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.
Cordarrelle Patterson may have Vince Lombardi to thank for his big game.
Though Patterson owes the rich history of the NFL, perhaps it is more accurate to say the Vikings can thank Norv Turner’s willingness to engage in a time-honored NFL tradition of borrowing what works from other NFL coaches, which in this case is an adaptation on the Buck Sweep and Lombardi Sweep concepts from the 1960s translated to modern Vikings football.
It’s somewhat similar to the play the Steelers called in the 2005-2006 Super Bowl against the Seahawks to give Willie Parker a 75-yard touchdown run, the famous “Power O”.
Sometimes called a Toss Power Sweep, and occasionally a Crack Toss Sweep depending on who you ask and how much they care about tight end alignment, the Vikings found a way to turn one of football’s oldest plays and add their own twist, all while highlighting one of the preternatural talents in the NFL.
In this case, it involved some of the toughest blocking angles one could ask of offensive linemen, all while converting a halfback into a fullback to seal the lane.
With the Vikings lined up in “12” personnel—also called “Ace” personnel—and lining up with both tight ends on the line, they were still a moderate pass alert for defenses, especially with the running back line up relatively close to the line, at six yards upfield.
Generally speaking, with three eligible receivers on one side of the field and one on the other, a “3x1” look, the defense is looking to defend against either a “Tare” route combination or a “Snag” route combination that sees Cordarrelle Patterson go deep or hit a corner route in order to take the cornerback out of the play and stress the defenders in the hook/curl zones and the flats by sending the two tight ends in either high/low routes (Tare) or splitting the near defender (Snag).
The Tare and Snag concepts are the most common route combinations when offenses line up in 3x1, so the defense tends to key in on them, especially with the backside receiver outside the numbers (“plus” alignment)) to run a complementary route, often a delayed slant.
Different defenses will respond to this look in different ways.
For some, the primary response is to either run a “box zone” where four defenders are lined up in a box and have rules for who takes which receiver based on whether or not they break outside or in, or have a pattern-matching concept that allows the outside defender (the strong safety in this case) to take whichever receiver moves outside first while the inside defender (the Sam outside linebacker) takes the other receiver, regardless of his route (moving inside or a delayed move outside), all while the corner carries Cordarrelle Patterson where ever he goes.
Other defenses, and occasionally a Williams defense, will check into a Cover-3 zone.
But Gregg Williams loves to play man coverage, even when not blitzing, and that gave the Vikings the edge in both a literal and figurative sense.
The defense is in pass alert until Patterson motions into the backfield, which carries the corner with him and reduces the number of defenders at the point of attack (making it four blockers on four defenders instead of five on five in a scenario where Matt Asiata gets the ball and runs outside).
This empties the alley entirely and makes blocking on the edge extremely predictable. Ten times out of ten, the strong safety will react to a run not by attacking the ball carrier but getting depth and moving outside, making him an easy target for either of the lead blockers to kick him out of the play. In this play, Brandon Fusco does it, and he buries T.J. McDonald.
Just like Lombardi demanding the Packers seal the lane, the Vikings ask their blockers to create a track between the red line (an imaginary line between the numbers and the sideline) and the hash marks that the runner can use to gain yards, with blockers moving defenders one way or the other out of the lane, in some ways paving a road when leading out in front of him.
Easily, one of the most identifiable features of any of the “power” series of runs or the Buck and Lombardi sweeps are the pulling guard(s), this time Brandon Fusco. But the Vikings did something here that was unique, difficult, and risky (well worth it on first down).
Though the backside defensive end is rarely blocked on a play like this, it is extremely unusual to ask an offensive tackle—or any lineman—to block a playside defender away from the play when he’s one gap away at the snap. Kalil is in an extremely difficult position to get his block, and to his credit, he slows Michael Brockers down enough to get the rest of the play going.
The reason they asked that of Kalil was so that they could free up Charlie Johnson and John Sullivan to make crucial second-level blocks and double team the middle linebacker.
The risk is that the Vikings sacrificed the likelihood of a successful, albeit likely short, gain in favor of a high-yardage play, essentially forcing the run to either boom or bust instead of getting an acceptable four yards.
It also theoretically freed John Sullivan up to get off the double team and prevent the weak-side linebacker, who for most teams is the most athletic linebacker, from disrupting the play. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but it was still good enough.
Loadholt’s job was simple, and he did it well, which was to push Alex Carrington out of the play, whether that meant forcing him to overpursue or blocking him out entirely.
Both tight ends had fairly common jobs, and Rhett Ellison performed his (down-blocking the defensive end) to his consistently high standard, while Kyle Rudolph blocked the Sam outside linebacker well enough to ensure at least a ten-yard gain, which Patterson turned into much more.
As the corner rushes back into the alley he abandoned, Asiata plays his role to a T, and blows the defensive back out of the play—meaning the Vikings’ initial and most important set of blocks were both mismatches in favor of the offense, allowing a guard and a fullback to take on a safety and a corner.
Adam Thielen’s job on the edge is to beat the backside corner to the alley and either block the free safety or the corner trailing him. He sort of does this until Patterson outruns him to the end zone (and Thielen absorbs a Michael Brockers tackle for no well-defined reason).
You can see the whole video here.
In the end, the Vikings combined the old with the new, took some big risks and allowed their biggest playmakers the room they needed to make a difference, hopefully a steady pattern for years to come.
When Percy Harvin was traded to the Seattle Seahawks before the 2013 NFL season, not many expected the Vikings would be able to replace him. Beyond that, there was certainly nobody that thought the team would be able to improve off of what Harvin had done in 2011-2012.
In his final games as a Viking Harvin was beginning to come into his own as a runner and receiver. In 2011, Percy had 967 yards receiving and 345 yards rushing. 2012 was going much the same way before injury sidelined him for the final seven games of the year.
The relationship between Percy and the team falls apart behind the scenes, Harvin is traded for draft picks to the Seahawks and the rest is history.
Enter Cordarrelle Patterson.
Drafted near the back end of the first round after the Vikings made a trade with this next week’s opponent, the New England Patriots, Cordarrelle Patterson came into the NFL with loads of talent, but not much polish to show it off.
Thought by many to be one of the best receivers in his draft class, Patterson slipped to number 29 where the Vikings jumped up to snatch him.
The beginning part of his rookie season was bumpy. Struggling to grasp the offensive playbook, not yet able to run crisp route, Patterson watched most of the Vikings games from the sidelines as his receiving buddies were on the field and featured. Frustrated with the lack of opportunities, Cordarrelle funneled his emotions onto the football field. Since he wasn’t getting opportunities to be involved in the offense, he took matters into his own hands and made the best of the opportunities where he did get the ball, on kickoff returns.
After averaging 27 yards per return in his first NFL game, Cordarrelle took one to the house in his second game against the Chicago Bears. Sprinkle in a 69 yard return here, an NFL record 109 yard TD return against the Packers and Patterson suddenly had the attention of a coaching staff that was struggling to trust him.
But there was still this pesky problem of getting his route running up to NFL standards. So the Vikings found a way around it in the form of bubble screens and handoffs to their uber talented wide receiver.
By the end of the year, having really only played half the season on offense, Patterson was sitting pretty with 469 yards receiving (4TDs), 158 rushing yards (3TDs) and 1,393 kickoff return yards (2TDs).
Fast-forward to 2014 and people wondered if the league would have caught up to him now that the secret was out. Well, if Sunday’s game in St. Louis was any indication, the rest of the league still has a lot of work to do to catch CP!
On their way to the team’s first road victory since Christian Ponder led the team to a win in Houston at the end of the 2012 season, the Vikings steamrolled the St. Louis Rams heralded defensive front en route to a 34-6 opening week victory. And Cordarrelle was a big part of it.
Finishing the day with 26 receiving yards, 102 rushing yards (1TD) and 48 return yards, Cordarrelle made his impact felt. It was a 67-yard run that really turned the tide of the game for the Vikings. His performance also paved the way for one of the best MEMEs I think I've ever seen.
“It was a big play,” head coach Mike Zimmer said after the game. “When you get a one play drive like that, Cordarrelle made a great run and the offensive line did a great job blocking…he made a great run.”
Matt Cassel continued saying, “Anytime the ball is in his hands there’s a chance for a big play.”
So it got me thinking, how often does Patterson turn a touch into a big play?
For sake of the argument, let’s define a touch as anytime he catches, runs or returns the football. And we’ll define a big play as anything over 15 yards.
Under those parameters, here’s the data breakdown
Over the span of the 2013 season, Cordarrelle had a total 132 touches and turned those touches into 2,020 yards and 9 touchdowns. Extend that out through the first game of the 2014 season and that means, that on average, Patterson accumulates 20.33 yards per touch and scores one touchdown every 10.8 touches!
But how does that compare to some of the league’s best WR, RB and KRs?
Those are some pretty impressive stats for Patterson when you compare them to the league’s best. Moral of the story…GET THIS MAN THE BALL!!
Fortunately, I think this new coaching staff is aware of the threat they have in #84.
“We always want to get our playmakers the football,” Mike Zimmer said yesterday. “However we can do that throwing it, catching it handing it, it doesn’t matter.”
For his part, Cordarrelle has the same mindset.
“When I get the ball in my hands, I just expect to do great things with it,” Patterson said after the game. “I do a great job visualizing it. When I visualize, things start slowing down for me.”
It was fun to see some of the different ways Norv found to get the ball into Cordarrelle’s hands. What’s even more promising is the optimistic viewpoint that this is only the beginning and it’s going to get better from here.
The road gets a little more difficult the next four games for the Vikings, but the opposing defenses are nothing to fear. The opportunities will be there, it’s time to take advantage of what we might have in Cordarrelle Patterson. So Mr. Turner, get this man the ball any way you can!
Zero touchdowns, zero rushes, zero yards, zero snaps. That’s how Adrian Peterson’s stat line reads for this year’s four game preseason session. While every single one of his teammates was out on the field getting into game shape for this weekend’s season opener, Adrian stayed on the sidelines simply observing.
But there wasn’t any nagging injuries pushing him to the side, there was no differing viewpoint with the coaching staff. Nope, it was just the plan from the beginning to keep Peterson sidelined throughout the exhibition season.
This idea isn’t anything new for the rookie coaching staff. In each of the previous two seasons, Adrian has had the same empty stat line through the preseason.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Peterson said this week. “For me even more so, not participating in the preseason…The first couple years [of sitting out] it was hard. I’m a savvy vet now so I understand the big scheme.”
The idea behind this concept is to protect him. Keep any and all needless wear and tear off his body and he should last longer. Seems to make sense.
“I’ve been in the league for a long time,” Peterson continued. “Preseason, there’s a lot that comes with that, wear and tear on the body and taking chances as well. We’d just rather not take any chances. We’ll take chances, but take them in the regular season when it counts.”
So, with no in-game practice, no contact and no full speed play, what can we expect from that man that we so affectionately call “the best running back in the league” when he takes to the football field for the first time this year against the Rams on Sunday?
If history is any indicator, Adrian isn’t missing much by sitting out of the preseason.
In seasons where he hasn’t seen any carries during the preseason (2012, 2013), Adrian is averaging 88.5 yards per game in the first week of the year. He also has five touchdowns over those two games and is averaging over 5 yards per carry (5.06).
Extend that out to full season statistics in years where he has no preseason activity and Peterson is averaging 1,681.5 yards per year in those seasons. That’s more than 300 yards better than in seasons where he has played the preseason (1,350.4 yards).
But what about against this week’s opponent, the St. Louis Rams?
Admittedly, this year’s Rams squad is a different bunch than the group that Peterson most recently faced in 2012, but there are a few hangovers. That said, the last time Adrian took the field against St. Louis it was a Week 15 matchup in which Adrian ran wild for 212 yards including a career long 82-yard touchdown run.
“I remember that game,” Peterson said earlier this week. “From the secondary on down, those guys were talking so much noise. Then we ripped the long run on them and they got quiet. Hopefully things play out the same way [this year].”
AP also remembered getting off to a fast start last year in the Vikings week one matchup against the Detroit Lions. On his first carry of the 2013 season (again, zero preseason reps), Adrian cracked off a 78-yard touchdown run!
For what it’s worth, Adrian is predicting the same sort of success this weekend against the Rams.
“Touchdown, first run,” Peterson told us with a smile on his face.
It’s now the third year of Adrian being confined to the sidelines during the preseason and just like AP is finally figuring out the value in it, it appears that the fans are learning as well.
It goes without saying that we would all like to see Adrian on the field as much as possible during any point in the season. But if this week’s opponent, the St. Louis Rams, can teach us anything, understanding the balance of the risk and reward for playing during preseason is an important medium to find. They lost their starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a season ending ACL injury during this preseason.
But if there was still any doubt remaining in your mind, hopefully Adrian’s highlighted track record of success can provide a little added comfort as well. He will be fine. He’s a professional, and he’s still the best running back in the league.
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The Minnesota Vikings find themselves wedged in the middle of a controversy not of their own doing. On one hand it’s a refreshing change that the Vikes aren’t the ones causing a hullabaloo. On the other hand, it seems they’re a magnet for controversy even when, as is the case here, they’re taking on collateral damage. The controversy in question: the ongoing push by the University of Minnesota to prevent Washington’s NFL football team from using their “Redskins” moniker when they visit TCF Bank Stadium to play the Vikings Nov. 2.
As you know, TCF Bank Stadium is on lease to the Vikings for the next two seasons while the new stadium is being built. As you may also know, the University wants no part of the Redskins. They don’t want the name used or the familiar logo on the helmet. They’ve asked that the team wear their old helmets that just have the fancy “R” on the side. In a statement, the University called the term “Redskins” offensive and inappropriate.
Obviously, the Washington organization agrees to disagree. On Thursday they filed an appeal of the earlier U.S. Patent Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruling that ordered the cancellation of the Redskins' trademark registration. So they’re not giving up the fight. Yet.
My point here is not to debate whether the R-word is, in fact, racist. It is, and you’ll not convince me otherwise. Instead, I’m predicting this particular controversy might very well be the next key step in forcing team owner Daniel Snyder to finally change the name. If the U.S. Patent office doesn’t hit Snyder’s wallet hard enough to force a change, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell might have to wield his power and make it happen. Goodell can’t afford to let this situation pit owner against owner.
A substantial segment of the public thinks the R-word is racist and is calling for a change. That hasn’t been enough. But if other more powerful outside forces come into play and create a schism between one NFL team and another, things could escalate.
To this point, the Vikings have had to walk a fine line in addressing the matter.
“Not only do we have a significant Native American population in Minnesota, but the Vikings have strong relationships with several tribes in the state,” team spokesman Lester Bagley told the Minneapolis Star Tribune last week. “At the same time, the Vikings are one of 32 NFL teams, and NFL policies obligate us to operate and market the game as we would any other game against any other NFL opponent.”
“The Vikings are one of 32 NFL teams, and NFL policies obligate us…” Translation: “Our hands are basically tied. If Daniel Snyder doesn’t want to change his team name and if commissioner Goodell won’t make him change his team name, then we (have no choice but to) stand arm-in-arm with them. Protect the (NFL) shield. Present a unified front.”
Ultimately the team from Washington will be forced to change its name. It’s not a matter of if, only when. Eventually, the cacophony of protest will drown out the feeble attempts by the tone deaf in the Washington organization to uphold the name as something honorable. Maybe someday those in their fan base that can’t distinguish between loyalty to a brand and common decency will also see the light.
At some point soon Zygi Wilf might have to call up commissioner Goodell and say, “Look, I’m all for unity amongst NFL teams and protecting the shield and all that jazz, but enough is enough.”
What will push Wilf to that point?
Will it take increased pressure from the University of Minnesota? Will it take more legislators in St. Paul – you know, the ones who helped him get his new stadium built – asking Zygi to take a stand? What if hundreds or even thousands of the state’s Native American population protest more and protest louder? When the Redskins played at Mall of America Field last Nov. 7, the R-word was loudly protested before kickoff in a demonstration outside the Metrodome. You can bet those same folks – and many, many more – will return for this year’s game. In fact, plans are already underway according to the Star Tribune, and organizers hope to draw several thousand activists this time.
Between the U.S. Patent office and pressure from the U of M, Goodell might have to compel Snyder before November to announce a change. It’s one thing when all the ire is aimed at the team in question. It’s another when a second team (in this case the Vikings) is sucked into the mess and thrown under the bus for not taking a stand.
Something has to give and the protest over this game might be just the fulcrum for change.
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell
Immediately handing out letter grades to measure how well teams did in the NFL Draft can be a trite waste of time. Let’s be honest, nobody knows specifically how well the drafted players will pan out. Thus, assigning letter grades before any of them have suited up for their new teams – or even signed their contracts -- is presumptuous. It presumes the author or blogger has detailed insight on exactly how talented each player is, how hard they’ll work and how well they will fit the systems into which they’ve been drafted. More significantly, it presumes an ability to, you know, foretell the future. Coaching changes, roster changes, scheme changes, luck, suspensions, injuries, etc. are impossible to forecast.
However, my guess is that if you make your way around the Internet the next 48 hours looking for draft analysis you’ll see a lot of letter grades. They make for effective headlines. That’s about it. Show me a draft from five years ago and then maybe we can talk letter grades.
So what can we adequately ascertain in the immediate aftermath of the biggest weekend of the NFL offseason? We can gauge how well a team like the Vikings addressed their perceived needs… and not much more. We don’t know what their big board looked like. We don’t know what trades were offered or turned down. We can only surmise they followed their plan. In light of that, I’d give the Vikings a passing grade on the pass/fail system. Or maybe just a big thumbs up.
Going into the draft the Vikings appeared to have needs at every level of their defense as well as quarterback, backup running back and offensive line depth. To that end, the Vikings successfully checked every box. On defense, they wound up with two linemen, two linebackers and three defensive backs (two corners, and a corner being converted to safety). On offense, they landed a possible long-term answer at quarterback, a versatile guard and an interesting running back.
As draft day approached general manager Rick Spielman was very open about his desire to accumulate more picks – to turn his eight picks into 10 picks. That’s precisely what they did. Again, to that end, the Vikings succeeded.
Prior to the draft, I went on the record in this space predicting (like many others did) that the Vikes would trade back and go defense with their first pick and then hope one of their top-three quarterbacks would still be available when it was their turn to pick again. I also suggested on radio airwaves (and really to anyone who asked) that the Vikings might look for a pass-catching type of tailback to complement Adrian Peterson – someone like a Darren Sproles, who thrived under Norv Turner in San Diego.
We have a bingo on all of the above.
Yes, the Vikings executed their stated plan of stockpiling picks, drafted players at positions of apparent need and even fulfilled some of my educated guesses. That’s a trifecta or something.
Anthony Barr gives them a raw athlete at linebacker, the likes of which the Vikings have never had. Barr will provide immediate help rushing the passer and should develop quickly into a versatile, three-down impact defender. Watching him on tape is reminiscent of watching Jason Taylor. The ceiling is extremely high. Did the Vikings take him too early? Who knows? Again, we’re not assigning letter grades. What we know is that the Vikings really wanted him and had to take him when they did. What we’ve heard is that the Lions (11th pick) coveted him, the Titans (12th pick) really liked him and the Cowboys (16th pick) were prepared to take him. Head coach Mike Zimmer told KFAN that he heard from two other teams who picked soon after the Vikings that they would have taken Barr if he had still been on the board.
Anyone familiar with this VikesCentric space or my Twitter account (@Bo_Mitchell) knows I was beating the drum loudly for Johnny Manziel to be the quarterback the Vikings drafted. It would have been a lot of fun if they had done so. I’m a Manziel believer and love to watch him play. I think his skills will translate well enough to the NFL and his highlight reel plays will be on ESPN for years. Finding a replacement in Cleveland for rumored-to-be-suspended All-Pro wide receiver Josh Gordon will be tough to do so that hurts his immediate outlook, but I won’t back away from my overall Manziel assessment.
Having said all of that, I also really like Teddy Bridgewater. He won’t be as fun to watch as Manziel, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bridgewater has great mechanics and footwork; he’s calm under pressure, is as tough as they come and has football smarts. His arm is plenty strong enough and the metrics suggest clearly he was the most accurate passer in the nation last season. His work in a pro-style offense in college will definitely help – as will working with coach Turner. He might never be as fun to watch as Manziel, but few will be. Bridgewater might turn out to be better than Manziel for all I know. If I had to loosely compare him to a current NFL quarterback, it would be Russell Wilson… and he’s turned out okay so far.
In third-round pick Scott Crichton and the first of their three seventh-round picks Shamar Stephen, the Vikings added more depth for coach Zimmer’s blueprint of rotating defensive linemen. The trio of sixth and seventh-round picks they made to bolster their defensive secondary should help. None appear destined to start anytime soon, but depth is crucial in this pass-happy league. The more bites of the apple you take, the better chance one pans out, so for the Vikings’ sake hopefully at least one of the three – Antone Exum, Kendall James or Jabari Price – sticks around and has an impact.
Back on offense, fifth-round selection David Yankey has the makings of a superior backup or very solid starter. He should push Charlie Johnson and/or Brandon Fusco for playing time at guard at some point, perhaps early this season.
Lastly, the pick with whom I am most intrigued is cornerback-turned-quarterback/running back Jerrick McKinnon out of Georgia Southern (their third-round pick). I’m not sure what to make of him yet but his combine numbers were absurd. It sounds like the Vikings plan to use him as a speedy, pass-catching running back and possible punt returner – their version of Sproles. He could turn out to be a great deal of fun to watch and a good change of pace to Peterson.
Letter grade: incomplete, but it looks pretty good on paper.
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell
(Setting: Your living room, Sunday morning. You’ve turned on the big-screen plasma and three men in yellow blazers with ABC patches appear. Their images flicker for a moment, then come to life on the screen. In the background, Vikings and Lions players warm up on the field.)
Holographic Image of Howard Cosell: THE DATE! Sunday, December the 29th, Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Thirteen. THE PLACE! Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the erstwhile Hubert Horatio Humphrey Metrodome, renamed in recent years for a local shopping destination in the most blatant and embarrassing cash grab since the great Muhammad Ali came out of retirement to fight Larry Holmes in Miami in 1980. THE EVENT! The final gridiron contest in the 32-year history of the venerable stadium that rose like a Colossus over the skyline of this great Midwestern metropolis in 1982.
This is the holographic image of Howard Cosell. I’m joined as always by my partners in pigskin pundrity, the holographic image of “Dandy” Don Meredith …
Holographic Image of Don Meredith: Howdy, y’all!
Cosell: … and the holographic image of the Giffer himself, Frank Gifford.
Holographic Image of Frank Gifford: Hey, I’m still alive!
Cosell: You’ll have to take that up with your agent, Giff.
Gifford: I’m just saying, I could have flown in for the game. Anything to get away from that loon of a woman I married. Did you know she drinks wine while she aerobicizes in the rec room? I’m starting to think she might have a problem …
Cosell: Nevertheless, Giffer, we come here not to discuss your marital histrionics because we only have a three-hour broadcast. Nay, we are here to memorialize the monumental moments in the history of this esteemed edifice that has been home to the Minnesota Vikings for lo these past 32 years. This National Football League franchise has already honored their greatest gladiators in the Metrodome era. Today, we gather to shine the spotlight on another group of august warriors who deserve a tip of our collective caps before they’re shuffled off to the dustbin of history. Men who made their mark in spectacular or ignominious fashion on these hallowed grounds but for a variety of reasons did not make the cut for the Vikings’ All-Metrodome team. Men who merit recognition for their own unique contributions to the history of this Teflon terrarium.
Ladies and gentlemen, we now present … The All-Metrodome Team of the Damned!
Gifford: We’ll start with Tony Dorsett. Gentlemen, we were here the night that he set an NFL record that will never be broken, when he ran 99 yards …
Meredith: … and a half!
Gifford: … yes, Don, 99 and a half yards for a touchdown against the Vikings. If you look closely you might still see Willie Teal trying to slap him out of bounds on the right sideline like an old woman hitting a pickpocket with her purse.
Cosell: Tony Dorsett – or Anthony, as I called him, because we were very close – once told me he asked to be listed as Tony in the program so his initials would be “TD.” He figured “AD” wouldn’t be a fitting nickname for a running back, reasoning with which I concurred although I understand Adrian Peterson would beg to differ.
Gifford: The Vikings’ quarterback that day was Tommy Kramer. There’s Two-Minute Tommy waving to the fans, who no doubt remember the numerous late-game drives he engineered, which of course is how he got his nickname.
Meredith: I called him “494 Tommy” because he loved the nightlife the way only a good-old boy from Texas could!
Cosell: That was something with which you and Kramer were both quite familiar, my good man. As I recall, he broke your Texas high school record for single-season quarterback rating and your NFL record for single-season blood-alcohol level.
Meredith: Well, you’re a fine one to talk, you whiskey-soaked, rug-wearing, big-mouthed son of a …
Gifford: Hey guys, let’s try to keep it civil here. Besides, you’re holograms so you wouldn’t hit any harder than Willie Teal. Moving on, there’s the old trapper himself, Bud Grant, who was the Vikings’ head coach for three of their first four seasons in the Metrodome.
Cosell: Harry Peter Grant. The man never cared for me. I couldn’t understand the animosity. I merely mentioned his string of four Super Bowl losses multiple times in every game we broadcast, regardless of whether the Vikings were playing at the time. It had the benefit of being true. I stand by my decision.
Gifford: Walking behind Grant is Les Steckel, his hand-picked successor who led the Vikings to a 3-13 record in 1984. Steckel’s team lost its last six games by an average of 27 points.
Meredith: I don’t wanna say his boys quit on him, but I’ve seen a treed coon put up a better fight against a yella hound dog on full moon Friday.
Gifford: I don’t even know what that means.
Cosell: Grant restored order to the franchise by gracing them with his immense talent for one more futile attempt at reaching the Super Bowl. Then he was replaced by that man – RIGHT THERE! Jerome Monahan Burns, affectionately known as “Burnsie” to the purple-clad faithful. We’d best turn off our closed-captioning services and advise lip readers to look away from their consoles as Burns greets the team ball boys and cheerleaders on the sidelines.
Gifford: There’s Herschel Walker, the Heisman Trophy-winning running back out of Georgia who spent three years with the Vikings.
Cosell: Herschel Walker single-handedly turned around the fates of a once-proud franchise, resurrecting them from a decade of mediocrity and thrice sending them to the pinnacle of professional football. Unfortunately for the Vikings, that franchise was the Dallas Cowboys.
Meredith: Yee-haw! I remember the look on Mike Lynn’s face when he realized Jimmy Johnson was gonna take the players AND the draft picks. Ol’ Mike looked like had just chewed through a mouthful of roadkill possum on a hot August day.
Cosell: Mike Ditka is here today. He of course coined the term “RollerDome” as a derisive affront to the Metrodome’s troublesome acoustical idiosyncrasies. It’s a little-known fact that the seats in the Metrodome once were green, but they turned blue due to the wave of profanity that one Michael Keller Ditka spewed at quarterback Jim Harbaugh following an ill-fated audible in 1992.
Gifford: Next up is another Chicago great, Jim McMahon. The Punky QB had his share of big games in the Metrodome as a member of the Bears, but he also led the Vikings to the playoffs in 1993.
Meredith: And over on the other sideline, standing all alone at the 5-yard line waving like a maniac, is Eric Guliford.
Cosell: And speaking of malodorous memories for the Vikings’ neighbors to the east, Packers fans, we urge you to avert your eyes upon the arrival of Theron Joseph Rubley.
Gifford: T.J. Rubley, obviously overwhelmed by the standing ovation he’s receiving … and that’s former Vikings linebacker Jeff Brady cutting in front of him to wave to the fans!
Cosell: A hush has fallen over the crowd as Gary Anderson enters the stadium. One can even hear a smattering of catcalls from the peanut gallery. The man flirted with perfection and this is the thanks he gets? It appears he will only be forgiven if he takes a knee at the 28-yard-line and commits ritual seppuku to satisfy the rabid throng’s thirst for blood.
Meredith: Too soon, Howard. Too soon. You just can’t say “take a knee” around these parts.
Gifford: Well, there’s more of them lined up in the tunnel but we’re getting close to kickoff here. Mike Tice, Onterrio Smith, Fred Smoot, Wasswa Serwanga, Brad Childress, Greg Lewis, Naufahu Tahi, Visanthe Shiancoe, Dwayne Rudd … they all had their moment in the sun – so to speak – here at the Metrodome. It’s nice to see them get one more chance to hear the roar of the crowd and the blast of the Gjallarhorn.
Cosell: Thirty-two years worth of memories for this star-crossed franchise, my friends. There’s just one thing left to say. Dandy?
Meredith: Turn out the lights … the party’s over … They say that all … good things must end …
Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to the Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.
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