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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Wrapping up the game and the season from Lambeau early Sunday morning:
-Wrote my column about my primary observation, which is that if the Vikings had stuck with running the ball and the zone option, they may have been able to keep the game close. The Packers were on their heels during the first drive.
The Vikings' first eight plays were running plays. They marched easily down the field. Webb's first pass, on third-and-7, was an embarrassing ground ball. The Vikings settled for a field goal.
After the defense forced a quick three-and-out, the offense had a chance to dominate play and time of possession for all or most of the first quarter. Instead, the Vikings pretended they had a pocket passer. Webb threw two incompletions as the Vikings went three-and-out.
As they continued to steer away from the running game and rely on Webb in the pocket, the game got out of hand. I don't know if Webb could have won the game with his legs. But he lost it with his arm.
-When a baseball team loses in the playoffs, there's an air of sadness because the guys spend so much time together. When a football team loses in the playoffs, there is a sense of sadness because NFL players, especially those on good teams, give so much of themselves.
Everywhere you looked Saturday night, there was pain. John Sullivan had his right arm and shoulder heavily wrapped. Jared Allen was talking about offseason surgery to repair his shoulder. Antoine Winfield still had his broken hand wrapped. And everywhere were bruised, tired bodies. GM Rick Spielman walked around the lockerroom, thanking players, looking grim.
And careers are so short in the NFL that everyone knows the same group won't be back next year. Those NFL players who can play for a decade and earn big paychecks have good lives, as long as their bodies and brains and bank accounts hold up. But the sadness is real, because they don't know if they'll be back to the playoffs, or how many of them will be together even if they win a championship down the line.
-I think like most fans in this regard: I would be highly disappointed in Christian Ponder if he had any chance to play through the pain and passed. But he couldn't throw with any velocity in pregame warmups, and he had trouble even moving his right arm after the game.
We can critique his play and question his future, but I see no reason to question his toughness or character. I have no doubt that he desperately wanted to play.
-We have gotten to the point where Adrian Peterson can rush 22 times for 99 yards, a 4.5 average, and we can be disappointed. He's set quite the high bar.
-It was a lousy day of football. The Bengals and Texans were close to unwatchable. Webb's passing made the Packers game far less entertaining than it should have been. Sunday should be different. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson might be, as a group, the three best rookie quarterbacks we've ever seen.
-I like the way the Packers play. I like their receiving depth. I like the fact that they found DuJuan Harris, a speed back, to exploit defenses spread out to cover their receivers. I like the way Aaron Rodgers plays with such intelligence and poise.
But I'm just not seeing the Packers as a Super Bowl champ this year. I don't like their defensive line, or their linebackers outside Clay Matthews. I think they're too dependent on Rodgers to beat a high-quality team. I'd pick the 49ers to beat them next week.
And if that happens, don't be surprised if Colin Kaepernick running the read option, just the way Webb did on that first drive tonight, isn't a big key.
-My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. I'm running SundaySportsTalk on 1500ESPN with Tom Pelissero Sunday morning from 10-noon, and I'm on the station at 2:05 on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I'm also on WJON at 7:15 a.m. every weekday morning.
I'll have a season wrap-up column in the Monday paper, in which I'll attempt to put this season into some kind of historical context. Thanks for reading.
Catching up on the local sports scene:
-Vikings. I'm at the Dome, where I'm picking a typical grind-it-out victory for the Vikings. Tampa Bay has scary weapons in Doug Martin and Victor Jackson, but the Vikings have a number of advantages in this game.
Their defense has excelled at taking away the best skill-position player or players on the other team, with Larry Fitzgerald being the most recent example. The Vikings have been able to run the ball on pretty much everyone, and are smart enough not to veer away from their strengths, even though Tampa Bay is much better against the run than the pass.
Most of all, though, the Vikings appear to be the superior team at this juncture, and they're getting to play at home, presumably in front of a loud crowd, against a team that doesn't play often on turf. And the Bucs had to play on Sunday and spend Wednesday traveling. NFL players just don't bounce back that easily and quickly, not most of them.
My sure-to-be-wrong prediction: Vikings 23, Bucs 16.
-Twins: In September, I heard that the Twins would make major changes to their coaching staff. The only surprise, among the recently-announced changes, is that Terry Steinbach will be the bench coach. I hadn't heard Terry's name previously, and he wound up taking the position I had heard was reserved for Triple-A manager Gene Glynn.
This lineup makes sense. Glynn is very valuable where he right now, and Steinbach should be a good foil for Ron Gardenhire. Gardenhire is hyperactive on the bench. He needs someone to slow him down and offer all of his options. Gardenhire's first instinct is to act. Steinbach's job will be to make sure Gardenhire has thought every move through thoroughly as possible.
Whatever the changes to the coaching staff, the success of the franchise will depend on finding pitching. With word that Scott Boras client Kyle Lohse may be looking for a $75-million contract, it's more apparent than ever to me that Terry Ryan is going to have to try to get lucky with trades or low-level free-agent signings that will not impress anyone initially.
-Wild: Remember when we had an NHL team in our town? Me, neither.
-Gopher football: I want to like Jerry Kill. I really do. He's making it difficult, though. I've already ripped the removal of North Carolina from future schedules. I'm also disturbed by the removal of redshirts from several key young players.
The last time I went to one of Kill's press conferences, he emphasized the importance of patience. Removing the redshirt from your freshman quarterback at midseason and telling him on Friday that he would be starting on Saturday is not patient. It's an act of desperation.
Jerry: Recruits can smell desperation.
-Gopher basketball: As tough as I've been on Tubby Smith on many fronts, I won't bash him because his son got a DUI. While I believe driving while intoxicated is absolutely wrong and reckless, I also know a million people who have done it at some point in their lives. Saul Smith made a terrible mistake, but let's not play the ``leader-of-young-men card.'' He's an assistant coach. Let's not pretend that an assistant coach getting a DUI is going to alter the lives of a dozen college basketball players.
-Here are a few notes on tonight's game, courtesy of Vikings media relations:
-Matt Blair will enter the Vikings' ring of honor tonight.
-Percy Harvin ranks second in the NFL in receptions, with 53. His 271 receptions rank second in franchise history for a player in his first four seasons. He's caught a pass in every NFL game in which he's played.
-Kicker Blair Walsh leads the league with 27 touchbacks. He's tied for third in the NFL with 16 field goals.
-The Vikings' 72 sacks and 25 forced fumbles since the start of the 2011 season are the most in the NFL.
-Jared Allen has a sack in five straight games.
-Kyle Rudolph is tied for the lead league among tight ends with 5 touchdown catches.
-Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib. I'll be on WJON at 7:15 a.m and 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. tomorrow to talk about the game.
Jared Allen is playing in his ninth season in the NFL. He has been briefed on, and reminded of, the NFL's penchant for protecting quarterbacks. Whe he dove at Andrew Luck as Luck was running out of bounds, he gave a replacement official a chance to throw a flag, and the replacement official did.
The replacement official was, shockingly, right in this case.
Allen should have known better. He cost his team three points in a game that was decided by three points. The Vikings should expect more from one of their best, veteran players.
After the game, Allen told reporters, ``I guess you can't touch the quarterback.''
That's a silly thing to say. No, Jared, you can't touch the quarterback. Not in the head. Not after the whistle. And not when the NFL"s future superstar is running directly out of bounds.
Football is an emotional game, but a veteran player should be able to control himself in key situations. Allen didn't.
Other reasons for the Vikings' loss:
-I've been covering the Cover-2 defense since Tony Dungy brought it to Minnesota in 1992. I've seen it work as designed. Yesterday, it broke down when Reggie Wayne went right down the middle of the field from the slot and caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Luck.
In the Cover-2, the middle linebacker is responsible for taking a deep drop on passing plays and covering the middle of the field, which is left open because each safety takes responsibility for one side.
But no defense, not even the Cover-2, should ask a linebacker to cover a wide receiver, and certainly not an elite wide receiver. If you're going to play Cover-2, the safeties have to be aware of where the best receivers are.
The core philosophy of the Cover-2 is to force offenses to settle for short passes, allowing defenders to play the eyes of the quarterback. The Cover-2 exists as a defense against the big play. Ask a linebacker to cover an elite receiver, and you're defeating the purpose of the scheme.
-If the Vikings hadn't dumped Ryan Longwell for Blair Walsh, they'd be 0-2.
-I thought it was strange when the Vikings, in the midst of an offseason that was all about slowly rebuilding, signed John Carlson to a five-year, $25-million deal. The thing is, that would have been a silly contract even if Carlson had played well. As it is, Carlson has zero catches through two games.
Why, again, did the Vikings invest heavily in an injury-prone backup tight end?
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
The Gophers and Vikings are a combined 3-0.
Of course, they should be, given the level of competition.
I'm not sure exactly what to make of the Vikings' 26-23 victory. They had awful lapses and struggled to beat a lousy team at home, but there were these high points:
-Adrian Peterson, the subject of my Monday morning column, carried 17 times. That's 17 times more than I would have given it to him and about five more than the coaches wanted to, but he looked remarkably healthy and spry. Without him, the Vikings lose this game.
I hope for his sake he doesn't spend the rest of his career on bad teams. He is a rare competitor and deserves to play for championships.
-Christian Ponder looked shaky early, but got better as the game went on. I thought the best thing offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave did was call a few quick passes to Percy Harvin late in the first half. That loosened up the Jaguars' defense, and calmed Ponder, who was at his best in clutch situations late in the game and in overtime.
-The defense was lucky that Blaine Gabbert missed a wide-open receiver for a touchdown and that Maurice Jones-Drew wasn't at full speed. Chris Cook should have played the Jags' go-ahead touchdown pass much better, but how can a receiver get that much space in that situation?
-Chad Greenway made a couple of key plays in pass defense, a good sign from a player who has to be more than just a solid run-stopper for this defense to thrive.
-Jared Allen spent a lot of time on the sideline in the first half looking very angry. He's done that before, but it's ominous this early in the season.
-Kyle Rudolph is going to have an excellent career if he stays healthy and Ponder remains the quarterback.
-Second-guess time: Peterson had two rushing touchdowns on which he was barely slowed as he got to the end zone. Vikings have the ball inside the Jacksonville 5 in the fourth quarter. Twice, Peterson is sent left as a decoy. Both times, the Vikings wound up with a muddled-looking pass play and no open receivers.
Don't over-think it. Give it to Peterson.
-Blair Walsh was awfully impressive. He nailed all four of his field goals, including the 55-yard that sent the game to overtime, and he boomed his kickoffs.
I don't know anybody who doesn't like and respect Ryan Longwell, but Walsh is making Rick Spielman look pretty smart today.
-Only six of Ponder's 20 completions went to wideouts. That's probably wise, but it also indicates that this offense is going to be very limited.
I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 on Monday. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
I received a predictable reaction to my Friday column, in which I predicted that the Patriots would whip the Broncos and that Adam Weber, given a chance, would have a better NFL career than Tebow.
Instead of answering individual emails and tweets, I'll answer questions and concerns here:
1. No, that wasn't a joke. I think Tebow will fail as an NFL quarterback, just as he has failed miserably in four of his last five starts.
Tebow has had every advantage. He played for a great college team and for perhaps the best offensive coach in college football, Urban Meyer. He was drafted in the first round, ensuring that his team would give him plenty of attention and eventually give him a chance to succeed. He has been supported by an excellent defense and running game and in many of his victories, other than his impressive performance against the Steelers, he played horribly for three quarters or more before making a few clutch plays.
Weber is an athletic guy who was a better passer in college than Tebow was, and who, instead of being coached by someone like Urban Meyer, had to try to survive the coaching of people like Tim Brewster and Jedd Fisch, who altered his throwing style, and, I'm told by people close to the program, caused arm problems for Weber.
Yes, I'm serious: Given an equal chance, Weber will outperform Tebow as an NFL quarterback.
2. Yes, I'm sick of Tebow invoking religion at every opportunity. The reaction of many: Why would I react this way?
Spend a few minutes thinking about it, people.
By using his platform to push his religious beliefs, he's telling you that his religion, and perhaps even his God, is better than yours, and that you should convert. Yes, that's what he's saying. He is an evangelical, as was his father.
Tebow is also telling you that God wanted him to win. Trust me, there are plenty of religious people on the other team. Only a fool or a zealot would believe that God, if he dabbles in such things, would side with an overtly religious quarterback of one team over the devout people who represent the other team.
(Although I did see, in a great tweet this week, that maybe this is why the world is so screwed up - God spends all of his time obsessing about the NFL.)
Yes, Tebow does good work and helps children and visits hospitals. So does Jared Allen, and Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau and...well, I'll stop now before I list every athlete in the Twin Cities.
Tebow is trying to set himself and his religion apart from every other person, religious or not, in the NFL. It's simple-minded and narcissistic.
Some of the most religious people I know would never be arrogant enough to suggest that their faith is better than your faith. That's what Tebow tells us every day.
What has happened with Tebowmania is that Tebow has told people that he's a great person because he's religious, and fans have swallowed it because he's won a few games.
In what other walk of life would you celebrate someone who finishes every sentence or paragraph, by praising their Lord? If I did that, I'd be fired, but I'd be fired only after I chased off 95 percent of my readers and listeners.
Somehow, many observers of the sports-entertainment complex think wearing his religion makes Tebow a hero. I think it makes him annoying, at best.
Disagree all you want. I value people who live good lives regardless of their religious beliefs, not people who tell me how good they are because of their religious beliefs.
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