We have a ritual when it comes to big field goals from opposing teams: wait to see which spot on the field it is coming on, watch the kicker line up, visualize them missing a specific way and then hope that it happens (sometimes with a little hexing hand motion along the way).
We have no proof -- we watched yesterday's Vikings/Ravens game in the solitary confinement of our own home, at the conclusion of a weekend-long sports orgy that came partially as a result of all that was on, partially as a result of the RBBH being out of town and partially as a result of our own twisted priorities -- but when we saw the Ravens lining up for that 44-yarder yesterday, we said, "It's gonna be a pull."
And, of course, it was. Should the flight of a kicked ball (two, really, if we count Ryan Longwell's make inside of 2 minutes) dictate someone's mood for 24 hours? Probably not. Indeed, some people are savaging yesterday''s fourth quarter defensive meltdown and tossing around the L word quite a bit (lucky). But if there's one thing we've learned from playing hours of World Series of Poker on Playstation2 while working out on an elliptical machine, it is this: good players and teams need luck. They just need less of it than bad players and teams. The Vikings have won two games in dramatic, heart-pounding fashion this year. Both have involved a considerable amount of luck at the finish.
But let's also not forget that both games involved a considerable amount of bad luck to put them in those precarious positions. Brett Favre to Greg Lewis might never have happened if not for a rare blocked kick and perfect bounce at the end of the first half. The Ravens probably don't come all the way back if Antoine Winfield is healthy all game (not that CBS bothered to take note of his absence) or if the Vikings don't end up settling for field goals after long plays that looked like they were going all the way for TDs. As was the case against the 49ers, the Vikings were the better team for the majority of the day Sunday against a desperate and talented Baltimore squad. In fact, Minnesota has been the better team for the majority of all six games it has played this season. They have an offense that looks better almost every week (the Vikings have scored at least 27 points in every game this season). They have defensive playmakers that have erased deficiencies with big plays at key moments. Though that has yet to result in the playing of a perfect or even near-perfect game, it has resulted in a 6-0 record. That's not meant to gloss over the problems on defense, the concerns about injuries or the questions about play calling at times Sunday. But it was another game that wound up on the correct side of the win column. That's going to be vital at the end of the season. And the manner in which it was salvaged could be a positive, too, if Jared Allen is to be believed.
"Absolutely relieved," Allen said when asked to express his emotions. "You get disgusted if you lose that game. Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. You look at that fourth quarter and you say there is no way this is the same team that was playing the first three quarters. We had a little wake-up call. You've got to keep playing."
Our (partial) in-game e-mail exchange with author, blogger, Vikings fan and travel itinerary non-checker Drew Magary during the game:
DM: Not bad. (12:07)
RB: That third down pass just now was vintage Favre. I mean that in a good and a bad way, but he zipped that thing into traffic. He's going to make Sidney Rice a pretty [redacted] good player. (12:22)
DM: This is impressive (12:24)
RB: I don't expect that every time, but those two series are about as well as I can imagine the offense functioning. (12:27)
DM: MASON PUSHED OFF! (1:05)
RB: I didn't hate it as much on the replay, but I would have taken that call. (1:06)
RB: Stop jumping off-sides [redacted]. (1:23) RB: What the [redacted] was that? (3:00)
DM: WHERE IS WINFIELD? (3:03)
RB: Exactly. Thanks for nothing, CBS. (3:11)
DM: Seriously, how can they ignore that. IT'S [REDACTED] WINFIELD! (3:14)
RB: Woooooo! (3:20)
DM: Phew! HATED PLAYING FOR THE FIELD GOAL. (3:20)
RB: Me too. Didn't think it would hold up with the way Flacco was shredding them. (3:21)
It's going to be a ride all year. Maybe the Vikings are a good team with a little luck on their side. There are far worse fates than that for a fan.