Sunday was a very good day for Vikings fans. If there was lingering tension about a late-season slide following a narrow but troubling loss at Carolina the previous week, that feeling was wiped away quickly in a 34-7 thrashing of the Bengals.
They even got Teddy Bridgewater into the game — a moment that will be remembered as heartwarming but could have practical merit if anything happens to Case Keenum down the stretch. Aren't you glad that Bridgewater's first pass attempt came in a meaningless game where he could work out any jitters instead of a time when potentially the stakes were much higher?
If you're a Vikings fan who shut off the TV shortly after 3 p.m. and didn't watch any more football the rest of the day, football made sense and made you happy Sunday. If you kept watching through the afternoon and evening, the NFL became bizarre and bad.
The Steelers lost 27-24 to New England because a Pittsburgh touchdown in the closing seconds was overturned because of the NFL's absurd catch rule. Jesse James caught a pass from Ben Roethlisberger around the 1-yard line, had his knee hit the ground, crossed the goal line with a lunge and had the ball move a little as it hit the ground.
In a fair and reasonable world, where the rule does not require you to catch the ball, take 17 steps and then pull out a staple gun and adhere the ball to your chest to make sure it doesn't move, this would have stood as a touchdown. But the NFL's catch rule, which is topped in its arcane complexity only in its unpopularity, turned it into an incomplete pass upon further review.
The call could very well determine home-field advantage in the AFC between the Steelers and Patriots, which could influence which team is coming to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl.
• If that wasn't enough, there was this: "Sunday Night Football." Dallas and Oakland were tied 17-17 late. Dallas decided to go for it on 4th-and-1 from its own 39. Dak Prescott did a quarterback sneak. Officials spotted the ball — a task that is basically impossible in terms of a perfectly precise measure of where it should be. It was very close. They brought out the chains. It still was very close.
Official Gene Steratore took out a folded index card to see if he could fit it between the ball and the chain pole. It seemed to prove nothing, but the Cowboys were awarded the first down, and afterward Steratore had the guts to tell a pool reporter that the card didn't make the decision — it only reaffirmed what he could see from looking at the ball and the pole.
All I will say about that is this: Those who proclaim the loudest that they are correct are often those in the most danger of being incorrect.
Dallas used the new life to drive for a go-ahead field goal that held up as the game-deciding play.
Folks, I don't know how this Vikings/NFL season is going to end. The dream of many Minnesotans is for the Vikings to finally win a Super Bowl, and to be the first NFL team to do so in their home stadium.
Short of that, let's at least hope that this Vikings season is not decided by a folded up index card or some interpretation of what is or isn't a catch.