Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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Let's see, the Vikings couldn't run the ball, Adrian Peterson looks startlingly mortal, the offensive ilne is beat up, the defensive line got whipped, the secondary got exposed, the middle linebacker who was playing very well is lost for the season, and Brett Favre threw two awful interceptions and a couple more passes that should have been picked off.
Ah, but it didn't snow.
There are two reasonable ways to look at this game:
1) At 10-1, with the division pretty much clinched, coming off three easy games, the Vikings just weren't ready emotionally to do what it took to beat a good team fired up for a big game at home.
2) The Vikings' flaws can be exposed when they play good teams, especially good teams with dynamic passing games and physical fronts.
The Cardinals are physical and athletic, and Kurt Warner was very sharp Sunday night. I picked the Vikings to win because I expected either Matt Leinart to start or Warner to look woozy. Instead, he went after the Vikings' weaknesses with great success.
The Vikings need to get Antoine Winfield healthy. They also need to reestablish their running game, which, when it's working, strengthens the rest of their team.
Without a good running game, Favre becomes reckless and the defense can be exposed. This defense specializes in playing with a lead, or stuffing run-first teams. The Cardinals threw the ball with ease.
I've been saying for weeks now that Adrian Peterson appears to be playing with some kind of injury or limitation. He just doesn't look dynamic or fast right now. I also said during his first two seasons that we should enjoy him while he's healthy, because his running style does not portend a long career. Defenses are just too big, fast and violent to play running back for long without the ability to make defenders miss. Peterson takes a lot of big hits for a great back.
I've praised Brad Childress a lot the last two years, but I disagree with his insistence on keeping star players in the game after the game is decided. Shortly after he saw E.J. Henderson break his leg, he left Favre and Peterson in the game for the Vikings' last drive. Nothing good can come from that, and plenty of bad can result.
Several players looked quite shaken by Henderson's injury. E.J. has turned himself into a team leader after being a big question mark early in his career, and he was having an exceptional game Sunday.
Suddenly, the stretch drive looks more interesting. The Packers can close the gap to two games by winning on Monday night, and the Vikings have Cincinnati (one of the best teams in the league), Carolina (unpredictable), Chicago (ok, the Bears stink, but it's a grass field in late December, and Favre no longer likes playing in the cold) and the Giants (who were left for dead before beating the Cowboys on Sunday, and may have a lot to play for.)
Maybe the Vikings react well to this loss, whip the Bengals, and erase all of these questions. But this felt like watching one of Denny's lesser teams, when they'd build a good record against mediocre quarterbacks then get shredded by a good one.
As Favre said after the game, good teams start peaking now. He was praising Arizona, and perhaps questioning whether his team will rise to that challenge.
Upcoming: I'm on with Reusse on am-1500 at 6:40, then WJON at 7:14. I'm taking vacation from the paper this week but working on a project that will run in the Sunday paper. (Buy the paper instead of tipping the Barista for pouring you a coffee. Seriously. That's worth a tip?)
I won't be on FSN for my weekly debate with Jim Petersen this week, but will resume next week.
You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib. If you become my 1,000 Twitter follower, I promise to reward you with a free copy of the autobiography that Sid wrote himself.
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