his family will continue to add any players that the football department believes are needed to improve the roster.
"Absolutely, we're going to build from this and move forward," he said.
Well, the Vikings made it into the playoffs for the first time in four years, but in the end they still fell short of the Super Bowl, making it 32 years since they last appeared in the NFL's biggest game.
"That's our goal," Wilf said of the Super Bowl. "It always has been, and we made a step this year."McNabb is big difference
There is no doubt that Donovan McNabb had a big edge in performance over inexperienced Tarvaris Jackson, with the veteran Eagles quarterback completing 23 of 34 passes for 300 yards, one touchdown and a 92.8 quarterback rating. Jackson, in his first playoff game, had a tough day, completing 15 of 35 passes for 164 yards and a critical interception that was returned for a touchdown by Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel. Jackson's QB rating, outstanding for most of December after he returned to the field, was a poor 45.4 on Sunday.
Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, who did the television color commentary on the game for Fox, thought McNabb was the difference in the game. The Vikings had their hands on McNabb most of the day, but he still completed passes and threw for 300 yards.
"This is a learning experience certainly for Tarvaris and for the entire organization in what it takes to play in some of these big games, and how mistakes -- more times than not in a big game like this, as I told you the other day -- it comes down to who makes the fewest bad plays," Aikman said. "The Vikings, although they had some good plays, they had enough bad plays that they got beat."
Former Vikings coach Jerry Burns agreed with Aikman. "McNabb is an excellent quarterback and Tarvaris has potential, but he's not at that point by any means," Burns said.
He added: "[McNabb] does a great job. ... He came in as a No. 1 choice, and he's a great player. He was a great player at Syracuse, and there's no question about it that, if he continues to play well, he's a future Hall of Famer."Jackson is learning
Aikman, who went 0-11 as the starting QB for Dallas in 1989 before eventually leading the Cowboys to three Super Bowl championships, recalled not getting a start in a playoff game until his fourth NFL season, one year behind Jackson. And Aikman believes that Jackson has a future in the NFL.
"He really made some nice plays," Aikman said. "After the interception [for the touchdown], he came back and really made some nice throws -- and then he had some bad plays. It was an up-and-down performance, and it's a tough group, and this Eagles defense can do that to a lot of quarterbacks."
You wonder if Childress ever thought of lifting Jackson in the second half for Gus Frerotte. Jackson had a good end to the season, but he really struggled Sunday.Defense strong
Defensively, the Vikings held the Eagles to 67 yards rushing on 23 carries, with 27 of those yards coming on one run by Correll Buckhalter. Super running back Brian Westbrook rushed for only 38 yards on 20 carries, an average of 1.9 yards. But Westbrook also had the decisive play in the game, when he turned what could have been a short screen pass into a 71-yard touchdown reception, giving the Eagles a 23-14 lead with 6 minutes, 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
All in all, the Vikings defense did an excellent job, even though injured defensive linemen Pat Williams and Ray Edwards didn't dress and even though they lost one of their real leaders on defense when safety Darren Sharper sprained an ankle in the first half and couldn't return. Sharper was replaced by rookie Tyrell Johnson.
Aikman believed Sharper's absence made it possible for McNabb to complete some deep passes that he might not have attempted otherwise.
"But [the Vikings have] got a good base," Aikman said. "I think this team and this organization should be proud of what they've done. They started out the year 0-2 and then to win 10 games and win their division, some of the key pieces are in place and they can build on that."Jottings
The Vikings were scoreless in the second half, and like Burns said, you don't win many games when you don't score in a half. "The Vikings had a great year and they made the playoffs, and this certainly wasn't one of their better games," Burns said.
Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson said he believed the Vikings fell apart at the end of the game. "Everybody on the team played hard and it was a fistfight for such a long time," he said. "But, whether it be a mistake on offense, a mistake on defense, or special teams, it doesn't matter; in the playoffs it's magnified. We kind of fell apart in all three phases there at the end, which is kind of disappointing considering how well we fought all year long battling through an up-and-down season."
Brian Robison, who replaced Edwards at defensive end, said McNabb did an excellent job of eluding the Vikings pass rush. "He escaped the pressure a lot and got to the places where he needed to be," Robison said. "... We blitzed quite a bit. That was our deal: to try to get pressure on him. You can't have Donovan McNabb sitting back there and just having all day. Obviously, because he's the type of quarterback that can pick you apart." Of Westbrook's TD, Robison said: "They made the right call at the right time. There's nothing else that can be said about it. They caught us and made the right call and it ended up in a touchdown."
The Vikings didn't get any corporate help from the Fox network or anybody else in selling out the game Saturday and avoiding a television blackout. Fox refused to help buy any tickets to get the game on TV, but the Vikings sold it out on their own.