After reading this Redskin fan's report of how things seem familiar for his team, it becomes clear why Viking fans are so ecstatic with last night's win.
Everything about the Viking game last night was unfamiliar.
First of all, they won a game on natural grass. For years, the Vikings simply didn't win outdoor football games (with the odd exception of Lambeau Field). That seems entirely in the past; these Vikings are built differently. I'm almost willing to believe the Vikings could win at Soldier Field this year. Almost.
The Vikes also showed a consistent ability to stop opposing offenses on 3rd down. Washington was just 4 for 13 on 3rd down attempts. I'm beginning to believe that my children will grow up in a world in which the Vikings play defense.
Clock Management was actually pretty good. Brad Johnson got the team in position for a field goal just before halftime that cut the deficit to 4. At the end of the game, Childress trusted the defense enough that he settled for a 3 point lead even though it would give Washington the ball with a minute left, rather than try for a TD that could have put the team up by 7 but would have given Washington longer to try tie it. It worked...barely (I'm hoping that when Dwight Smith returns to the lineup, opposing WRs won't get open so easily. Smoot, Winfield, and Sharper looked solid last night, but other members of the secondary were exposed).
And there was a real commitment to the running game. In a close game, the Vikings stuck with Chester Taylor running behind Steve Hutchinson, even though they didn't have a big average per rush. This looks like a team that wants to run the ball no matter what.
Other things look hopeful. Zero turnovers. Great pass protection. There were too many penalties, but Childress doesn't seem like a coach that will tolerate that for long. Nobody likes to see an extra point attempt bobbled away. But it is clear that these aren't the Vikings we've watched for the past several years. This is a team built not on speed and offensive fireworks but on toughness, discipline, and fundamentals.
Now the Vikes get to come home for two tough games against the Panther and then the Bears. The Vikings are starting the season against 3 2005 playoff teams (that also won 3 playoff games), but they've got a good shot at a 3-0 start (Steve Smith may still be limping and the Panthers may be overrated, the Vikes haven't lost to the Bears in the Dome since 2001, and I've got a lot of confidence in the Metrodome).