As the game got off to a very sloppy start, I thought that any other Viking team of the '00s would lose this game. As it turned out, this Viking game would too.
A team with one elite offensive player (Steve Smith) and one elite defensive player (Julius Peppers) might not be good enough for success over 16 games. What they can do, however, is hang with anyone an any given day. If those two players get hot (and Smith and Peppers were extremely hot against the Vikings), they can make plays offensively and defensively and disrupt anything an opponent might try to do.
This was an ugly, disgusting football game. The Vikings for some reason found no way to block Julius Peppers or scheme around him. The Panthers called very effective passing plays that allowed Matt Moore to find receivers. The Vikes got whipped on the road, at night, for the second time in three weeks. The run game was ineffective. The pass game was ineffective for a host of reasons (dropped passes, inaccurate throws, covered receivers, weak pass protection). The run defense was ineffective, and the pass defense was ineffective. It was an all-around miserable effort. If it weren't the second such game in three weeks, We could dismiss it as fluky. But the Vikes are starting to look like a lousy road team.
All three Viking losses have been on natural grass. So many of this team's talented players are effective with a speed game, and we've seen that game look much less effective on grass. If the Vikings do end up losing the #2 seed and have to go to, say, Philadelphia, they'll be in trouble. But if they get the #2 seed, they'll get to defend Thunderdome, and if they go anywhere, they go to New Orleans to play indoors. So that's something.
The day wasn't shot. The Packers lost and so the Vikings clinched their second straight NFC North division title. We'll get to see the Vikes with a home playoff game. And the Vikes don't have to be hot now; they need to get hot in 3-4 weeks.
Next week the Vikes travel to Chicago, a place where they've struggled even when they are the superior team to the Bears. Are the Vikings so good and the Bears so bad that this time will be different? It has to be.
It was a long week with a Viking game at the end of it, a green light across the water beckoning with hope. And now they don't play again until next Monday night. I feel lousy.
There's more to say, I'm sure, but I'll let you say it. The opposite of skol, Vikings. The opposite of skol.