VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.

Posts about Brett Favre

VikesCentric: You're questioning Ponder's toughness?

Posted by: Updated: January 11, 2013 - 11:43 AM

In the week that's passed since the Vikings' season-ending Wild Card defeat at Green Bay, a disturbing – but predictable – phenomenon has been on display in the world of social media: the trashing of Christian Ponder's reputation for having the audacity to miss a playoff game due to an injury to his throwing arm.

Actually, the criticism of Ponder started almost immediately after the Vikings announced he would not be active for Saturday's game. His deactivation was a surprising development, no doubt, thanks mostly to Vikings officials and Ponder himself downplaying the seriousness of his triceps injury throughout the week. A few local scribes wondered if Leslie Frazier's leaving the door slightly open to the possibility of Ponder not playing was just a case of Belichickian subterfuge designed to force the Packers to prepare for both Ponder and Joe Webb. But until word of Ponder's truncated pregame warmup trickled out, no one in their right mind thought he would actually miss the game.

Thus, when Webb was named as the starter 90 minutes before the game, Twitter exploded with outrage over Ponder's supposed lack of heart. Just one example: former Wild star Wes Walz expressed his shock at the news and ended his tweet with "#suckitup" in a hashtag. And that was one of the nicer critiques of Ponder's backbone.

Even after the game, when reporters noted that Ponder could barely lift his right arm to put his shirt on and Frazier said Ponder couldn't make the throws necessary to give the Vikings a chance to win the game, the tide of invective was not stemmed. If anything, the tone of the Internet tough guys hardened when gory photos of Ponder's swollen, discolored arm were made public on Monday.

Now, some amount of mudslinging is to be expected on the Internet, where critics can remain anonymous as they tear down the celebrities in their midst. But even on sites that require Facebook logins to post – or on Facebook itself – a shocking number of Vikings "fans" attached their name to commentary that revealed a pretty distorted view of reality, or at least a fundamental misunderstanding of the physical conditions required to play quarterback in an NFL game.

Most of the Ponder criticism can be broken down into five basic (and faulty) arguments.

1. Brett Favre would have sucked it up and played through that injury. Yes, Brett Favre started a remarkable 297 consecutive games and probably played through a number of injuries that would have sidelined any other player. But that's what makes this comparison so specious. Didn't we (and by "we" I mean fans and the media, especially certain members of the national media) just spend the last 20 years gushing about Favre's super-human strength and healing powers? Didn't we inflate the man's image until it was basically accepted that he was a god-like figure walking among us mere mortals? And we expect Christian Ponder – a player that most Vikings fans spent the first three months of the season trying to run out of town based on his dismal performance – to measure up to the Great Favre? (Oh, and not for nothing, but Favre did suffer a similar injury in 2008 with the Jets. He "sucked it up" and played through it, and the Jets lost four of their last five games as Favre threw two touchdown passes and nine interceptions in that stretch. Just sayin'.)

2. RGIII played through a much worse injury on Sunday. He sure did. And how did that turn out? Oh yeah. Not only did the Redskins blow a 14-0 lead after Griffin reinjured his knee in the first quarter and spent the remainder of the game hobbling around the field like the reincarnation of Billy Kilmer, but the rookie quarterback needed reconstructive surgery this week after his ACL and LCL finally gave out in the fourth quarter. The Redskins have a quality backup in Kirk Cousins, who led them to a comeback win over the playoff-bound Ravens and a blowout victory at Cleveland in December, but by the time Mike Shanahan turned the offense over to him, it was too late. So yes, RGIII played through a much worse injury on Sunday, and it cost his team a chance to win a playoff game and jeopardized his 2013 season.

3. Ponder needs to learn how to stay healthy. I'm not sure how one trains one's body to avoid injuries like the one that knocked Ponder out of Saturday's game. He hurt his triceps when Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett crashed into his right arm helmet-first as he was trying to complete a pass. If Ponder had curled up into the fetal position and taken the sack to protect his body, the same Internet tough guys would have called him "soft" and "gutless" and a bunch of other names we can't use on a family website. Injuries are what you call an occupational hazard when you play quarterback in the NFL. Sometimes they're unavoidable, no matter how well you've "learned" how to stay healthy.

4. They could have shot him up with pain-killers and sent him out there. No, they couldn't have. I'm not sure why this point wasn't made more clearly in the postgame breakdowns, but the issue was never Ponder's pain tolerance. It was all about what his body was capable of doing on Saturday afternoon and evening. All the injections in the world wouldn't have reduced the swelling in his arm, which hampered his range of motion and prevented him from getting any power behind his throws. You can't fire an 18-yard sideline route to Jarius Wright when you can't raise your arm above your chin.

5. I would have gone to work with a bruised elbow. This one's my personal favorite. Yes, Internet Tough Guy (or Gal), I'm sure you would have shown up for your job at the law firm or factory or McDonald's with a similar injury. I would have too. Because most of us can figure out a way to do our jobs without having to raise our right arm above our shoulder. An NFL quarterback doesn't have that luxury. It's right there on the NFL quarterback application for employment: 1. Can you raise your throwing arm above your shoulder? If the answer to that question is "no," then you can't be an NFL quarterback. Even if you have a physically taxing job, you can probably make accommodations for a similar injury and still perform your duties at a slower pace. It should go without saying that the same does not apply for an NFL quarterback.

In the end, I'm guessing most of the Ponder-based angst stems from fans who are upset that the Vikings laid an egg in the playoffs and wanted somebody to be mad at. They needed to lash out because the thought of spending a week (or an entire offseason) alongside smug Packers fans after that loss is really hard to stomach. Maybe they were in the "play Joe Webb" camp all season and were embarrassed to be proven so wrong. Or they were upset with the Vikings' brain trust for having no legitimate backup quarterback to turn to when Ponder went down. So they found themselves a convenient scapegoat – the pretty-boy No. 1 draft pick who earns millions of dollars, married the blonde bombshell sideline reporter, and showed just barely enough improvement in his second season (in the last four games of his second season, actually) to tease the Vikings into running him out there again in 2013.

But I can say this with complete confidence: if Ponder had "sucked it up" and tried to play through the injury, only to heave a dying quail on the first possession that Charles Woodson picked off and returned for a touchdown, these same Internet tough guys would have been screaming at Ponder for being selfish, for putting himself ahead of his team, for desperately trying to hang onto his job when everybody knows that Joe Webb gives the Vikings the best chance to win.

Look, I'm not saying Ponder is untouchable or should be immune from any criticism. Lord knows he provided plenty of ammunition this year – his performance in the first Lambeau game alone should give the front office night sweats this entire offseason, and rushing into a marriage with two weeks left in the season and a playoff berth at stake was certainly … odd.

But if you're going to attack the guy via social media, do it for the right reasons. His "toughness," "heart" or "dedication" are not among them.

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

 

VikesCentric: How to beat the Packers in Lambeau

Posted by: Updated: January 5, 2013 - 1:11 AM

The Green Bay Packers spent most of the 1960s building a mystique on the "frozen tundra of Lambeau Field" – a line, incidentally, that NFL Films legend John Facenda never once uttered, but hey, when has Chris Berman let the facts get in the way of a good story? Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jerry Kramer and the great Vince Lombardi dominated the NFL, winning five NFL championships (including the first two Super Bowls) from 1961-67. 

That mystique was put on hold for a 25-year period during which the Packers made the playoffs just twice, but it was resurrected in 1993 when a good old Southern boy named Brett Favre picked up where Starr, et al, left off. Through the 2001 season, the Packers had played 13 postseason games at Lambeau Field, and they had won 13 postseason games at Lambeau Field. 

Since 2001, however, the fabled Lambeau mystique has gone AWOL. The Packers are just 2-4 in their last six home playoff games: 

  • 2002 Wild Card – Falcons 24, Packers 7
  • 2004 Wild Card – Vikings 31, Packers 17
  • 2007 NFC Championship – Giants 23, Packers 20 (OT)
  • 2011 Divisional Round – Giants 37, Packers 20

Along the way, a few trends have emerged, both in the Packers' Lambeau losses and in their two wins (both over the Seattle Seahawks, in 2003 and 2008). The following points lay out something of a blueprint for the Vikings to follow if they want to pull out a win tonight. The path to victory might appear to be common sense on the surface, but the stats behind the concepts should help illustrate their importance.

For the Vikings to beat the Packers tonight at Lambeau, they need to do the following:

1. Score first – The Falcons took a 24-0 lead into halftime (whereupon announcer Bob Trumpy uttered the often-replayed line, "The silence you hear … is Lambeau Field"). The Vikings jumped out to a 17-0 cushion in the first quarter. In 2007, the Giants led 6-0 before the Packers got on the board. In 2011 the Giants led 3-0 and took a 20-10 cushion into the locker room at halftime. The best way to get a team out of its gameplan is make it play from behind. Plus, with alcohol sales being cut off at halftime, if the Vikings lead in the third quarter the stands might empty out fast. (Of course, it's not a guarantee – Seattle scored first in both of its losses at Lambeau – but it's still your best bet.)

2. Win the turnover battle – In their four losses, the Packers coughed up the ball 15 times – nine interceptions (including four by the Vikings against Favre in 2004) and six fumbles – and had just two takeaways. In their two wins over Seattle, the Packers turned it over twice and forced two turnovers.

3. Run the ball effectively and stop the run – This could be a chicken-or-egg phenomenon, because teams often run the ball more when they're protecting a lead, but you still have to be effective to make that strategy work. In Green Bay's four losses, their opponents averaged 136 rushing yards and chewed up the clock by running the ball an average of 34 times per game. The Packers averaged just 21 attempts and 84 yards in those losses. In their two wins over Seattle, Green Bay outrushed the Seahawks by an average of 157 to 39 yards.

4. Make them work for their passing yards – The Packers have been a passing team since Mike Holmgren and Favre came to town in 1992. They're going to move the ball through the air. Just make them work for it. In their four losses, Packers quarterbacks put the ball up an average of 39 times and completed just 55.8 percent of those passes, with nine interceptions and an average gain of 6.2 yards per attempt. In their two wins, Favre averaged 30.5 passes and had a 72.1 completion percentage, with no picks and an 8.1-yard average per attempt.

Sounds simple, right? Four easy steps to victory at Lambeau Field. Again, all four points are pretty much common sense to win most any game, but in the playoffs, sometimes it's good to remember that the best approach is to keep it simple.

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: Great moments in Vikings-Packers history

Posted by: Updated: December 28, 2012 - 1:41 AM

And so it comes down to this: If the Vikings beat the Packers on Sunday, they're in the playoffs one year after a disastrous 3-13 season. If they lose, they'll need Chicago, Dallas and the Giants all to lose as well, or else this season becomes yet another disappointing footnote in Vikings history – a surprising six-game improvement over last year, but ultimately, a disappointment. 

That Sunday's opponents are the hated rivals from one state to the east just adds to the drama sure to be on display at the Hubert H. Mall of Humphrey America Field. Not that the Vikings-Packers rivalry has been short on theatrics in recent years. Let's take a spin down memory lane and relive some great Metrodome moments in Vikings-Packers history. 

2011 – Christian Ponder makes his first start and puts a scare into the undefeated Packers by hitting Michael Jenkins with a 72-yard bomb on the first play from scrimmage. The Packers recover to win 33-27. Donovan McNabb orders take-out from Nye's on the way home. 

2010 – The curtain falls on the Brad Childress Era with a 31-3 defeat that wasn't as close as the final score indicated. Brett Favre conducts a memorable postgame interview with himself: "Did I do everything I could to win? Yes. Will I be glad to see Brad Childress go? Maybe. Will I text Jenn Sterger after the game? No comment. I can't believe I'd ask me that question at such a sensitive time. Am I trying to create a schism? It's possible ..." 

2009 – Favre exacts revenge on the Packers franchise for not having already erected a statue of him having fun out there like a big kid outside Lambeau Field. The Vikings win 30-23 on Monday Night Football. Crowd noise threatens to tear roof off Metrodome one year before Mother Nature finishes the job. 

2005 – Paul Edinger kicks a franchise-record 56-yard field goal at the gun to help the Vikings overcome a 17-0 deficit in a 23-20 victory. Somewhere in Florida, a 15-year-old Blair Walsh is just loosening up his leg.

2004 – Favre turns E.J. Henderson in circles on a game-tying touchdown pass to Donald Driver, and Ryan Longwell sends his future fans home with the worst Christmas present ever, a game-ending 29-yard field goal as the Packers win 34-31. Later that night, Santa Claus detects a haze of alcohol fumes over the metro area and bypasses the Twin Cities altogether.

1997 – The Vikings have a chance to tie the Packers for first place on a Monday night in December, but Brad Johnson wakes up with a numb right arm and Randall Cunningham can't lead the Purple back in a 27-11 loss. "Somehow," Cunningham thinks, "I will find a way to avenge this loss next year."

1995 – Vikings 27, Packers 24. Jeff Brady. T.J. Rubley. If you need more details than that, you're not really a Vikings fan, are you?

1993 – Vikings 15, Packers 13. Jim McMahon. Eric Guliford. Again, if you need more details …

1991 – Jerry Burns' tumultuous tenure as the foul-mouthed captain of the Vikings ship comes to an inglorious end with a 27-7 defeat in the season finale. And it's still not Bob Schnelker's fault.

1987 – The Packers win the first game featuring replacement players as some guy pulled out of the stands at halftime leads Green Bay to a 23-16 victory. The crowd consisted solely of the players' family members and coworkers from down at the factory, and a handful of Twins fans camping out for ALCS tickets.

1986 – Tommy Kramer throws a franchise-record six TD passes in a 42-7 win. Packers fans secretly wish they had a quarterback who could hold his booze that well.

Another chapter will be written in this storied rivalry on Sunday. Buckle up.

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

 

VikesCentric: In defense of the offense

Posted by: Updated: October 2, 2012 - 11:25 AM

Even when you're riding high at 3-1 and shocking the world with back-to-back wins over 2011 playoff teams, some people just aren't satisfied. Yes, the Vikings knocked off the Lions 20-13 on Sunday afternoon, but given the Eeyorean nature (did I just coin a term?) of the Purple's fanbase – well-deserved, mind you, after 52 years of frustration – the win just wasn't "pretty" enough to satisfy some Helga-horned observers.

Most of the postgame grumbling was aimed at the Vikings offense, which produced just two Blair Walsh field goals and advanced the ball into the red zone once all day. And while it's true that Christian Ponder finished with a mere 111 passing yards – the fewest in a Vikings victory since Brett Favre's first game (Sept. 13, 2009, at Cleveland), when Brad Childress' foot was still firmly on the brake pedal – a deeper dive into the stats reveals an offensive performance on Sunday that was anything but … well … offensive.

First, the ugly totals: Detroit outgained the Vikings 341-227, had 23 first downs to the Vikings' 15, and even won the time-of-possession battle (30:42 to 29:18) despite rushing for just 55 yards.

However, those totals are skewed by two factors:

1. Because the Vikings scored touchdowns on Percy Harvin's kickoff return and Marcus Sherels' punt return, they only had nine offensive drives, compared to Detroit's 12. That matters. The Vikings' average drive on Sunday lasted seven plays and covered 45 25 yards, so if they had managed average performances on those two drives forfeited to the special-teams touchdowns, you can tack on 50 more yards of total offense. (NOTE: Thanks to reader flipside42 for catching that transcription error. Time to switch to decaf.)

2. Wide receiver Jerome Simpson made his Vikings debut and had a huge impact on the game, despite his pedestrian totals of four catches for 50 yards. He also used his speed to draw two pass interference calls against Detroit's Bill Bentley, both of which put the Vikings into Lions territory and led to Walsh field goals. Those 57 yards of penalties don't count toward the total offensive output.

Thus, if you give the Purple 50 more yards for two average drives the offense missed (could have been more, could have been less) and if you add on the 57 penalty yards drawn by Simpson, the 227-yard game from the offense looks a bit more respectable at 334 yards.

And yes, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts we'd all have a Merry Christmas. But those of you who want to find the cloud in Sunday's silver lining of a victory should look beyond the surface-level statistics before you start moping about the Vikings offense.

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.

VikesCentric: It doesn't feel like Packers week

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: October 19, 2011 - 10:00 PM

Wait a minute… this is "Packers Week," isn't it?

Yep, I just double-checked: the Vikings absolutely host the Packers at Mall of America Field this Sunday afternoon at 3:15.
 
Normally, Packers Week in Vikings territory is filled with back-and-forth taunting and braggadocio across the state line -- or in some cases even across the office or across the living room. The Vikings/Packers border battle is the biggest rivalry in Minnesota sports and one of the biggest in the NFL, but you'd never know it this week.
 
Whether by some odd design or coincidence, Vikings fans find themselves distracted by shiny objects in the days leading up to Sunday's showdown, namely: a new starting quarterback and the prospect of a shiny, new stadium. 
 
Perhaps it's a good thing the focus is elsewhere. Frankly, the Vikings/Packers rivalry isn't really much of a rivalry right now. On paper it's a sizeable mismatch.
 
Just two years ago, during Brett Favre's first season with the Vikings, the intra-divisional feud was at its zenith. Who will ever forget that Bizarro-World Monday night in October of 2009 when Favre played as a Viking against the Packers for the first time? The buzz was off the charts and the prime time contest drew record ratings.
 
The Vikings swept the Packers in 2009 en route to the NFC Championship game. The Packers reciprocated in 2010, and one-upped the Vikes by sweeping them en route to a Super Bowl championship. The second game of the series in 2010 – a 31-3 blowout by the Packers at the Metrodome – was the final straw for Brad Childress. It also signaled a hiatus in the heated rivalry.
 
Vikings/Packers will become a true rivalry once again, in time, provided the Vikings get a new stadium in the Twin Cities rather than relocating to Hollywood.
 
(Side note: by mentioning a new stadium not once, but twice, I have virtually ensured that at least 95 percent of the comments below will not be about the Vikings/Packers, but will instead be anti-stadium rants.)   
 
For now, however, even the most ardent Vikings fan can't boast with a straight face that they have a shot of beating the snot out of the Packers on Sunday. Yeah, I know, I know, "on any given Sunday…" but let's be serious.  On paper, this doesn't look like much of a game.
 
Starting with that four-touchdown loss to the Packers last season, the Vikings have won just four of their last 14 regular season games. Meanwhile, including last year's postseason, the Packers have won the last 12 times they have taken the field. The Packers are the only undefeated team in the NFL right now and they lead the league in points.
 
So what's the worst thing that could happen for Vikings fans this Sunday? It's not another four- or five-touchdown blowout. I would argue the worst thing that could happen to the Vikings is having the Packers treat them like they did the Rams last Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Packers raced to a 28-3 halftime lead over the Rams last week, and then… stopped trying. They took the foot off the gas and toyed with the Rams in the second half like a dog plays with its food.
 
It was almost as if they felt sorry for the Rams so they showed some mercy. It was kinda sad.
 
If this Sunday's game gets that out of hand – if even the Vikings' hated rivals from across the border don't consider them as a serious enough threat to put forth a full, 60-minute effort – then this season will have reached a new low.
 
Vikings fans can only hope it doesn't come to that.
 
Bo Mitchell is VP of content at SportsData and co-host of the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on Saturday mornings on KFAN 100.3 FM.
 
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: A memorable rivalry

Posted by: Updated: October 7, 2011 - 10:41 AM

 

For two teams that don't play in the same division, the Vikings and Cardinals have put together a pretty impressive run of memorable games lately. Sunday's game will be the sixth meeting between the teams in the last nine years, and four of the last five games have carried special significance for the Purple.

So join us, won't you, as we take a walk down memory lane and revisit this curious rivalry between the desert dwellers and the tenants of the tundra.

Nov. 7, 2010 – Vikings 27, Cardinals 24 (OT)
Fresh off the debacle in New England and the release of Randy Moss, Brad Childress needed his team to make a statement in the Metrodome in order to save his job. But for the first 55 minutes of the game, that statement appeared to be, "Fire the bum already!" The Cardinals led by 14 and the Vikings were spinning their wheels until Brett Favre briefly became The Ol' Gunslinger again, leading the offense on two TD drives in the final 4 minutes and 32 seconds and sending the game into overtime on a 25-yard strike to Visanthe Shiancoe with 27 seconds left.

Favre threw for a career-high 446 yards, including a 22-yard pass to Bernard Berrian (he must have had no other options) that set up Ryan Longwell's 35-yard game-winning field goal that temporarily calmed the fans' thirst for Childress' blood.

"I think they came expecting to see an execution, and it ended up a pretty good football game at the end," Childress said afterwards. But it was just a temporary reprieve for the 3-5 Vikings and their beleaguered head coach. Two weeks later, after a listless home loss to the Packers, the fans got their wish and Chilly got his pink slip.

 

Dec. 6, 2009 – Cardinals 30, Vikings 17
The Vikings were riding high at 10-1 when they traveled to Phoenix to take on the Cardinals in a nationally televised Sunday night game. The offense had been held below 27 points only once, in their lone loss at Pittsburgh a month earlier. But Favre threw two picks (after having thrown only three in the previous 11 games) and Adrian Peterson was held to 19 yards on 13 carries as the Vikings fell behind 21-10 at the half and didn't do much the rest of the way.

In many ways, this game was the beginning of the end for the magical 2009 season. Favre was seen quarreling with Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on the sidelines, the first actual evidence of the infamous schism that became an undercurrent of the final two months of the season. Throw in E.J. Henderson's gruesome broken leg, which forced rookie Jasper Brinkley into a key role the rest of the way, and this loss knocked the Vikings off-kilter on both sides of the ball.

 

Dec. 14, 2008 – Vikings 35, Cardinals 14
At 8-5, the visiting Vikings needed two wins in their last three games to wrap up a playoff berth, while the Cardinals already had sewn up the NFC West (their first division title in 33 years), and from the outset it was clear which team had shown up to play. Stepping in for the injured Gus Frerotte, Tarvaris Jackson threw a career-high four touchdown passes and the Vikings raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. Berrian returned a punt 82 yards for Minnesota's first score, and Jackson later hit him on a 41-yard rainbow for another TD (too bad B-Twice wasn't on Twitter yet) and the rout was on.

The Vikings went on to beat the Giants in Week 17 to clinch the NFC North before losing to the Eagles and some guy named McNabb in the first round of the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were destroyed in New England the next week, then rattled off a nice little four-game winning streak to reach their first-ever Super Bowl.

 

Nov. 26, 2006 – Vikings 31, Cardinals 26
Umm … OK, this one's not actually worth remembering. The Vikings got three TD passes from Brad Johnson (to Marcus Robinson, Billy McMullen and Jeff Dugan – I told you it wasn't worth remembering) while Cardinals rookie Matt Leinart threw for 405 yards, a mark he hasn't come close to matching since. Denny Green made his not-so-triumphant return to Minnesota that day, but his 2-9 Cards were no match for Chilly's 5-6 juggernaut. Arizona did tie an NFL record with two 99-yard touchdowns – a kickoff return by J.J. Arrington and a fumble return by Adrian Wilson – but the Vikings pulled out to a 31-13 lead in the fourth quarter and held on for what turned out to be a pretty meaningless win in a pretty meaningless season.

Perhaps the game was most notable for being the first meeting between the Cardinals and Vikings since …

 

Dec. 28, 2003 – Cardinals 18, Vikings 17
"NOOOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOOOOO! The Cardinals have knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs!" Yes, all the Vikings had to do was defend one more play and the NFC North crown would have been theirs, in Mike Tice's second season as head coach, no less.

But of course, we all remember Arizona quarterback Josh McCown scrambling to his right and heaving the ball into the end zone, where journeyman receiver Nate Poole hauled it in and got two feet down for a 28-yard touchdown that sent the Vikings home for the season, put the Packers in the playoffs, and gave Paul Allen his first dose of national airtime with that painful final play call.

(NOTE: Careful readers have pointed out that Poole technically did not get two feet down -- the Vikings were victimized by the lame "force-out" rule that's since been excised from the books. True. Also a distinction without a difference. It didn't make that flight back from Phoenix any happier for the Vikings knowing that if the play had occurred in a different era they would have won. And yet, thanks to those who have pointed out the discrepancy.)

So what will we remember from this year's Vikings-Cardinals game? Will it be the start of the Christian Ponder Era? Will Donovan McNabb save his job and get head coach Leslie Frazier his first victory since the interim tag was removed from his title? Or maybe Larry Fitzgerald will blow up for four touchdowns, Kevin Kolb will start earning that ridiculous contract he weasled out of the Cardinals, and Berrian will insult a nun on Facebook. As recent history has shown, almost anything is possible when the Vikings and Cardinals get together.

 

 

Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, contributor to the Maple Street Press Vikings 2011 Annual (on newsstands now!), and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press.

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