Skol: Vikings 31, Seahawks 13
--The Vikings scored on their first possession for the sixth straight game, but they have never had 7 on the first drive: they had a TD and missed PAT, and five field goals.
--Things looked scary when Matt Hasselbeck masterfully read the Minnesota blitz, called an audible, and baited the Vikes for a short pass on 3rd and long that turned into an easy 72 yard TD catch. But the Vikes buckled down; Hasselbeck ended up leading the Seahawks to just three more points before getting hurt in the 3rd quarter. Throughout the game the Vikes were great on 1st and 2nd down, forcing the Seahawks into a lot of 3rd and longs, and they settled down and started stopping them on the 3rd downs.
--The Vikings are lucky that they faced the Seahawks without Alexander, and without Hasselbeck for the last 25 minutes (replays on WCCO's Sunday sports show clearly show Mack Strong pushed Henderson into Hasselbeck, by the way). However, they did just win a road game at difficult road stadium (12 straight wins, 14 with playoffs) against a 4-1 opponent, they were up 17-10 before Seneca Wallace stepped onto the field, and as far as I know the Seahawks weren't missing any important defenders.
--Agent Smith #83 was a complete non-factor. I'll have to watch the tape to see how the Vikes defended him (I'm guessing Fred Smoot was lights out). Agent Smith #81, who was a Viking before his cloning, did nothing. Agent Smith #82 repeatedly hurt the Vikings, but after that first mistake play, they handled him fairly well. The secondary came to play. They were aided, of course, by the monstrous defensive line and a group of linebackers that is tremendously improved from last season. E.J. Henderson (who I repeatedly refer to as Ed McDaniel without realizing it in conversation) is having his best season as a Viking. Add to the day another defensive touchdown thanks to an opportunistic Ben Leber, and the Viking defense is looking like a top-5 defense. I never though the Vikings would be spoken of as having the longest streak without giving up a 100 yard rusher; it's been 17 or 18 games.
--The Vikes have a really exciting return game now; Bethel Johnson shows some real spark returning kickoffs, and Mewelde Moore has proven to be a capable punt returner.
Johnson may find himself on the field for the offense.
--Obviously the Viking offense had its best game, and it should be noted that all three offensive touchdowns were unlikely plays. Brad Johnson hit Marcus Robinson for a 40 yard touchdown on 3rd and 18; not only is it tough to complete a long pass on that down and distance, but if it were not completed, the Vikes would be punting (I think; Childress is a wild man who went for it on 4th and 7 early, so who knows). On 3rd and goal from the 15, when a normal pass or run would fail the overwhelming majority of the time, Childress showed some creativity by calling a halfback pass, which worked wonderfully. And then Chester Taylor had the longest offensive play in FRANCHISE HISTORY, a 95 yard TD run. I doubt many Viking fans believed Taylor would be fast enough to outrun the entire Seattle defense (though at the end he had to use the Tecmo Bowl angle to hold off Boulware). We already knew Taylor would be a good bruiser, but when a player goes for a 95 yard run, he is basically showing that he is a threat to score on any play (also, I think I have now seen that play 95 times. I think I'll call it Chester Taylor's 95 Theses). Johnson's passes, usually accurate, showed some zip on Sunday. He was able to throw hard and throw far, and was hurt by some Travis Taylor (ugh) drops. There's no question that Marcus Robinson is currently the Vikings' best threat in the passing game.
--Clearly this is the sort of game that can give Viking fans hope. I doubt many prognosticators had the Vikes at 4-2 at this point, and they're an incredible (for them) 2-1 on the road (and all three games were outdoors!). And it's not like they eeked out another close win with mundane offense; they showed some real creativity, aggressiveness, precision, and skill in the offensive game. The Vikes played very strong defense, had a solid offensive day, had a solid special teams day, and had no turnovers. This was ON THE ROAD against a 4-1 team. At this point I have no idea what to expect from the Vikings week to week, but I certainly don't expect them to lay many duds.
With 2 touchdown passes and 0 interceptions, Brett Favre is now 15 away from catching the greatest quarterback of all-time's TD record, and remains 17 interceptions away from catching a guy that once threw 42 interceptions in a season. I am, of course, seething the entire time. I feel like I've never seen "the good guys" win: the Vikes have never even made it to the Super Bowl in my lifetime, I've never voted for the eventual president, and now Favre is going to break Dan Marino's record.
Why the Vikings should never play at 3:15
In the anxiety of watching football but waiting for the Vikings, I orchestrated the first 10 player trade in our league's history that becomes official later this week. I will be trading Randy Moss, Troy Williamson, Deshaun Foster, DeAngelo Williams, Jake Delhomme, Owen Daniels, the Cowboy Defense and the Panther Kicker for Shaun Alexander and the Cincinnati Kicker (by the way, in our league we neither want to learn kickers' names nor worry about their injuries, so we draft team kickers and score as such).
Around the League
--I maintain that Peyton Manning is the best player in the NFL, and I hope this is the year he finally gets the Colts into the Super Bowl (where, of course, I hope they lose to the VIkings 73-0).
--The NFC got more cluttered over the weekend, as the Vikings and Falcons improved to 4-2, the Panthers and Eagles fell to 4-3, the Seahawks fell to 4-2 and after Monday the Giants and Cowboys will be 4-2 and 3-3 (or perhaps 3-2-1 each, which would of course be more fun). The Bears (6-0), Rams (4-2), and Saints (5-1) were all on bye. It now looks to me like there will be 9 NFC teams with between 8 and 10 wins.
--The Buccaneers are a scary team. They're not nearly good enough to manage their way into the playoffs, but they're not nearly bad enough to be an easy win for any of their opposition. They should knock off a few NFC playoff contenders on their way to 6 or 7 wins.
--I have no idea what to make of Jacksonville, and neither do you.
I'm finally ready to comment on UCLA football, and here is that comment:
It's almost basketball season.
Addendum #1: The Vikings are 4-2 without having much meaningful production from any rookies. Cedric Griffin has played the most, and Ray Edwards and Greg Blue have had some meaningful playing time. Chad Greenway is injured and Nate Cook and Tarvaris Jackson haven't played. I'm looking at this as a good thing; these are still players that will help the Vikings in the future (including later in this season), but right now they don't need them that much. Hopefully they made their picks for long-term impact.