One & Done.
by, 01-18-2010 at 12:21 AM (931 Views)
As the regular season closed, the Minnesota Vikings looked like a team lost. I was genuinely concerned about their chances in the playoffs against the elite football teams of the NFL. I felt that the Vikings would need solid performances to close the regular season and to open the playoffs before my brain would allow me to believe that this squad had what it takes to win a Super Bowl.
With that said, let's roll it back to Sunday December 6th. The Vikings were 10-1 and in firm control of the NFC North as well as the #2 seed in the playoffs. Headed to a showdown with the division leading and NFC champion Arizona Cardinals. Needless to say, the Cardinals laid a whupping on the Vikings that STILL stings. It was an old fashioned butt kicking that made me think twice about the Super Bowl potential of this squad. I think the thing that bothered me the most was how the front lines were manhandled by the Cardinals. It wasn't just one side of the ball either. The Vikings' defensive line could get NO pressure on Warner. Meanwhile, the Cardinals' defensive line was getting to Favre time and again. It was a real wake up call for me and I hoped the Vikings.
Since it was only a single game and the Vikings had another potential playoff team on the schedule, I hoped that a domination of the Cincinnati Bengals would get the Vikings on the right track. Fortunately for me, the Vikings were able to find their groove again and put the hammer down on the Bengals. That win put me back in the frame of mind that this team may be able to make some serious noise come playoff time.
The following week I was more than confident that the Vikings would be able to put away a flailing Carolina team that was stumbling to a terrible season. Add in the fact that Carolina was starting a QB no one had ever heard of, this seemed like an easy win. As Chris Berman is apt to say though, "That's why they play the games." Boy was he right. Again, the Vikings lines were flat out destroyed. This time instead of Bertrand Berry in red it was Julius Peppers in teal. Peppers has pretty much mailed in this season until that game against the Vikings when he decided that it was time to start playing football. He dominated Bryant McKinnie so much that McKinnie was eventually benched. A PRO BOWL lineman. Benched. I was stunned. Even more unbelievable was the fact that at the time the Panthers were 5-8 coming into that game. Again, I was very concerned that now this is a second time that the Vikings had been dominated in the trenches.
If I see something once, I can chalk it up to an anomaly but if I see it twice, I have to ask if this is a trend. And, yeah, I believed it was a trend.
Next up was the 5-9 Chicago Bears. I was fairly certain that this is just what the doctor ordered for this Viking team. They needed to play a team that was weak in the trenches and that is what they got in the Bears. However, the game played out and, again, the Bears were able to pressure Favre time and again with their front four. Something that I had not seen the Bears do all year long sans the Packer games. Now, this was the third time that I was watching the Vikings get manhandled in the trenches and if once is an anomaly, twice is a trend, then, thrice is obviously a pattern. After the Vikings lost to the Bears in Chicago, I was forced to reevaluate this team under the most critical eye to ascertain if what I was seeing was the real team exposed or if something else was going on.
After consideration, I determined that in order for me to believe in this team again it was going to take two consecutive performances that left no doubt as to who the better team on the field was. The fact that the second of those victories was going to be against a playoff team and, possibly, a division winner did not matter. If the Vikings were deserving a Super Bowl consideration this should not be an impossible task.
First up, the New York Giants. Final score: 44-7. This was the complete dominance that I was looking for. Yes, the Giants were circling the drain at this point in the season but good teams are SUPPOSED to pound bad teams. And that is exactly what happened in week 17 for the Vikings. They effectively & methodically obliterated the Giants on both sides of the ball. I was pleased to see this but I wasn't convinced. I wanted to see the Vikings do the same thing to a quality playoff opponent.
Next up: Dallas Cowboys. Probably the hottest team in the NFC. The same Cowboys that went into New Orleans and ended the Saints' bid for perfection. The same Cowboys that lit up the Eagles two consecutive weeks. I believed this would be the test that I was seeking. Even as the game approached, I was unsure if I could watch it because if the Vikings weren't Super Bowl caliber WITH Farve, then, this entire Favre signing would do nothing but be a waste.
Game on and the Cowboys' first series is very successful. They're gashing the Vikings' front with ease and I am beginning to see the dominating victory I was seeking fall to pieces. Then, Edwards forces a Romo fumble at the Viking 38 yard line. Disaster averted only to have the Cowboy defense force a punt after 3 plays. Another solid drive by the Cowboys and they run out of steam at the Viking 30 yard line. Thankfully, Suisham misses a 47 yard FG that would have drawn first blood.
At this point, I am pulling for the Viking offense to wake up and put together a drive that would keep the Cowboy offense off of the field. The Cowboys moved the ball extremely well and at that point I was convinced that the Vikings best opportunity to win was gonna be keeping the ball out of Romo's hands.
4 plays in the next Viking possession, TOUCHDOWN! Right now, I am feeling good about the game. Especially since Sensabaugh never found the ball but this also concerns me because it was obviously a blown coverage that is totally correctable.
Cowboys drive the field again and finally get the 3 points that eluded them earlier when Suisham missed.
Now, this possession is when I begin to feel some confidence. The Vikings drive the field, 80 yards in total, to score their second touchdown of the game to take a 14-3 lead.
The best part about this touchdown is that Rice put DeMarcus Ware on the ground, ad libbed, got open in the seam, Farve found him and Rice walked into the end zone. This was not design. This is heads up play by a young WR.
The Vikings added a field goal before the half was over to extend their lead to 17-3.
The second half the Cowboys did not score so there is no need to continue a play-by-play but there it was... A second consecutive win in dominating fashion over a division winner.
So, am I confident heading into New Orleans? To a very loud Superdome when the Vikings have played poorly on the road. Yeah, a bit.
What I know is this... If this team shows up in New Orleans like it did today in Minnesota, the Vikings will have done everything in their power to win and that is all I can ask.
The best part is, there were several posters on the board that were spouting off their opinion about the Vikings chances in the playoffs. Now, I get that everyone is entitled to their opinion but I feel that to be a valid opinion that opinion should be accompanied by some facts. Suffice it to say, many posters around here simply said, "One and done."
I am very happy that the Vikings were not "one and done."
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