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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The Vikings' 24-13 upset of San Francisco might have been their most impressive performance since they beat Dallas in the playoffs in 2009. Their upset of Philadelphia in Philadelphia in 2010 was surprising, but those Eagles turned out to be a very flawed team, and with the game being postponed by weather, it never felt like a normal game.
This was different. This was the Vikings beating the 49ers at their own game. Here's what stood out to me:
1. A young Vikings roster that I don't think is talented enough yet to play with the league's big boys took it to the 49ers. They ran the ball. Percy Harvin, as usual, took it to defensive backs. Christian Ponder played with poise. The defense stifled the 49ers' power running game and pressured Alex Smith.
This is the way Leslie Frazier wants to win, and Sunday marked the first time you could see his vision played out on an NFL field against a superior team.
2. Ponder has yet to throw an interception this season. I know, I know, he's had a few dropped, and the 49ers could have changed the game by holding onto Ponder's one terrible throw in the fourth quarter,
Good quarterbacks thrown interceptions, too, though, and good quarterbacks have apparent interceptions dropped. The numbers, in this case, are accurate. Ponder has been careful with the ball and has completed 70 percent of his passes. After 13 NFL starts, he looks about as good as the Vikings could have hoped at this stage of his career.
3. Randy Moss looked like he didn't want to get hit. He short-armed a high throw and didn't appear interested in another pass that whistled by his head. He played sparingly in the fourth quarter of a game where the 49ers were desperate for a deep threat.
After all this time, Moss is pretty much everything everybody has ever said he is. He's a great receiver. He's one of the most unique talents in NFL history. He's a pain in the butt. And he is untrustworthy.
4. Ponder held a weird postgame press conference. He sounded like he wanted to pretend to be mad at everyone who didn't pick the Vikings to win the Super Bowl. But he's such a nice, reasonable guy, that he couldn't maintain the fake anger and kept making jokes.
He did keep bringing up the Super Bowl. Make of that what you will. I do think that Ponder, Kyle Rudolph, John Sullivan, Matt Kalil and the other young offensive players believe they're building something here. The question, for me, is whether they will be ready to win big while Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin are still healthy and in their prime.
Even in a game we all know if violent, Peterson and Harvin are exceptions. They run with exceptional effort.
5. Chad Greenway is having an outstanding season. He's shown up in the pass rush and in pass coverage. He's been a strong performer against the running game for years, but the man does work at his craft and you can see improvement across the board this year.
6. Sportswriters and radio hosts pick games because picking games can make for interesting copy and fodder. But we really shouldn't. We don't know who's going to win. If we did, we'd all live in Vegas. In penthouses in Vegas.
We don't. I proved that again today. I thought the 49ers would win by about 10.
Please don't ever take the advice of a sportswriter when betting. Nothing good will come of it.
-Restaurant recommendation of the day: Lola's Pizzeria in Southwest Minneapolis, on Xerxes. Great food and atmosphere.
-Tailgated outside TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. Nice atmosphere. Not as rowdy as some college campuses, but I think that's a good thing. People were friendly and calm, and the band sounded great.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 tomorrow, and on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m.
-Luckily for me, I'll be covering the Ryder Cup in Chicago this week. It's one of the few things I haven't done as a writer that I had always wanted to do. Next wish: The British Open at St. Andrews one of these years.
Here's what went wrong during the Twins' 6-2 loss to Toronto on Thursday night:
-The Twins fell to 8-23, worst record in the bigs by 2 1/2 games.
-Starter Jason Marquis threw 39 balls in 87 pitches and lasted just four innings. He was brought to Minnesota to throw strikes and eat innings and did neither.
-Trevor Plouffe, in the first game of a tryout at third base that could determine the course of his career, ran into a tag play at second base and failed to call for a popup that he should have caught, a popup that fell between him and Marquis.
-Centerfielder Denard Span forgot how many outs there were.
-Erik Komatsu failed to pick up the third-base coach and, with the ball in rightfield, stopped at second before getting thrown out at third.
-Alexi Casilla got a forceout at second base and forgot to look home to prevent a runner from scoring.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he saw things that you don't see ``in high school ball.''
This was disgusting. This is a flat, unintelligent team filled with guys who shouldn't be in the big-leagues.
Plouffe is not a winning big-league player. Casilla is not an everyday big-league player. The starting rotation is awful, and the best competitor among them, Carl Pavano, hasn't cracked 90 mph this season, indicating he's probably pitching with an injury or in pain.
The bullpen has actually been pretty good. Brian Dozier looks like a player. Josh Willingham has produced. Joe Mauer has stayed healthy.
Other than that, this season has been a washout.
To think the Twins played this poorly the day two key players were demoted - Francisco Liriano to the bullpen and Danny Valencia to AAA.
It may be time to trade Denard Span. The Nationals are still interested and have a surplus of pitching. Make the deal.
And if the Nationals want Plouffe or Casilla or a part-time outfielder, so much the better.
-I'm hearing the Twins like Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton in the June draft. While the Twins are desperate for pitching, Buxton projects to be a big-league star.
-Wrote about the Vikings' stadium for the Friday paper. My take: Minnesota will have an amazing array of sports venues once ZygiDome gets built.
-Joe Mauer is hitting .270 with one homer. Being healthy doesn't help a whole lot if he can't swing the bat with authority.
-Bring up Ben Revere. If you can write a lineup with Komatsu and Darin Mastroianni, you can find enough playing time for Revere.
-I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 tomorrow for my daily update with Reusse and Mackey. Tom Pelissero will run the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Sports Talk from 9:30-noon on Sunday.
-If the Twins keep looking for competent outfielders, they could give Matt Carson a look. He's a veteran minor-leaguer who's hitting .295 for Rochester.
-Thank you, Tiger Woods, for making me feel better about my golf swing.
-I really wish the Twins had been lucky enough to land Bryce Harper. This team needs someone who competes like that.
-The Timberwolves, when semi-healthy, were so much more entertaining than most of the teams in the NBA playoffs.
-Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Chatted with Torii Hunter this morning. Last night, he hit his head against the rightfield wall...and then hit a grounder up the middle and turned it into a double with hustle.
Most players get hit in the head these days, they are sent for tests and observation. Hunter's name was in the lineup Thursday morning before he even got to the clubhouse. Angels manager Mike Scioscia knows Hunter always wants to play.
``Man, I'm like a '64 Impala, with no seat belts,'' Hunter said. ``Old-school.''
True. After a little baseball talk, Hunter started bragging about his son, Torii, Jr. He has a lot to brag about.
Hunter says Torii, Jr., got a 27 on his first try on the ACT, and about 1,600 on the SAT. ``He has a 37-inch vertical, runs a 4.48 40,'' Hunter said.
Torii, Jr., is deciding whether to play football or baseball, or try to play both. Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Arizona have offered him football scholarships. He's considering Stanford and Minnesota for their baseball programs.
Arkansas might have had an edge before Bobby Petrino got fired. ``His uncle went there, his Momma went there, I signed there, and they have a really good engineering program, and that's what he wants to do,'' Hunter said. ``But Stanford is one of the best in that area.''
I got the feeling that Hunter was quite impressed with Stanford's campus and academics. ``We went there on a recruiting visit,'' Hunter said. ``Just 6,500 students. They have the students live with the athletes, which I like. The way they set up everything on the recruiting visit kind of sold us. We're sitting in the weeds, waiting to make the decision.''
The Vikings just sent out a press release about long-snapper Cullen Loeffler awarding an equipment grant to Ingram High in Texas.
From the release: Minnesota Vikings long snapper CULLEN LOEFFLER and USA Football will donate a $1,500 equipment grant to football programs within the Ingram (Texas) Independent School District, which Loeffler attended as a youth.
The Star Tribune staff has done an excellent job chronicling the Vikings' pursuit of a new stadium. But if you don't want to sift through all the information and quotes, I'll save you some time:
The Vikings, the governor and the mayor of Minneapolis have agreed upon a deal that would build a beautiful new football stadium in Minneapolis, potentially revitalize one of the more run-down portions of the city, and keep an important state asset in Minnesota for the next 30 years, and they aren't going to raise anybody's taxes.
If you argue against this deal, you are short-sighted and selfish. This is a good deal, and I commend all parties involved for their patience. Zygi Wilf has been very fair and even-handed throughout, has refused to threaten to move when most humans would have been tempted to threaten to move, and has been willing to change sites to make a deal happen.
This deal should happen.
-B games are generally meaningless, but there was one important development today in Fort Myers: Righthander Carlos Gutierrez couldn't even get through one inning. I've had Twins officials tell me that he has to develop a soft pitch to set up his hard stuff, but on Thursday, he couldn't command any of his pitches. That's a terrible debut for a guy who I thought would compete for a big-league roster spot.
-Had a great time hosting Matt Birk on a tour of the Twins' spring training facility today. I've known Matt since 1998, and he made me vomit a lot during a workout with him and Matt Morris a few summers ago, so we've got that going for us.
He has a house in Naples and brought his wife and six kids to Fort Myers. He met Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire and said what I think every spring: If you want to visit spring training, do it before the games begin, and you can watch workouts and not have to fight crowds to get close to the players.
Birk hinted he wants to come back for one more year with the Ravens, and NFL players tend to become more optimistic about the future as they heal during the offseason. I think he'll sign a one-year deal with Baltimore and take another shot at getting to the Super Bowl.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn with Tom Pelissero tonight at 6:40, and will run Sunday Sports Talk with Jeff Grayson. Jeff will be in studio, I'll be in Fort Myers. We're going to do a long show running up to the Twins' game against Boston, so we'll be on from 10-12:30 Central time.
I'll be covering the Twins' game at Boston and will be getting my first look at lil' Fenway.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Big picture: The Vikings are much better off losing these games and landing the second pick in the draft, and facing their shortcomings, than they are winning meaningless games and making themselves feel better as the end of the year looms.
Small picture: That was a poorly-coached team that lost to the Broncos on Sunday.
Writing opinion for a living can make you look pretty silly. My column in the Sunday paper made the point that while the Vikings' coaching staff hasn't distinguished itself, it's a lack of personnel and depth that is the Vikings' biggest problem.
I'll stick with that opinion, but the Vikings' coaching staff failed in pretty much every area on Sunday.
Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave often left Kyle Rudolph, perhaps his best possession receiver, on the sideline on obvious passing downs. He sometimes even left Percy Harvin, the best player on the field, on the sidelines, too.
It's always hard to tell who's at fault when a unit collapses, but the defensive backs having no idea what their responsibilities were is frightening, considering that Leslie Frazier was a cornerback and defensive coordinator Fred Pagac has plenty of experience in the league and with this group.
And Frazier once again allowed his faith in his players to overwhelm logic. Saying that he didn't allow the Broncos to score because believed his players could block a short field goal attempt, well, that defies logic.
The Vikings probably wouldn't have won the game if they had allowed the Broncos to score quickly, but at least they would have a had a chance, and at least they would have had some control over the outcome. Instead, they played for a block of what was essentially an extra point. How often do extra points get blocked?
Frazier is a man of faith and likes to believe in his players. But the NFL is a game of probabilities. Frazier needs to learn how to play the odds, and he may have to learn within the next four games, to give Zygi Wilf a sign that he's making progress on the job.
Wilf takes losses hard, and I don't know if I've ever seen him more ashen-faced than when he left the lockerroom on Sunday. Frazier should take note.
The Wild had another comeback win on the road last night, beating Anaheim, and Josh Harding was outstanding in the third period.
The Wild now has more points than any other team in the NHL, but what I'm watching is the point total for the eighth-place team in the West. What's really important is for the Wild to make the playoffs, and it has an eight-point lead over the teams tied for eighth in the West.
As far as they've come, that doesn't give them a tremendous margin for error.
Their goals differential is plus-9, the fourth-best mark in the West. They're tied for sixth in the conference in goals scored. To stay near the top of the conference, they'll eventually have to score more goals.
So far, they have far exceeded expectations, and on a team without any true stars, it's hard not to give most of the credit to Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo.
About the only criticism remaining of Aaron Rodgers was that he has led relatively few fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, compared with the great quarterbacks with whom he statistically compares.
Did you see that drive on Sunday? It was surgical.
I've been saying all year that I think the Packers can go undefeated, not because they win easily every week, but because their offense seems to be able to score anytime it needs to.
What I wonder is if the mental wear and tear of trying to remain undefeated could cost the Packers in the playoffs. It's hard to play under pressure week after week.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today and every weekday with Reusse & Mackey.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
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