Monday, January 25, 2010

Farewell (sort of, for now)

six updates below

During the Vikings-Saints game, I felt more physical anxiety than I've ever felt during a game. I couldn't eat: my stomach was too fluttery (after the game I was famished). In the fourth quarter my lower arms started tingling. Late in the fourth quarter when it looked like they had a shot, water would fill up my eyes. The anxiety while the game was in doubt was intense.

So why, the day after, am I just going about life? I'm distraught, but why don't I feel an awful sense of spiritual emptiness? But I know why. It's simple.

I've been here before.

The feeling today is just so familiar. Once again, the Vikings are not going to win the Super Bowl this year. Once again, a potentially great Viking season ends in the most heart-rending way possible. I can deal with these feelings because I know them. If they had won last night, I'd be grinning like a psychotic all day, and I wouldn't even know what to do with the emotions I would be feeling. But this? I know this. I've been here.

Things could go two ways. You know, 10+ years from now my kids might be getting their hopes up for the Viking season (assuming, of course, the Vikes don't relocate, the dread of which has been the undertone of this season's desperation), and they'll see signs that this could be the year. And I'll have to decide: do I let them feel their mad hope, or do I try to remind them that this is the Vikings, that they'll never actually win the Super Bowl, and believing they can will just leave them with disappointment? Even if it's not my kids, there will be a whole new generation of Viking fans that have merely heard of the '09 NFC Championship, for whom the '98 NFC Championship predates their birth (they'll learn about those things, perhaps, the same way I learned about the '75 Hail Mary game, from my dad and uncle and whole hosts of Viking fans who have never gotten over it). Will I be the old Viking crank? Or will I smile at their youthful exuberance? I fear it will be the former: a few weeks ago my nephew brazenly told me the Vikings were going to win the Super Bowl. You're young, I told him--you'll learn not to be quite so hopeful. But then, I was smiling as I told him that. I won't be the one to tear down the splendid dreams and passionate hopes of the young. Let them dream, let them hope.

But I fear they will relocate, and then who knows what will become of us.

I should be so lucky as to spend the next 50+ years being disappointed by the Vikings. But if they move to L.A., leaving us alone, even winning championships there (like the Lakers), then what? Then what?

That 12 men in the huddle penalty might have cost the Vikings a championship. And not winning a championship this year might cost Minnesota the Vikings.

After this season, what can only be remembered as the Favre season, how do we recover the passion? I can't stomach the thought of the free agency period. I'll want to know who the Vikings draft, but I don't want to watch the draft. I don't want to blog through a training camp, reading articles about who is playing well and such. I don't want to blog for a week one regular season game. Not after this NFC Championship game. Not after being in position for a field goal attempt to take the Vikings to the Super Bowl. Not after all those turnovers ruined it all. Not after a freaking overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game. I can't get that passion aroused again--at least, not yet. Or maybe I just don't want to. It's not that I'm going to try will myself into becoming a "casual fan." It's just that I don't want to write about it anymore. I don't want all the periods of waiting. I don't want to devote all that time and energy (mental and emotional) again, just to have this happen again. In fact, I'll be preparing for fantasy football by purchasing a magazine a week or two before the draft (Hazelweirders know that, though practiced by more than half the league, this is a much laughed at strategy). I want to follow it all--I just don't want to develop ideas about it all. I don't want to write and organize, look at statistics or read speculation. And those sorts of things are rather a necessity for a football blogger, aren't they? I just don't have another offseason in me. And I think when the season starts, I just want to watch the games and try enjoy them, not try write about them afterward.

I still might want to write about the inane, the absurd, and the tragic of what it is to be a Viking fan. But that's something other than writing about the team regularly, and not anything anybody should want to stick around to read.

If you want, you can think of me like Tom Joad or like Abed dressed as Batman on Halloween. Wherever a Viking fan is pacing the room nervously, I'll be there. Wherever fans try to convince themselves the Vikes can overcome an obvious weakness, I'll be there. Wherever two people are discussing the merits of the Vikings' nickel backs, I'll be there. Wherever a Viking fan tries to talk him/herself into a mediocre quarterback, I'll be there. Wherever a person panics during conventional special teams plays, I'll be there. Wherever people are planning their weeks around when the Vikings play, I'll be there. Whenever a Viking fan despairs that the Green Bay Packers will win a 13th championship before the Vikings win their first, I'll be there. Wherever somebody reads a work of literature then forces an explanation of what it means to Viking fans, I'll be there. Whenever somebody gets entangled in an absurd or tragic conversation about the Vikings, I'll be there.

I feel a great desire to spend my time watching my favorite sitcoms. They never disappoint me.

If I watch Seinfeld, or Arrested Development, or Curb Your Enthusiasm, I know what I'm going to get. I'm going to laugh. I'm going to enjoy myself immensely. I'm not going to feel like the fates reached into my chest to grab my heart. I'm not going to feel like Poseidon kicked me in the nuts. I'm not going to struggle to fall asleep that night.

How I Met Your Mother may put it off and stretch it out for as long as they can, but eventually, Ted is going to meet his kids' mother (I told this to my wife and she said the show could get canceled unexpectedly before they get a chance for him to meet her. I found that implausible, so she pointed out that one of the actors could die. "Ted could die, Joe," she said. She said this. So watch out, Josh Radnor: a Viking fan is rooting for you to live).

Or I could say it this way: the 2009 NFC Championship Game drove me from blogging.

This needs to be said before I go. If as a fan you've witnessed your favorite team win a championship, and you're mocking fans of a team that has never won championships, and you're reveling in their misery and rubbing it in during the moment of their heartbreak, you're being a bully. There's no other way to say it. It's the haves making fun of the have-nots, and wanting them to stay have-nots.

You all know I hate the Packers, but remember: I hate them as a fan of a team with zero championships loathing a team that has won 12 championships. You better believe I dislike the Saints right now, but if their fans get to celebrate a title, then good for them, and if they suffer heartbreak, I won't be there to make fun of them for it. And if I ever have been in that role, I apologize.

To all those other long-suffering fans out there, I feel a deep kinship with some of you, though we've never met. May you be given what you are looking for. May you experience the great joy you long for. I may not root for your team, but I root for you.

They were really setting up for the game-winning field goal, weren't they?

So this is likely my last blog post here (though I'm a flake, and this retirement could be a Favre retirement). Thanks for reading.

The dream is dead. Long live the dream. Endure it. And someday, maybe, just maybe...skol.

My emotions are pretty raw, and thoughts are still coming to me. I'll update here throughout the week, and then it is my intent to at least take the offseason of blogging off (at least).

Addendum 1
I realized another reason I went from sickly anxious to relatively calm. While the game was still going on, it was the dread and hope of what could be. When the game was over, it immediately went into our canon of suffering.

Addendum 2
Packer fans have endured some very tough playoff defeats in the '00s, notably against the Eagles in '03 (4th and 26), the Giants in '07 (home NFC title game loss in overtime), and the Cardinals in '09 (you remember). But I would like Packer fans to try a mental game.

Imagine that, in your past, the '96 Packers had lost in the NFC Championship Game, and that Lombardi's Packers had lost those first two Super Bowls.

Imagine that is your team's history. Now imagine 4th and 26. Now imagine the '07 NFC title game. Now imagine that Cardinals game.

That is what it means to be a Viking fan.

Addendum 3
As the week has gone on, I've just gotten more and more sad. We were so close. Despite all the turnovers (without which we might have won handily), the game was tied, we had the ball, and we were driving, we were even setting up for the game-winning field goal (I trust Longwell indoors from 50-51 yards for a game-winner). And it was lost. We had the game tied and were setting up for a game-winning score, and now the Saints are in the Super Bowl and we've got another heart-breaker on the list.

When I step outside into a Minnesota January, I feel we are forsaken. If it didn't happen in the Bud Grant era, and it didn't happen in '98 (oh so close), and it didn't happen in '09 (oh so close), why shouldn't we give up hope? Why shouldn't we despair?

Addendum 4
I felt the most distraught during the game; as the week has gone on, my distress has decreased exponentially. Why? Because the game has moved into the realm of history. For me, history takes on the aura of inevitability, if not, of course, the reality of inevitability. It is now recorded and written--what happened is what happened.

That I think of the Vikings in somewhat literary terms contributes; it is as if the team is a combination of Greek Tragedy and Absurdist Drama (come see "The Minnesota Vikings," a collaboration of Sophocles and Beckett). Think about reading Romeo and Juliet. You might read it thinking Romeo and Juliet were so close to being together, that things were so close to being alright, that merely some bad luck and bad timing came between a happy ending. But the play is a tragedy written almost 400 years ago--Romeo and Juliet have never had their happy ending, and they've been playing out that so close drama for centuries. King Lear is tragic and depressing, but I'm more moved by the nihilistic despair of the play than by feeling for the fate of the characters: it is literature, it is intended as tragedy, and the sad demise of Lear and Cordelia cannot but be as it is. Quite obviously the '09 Vikings' season was not destined to its ending as a 400 year old work of literature is destined to its ending, but after a few days, that's now how it feels to me.

So while the Vikings could have, should have, and nearly did, win the 2009 NFC Championship Game, as time goes on it becomes a fixed Drama that can only end the way it did.

Addendum 5
Bill Simmons contributes to the conversation, with a great deal relevant to the comments thread discussions here and a great many parallels to what I've written about here.

Addendum 6
And I'm off on hiatus. Thank you for the many intelligent comments in this thread, both the complimentary and the critical. You have convinced me not to permanently abandon this blog; I now intend to return around August. Between now and then, if there is giant team news, or if I have any dreams about the team, or if any thoughts come to me that are insightful or amusing, I might post (but don't check regularly, as it won't be very regular at all). I was ready to turn away, but a few days going by and a lot of good thoughts in the discussion make me think it won't be permanent. Thanks for pulling me back.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


I know this is going to sound really, really stupid, really, really melodramatic, but I'm half-serious.

Viking fans, go to a mirror. Look at yourself. Say these words.

"It's not my fault."

All you do is root for the Minnesota Vikings. All you do is invest emotional energy in the team. You can't do anything about them. It's not your fault that the players decided a fun contest for the NFC Championship game would be to see who could commit the most devastating turnover. It's not your fault that while in position for a long game-winning field goal attempt, the team committed an inexplicable 12 men in the huddle penalty, pushing the team back, leading to the QB forcing something to try gain some yardage back.

We just root. We know they'll disappoint us--we just add this game to the list. It's telling how much we've been through when we might actually have to debate whether this was the most heart-breaking loss in team history; it might actually rank THIRD (you tell me: is this worse than the '75 Hail Mary, or the '98 Gary Anderson game?). Every decade Viking fans get a gut-wrenching defeat. We just endure. It's not our fault.

We can still put on the purple clothes with pride, maybe even more pride. We endure. If you have Packer fan friends that want to mock you, just pull that Viking hat down a little lower and grimace. We deserve to have pride in our stoic endurance. We don't lose the games ourselves; we're just the ones that cry when the losses happen.

Then go hug somebody you love. Get up in the morning and remember it was just a football game, and that they're just a football team. Notice that the sun still rose, and go out and live your life however you live it. In two weeks, maybe you find the Super Bowl too painful to watch, or maybe you watch it anyway (a 55-0 Colt win would make me one iota happier). But just make sure to hug somebody.

Endure. We are Viking fans.

The dream is dead. Long live the dream.

How many oh-so-close moments can a fanbase take before we collectively give up? How many more of these moments do we need to endure? It gets harder and harder to get up in the morning and put on purple.



On the day of this day

For me, this barely feels like football anymore. It's something else. It's indescribable.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I believe in Reason. I scoff at superstition. Mostly.

After consultation, it was determined that tomorrow I should wear the same shirt that I wore last Sunday (my AP 296 t-shirt). So after wearing a different Viking shirt every day for 13 consecutive days, I will be doubling up for the first time in two weeks. But there's a good feeling about that AP t-shirt. It will be joined by Viking socks (they have holes in them, so I wear my peace socks underneath them), Viking boxers, Viking pajama pants, and maybe an undershirt (peace undersocks worked well, so a peace undershirt might help, too). When I go outside it will be with a Viking stocking cap.

I should note that I am an adult raising two children, and I have a job teaching at a university.

Are you superstitious? What are you currently doing to stave off insanity?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Game Away from the Super Bowl

You don't need a game preview from me. There are only two games this weekend, so there are all sorts of sportswriters that can offer you game previews (I can fit it all in a parentheses: again rush the passer, again tackle well, and against the Saints' vulnerable run defense, this can be Adrian Peterson's playoff game to finally take over).

And you don't need me to tell you what this means, though I'll remind you. In their 49th season, the Vikings have never won a championship. They are 0-4 in the Super Bowl. They haven't even been to the Super Bowl since the 1976 season. Since the Minneapolis Lakers moved, Minnesota pro sports teams have won just two championships (the '87 and '91 Twins), and Minnesota's pro teams haven't even reached the championship round since the '91 World Series.

And you don't need me to tell you that the window to win a championship might not extend beyond this season, for a whole host of reasons. This is the Vikings' last best shot to win it all. You probably don't need me to tell you that I'm experiencing physical anxiety, that if I spend too much time dwelling on it I'll get nauseous, and that I'm fluctuating between the same emotions of hope and fear that you probably are, too.

Our beloved Minnesota Vikings are a game away from the Super Bowl. We've been here before. We can hope that this time things will be different. We can hope that this is the year that changes everything.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What This Could Mean

With a 407-326-9 record, with a winning percentage of .555, with 26 playoff appearances, with nine appearances in the NFL/NFC Championship Game, with four trips to the Super Bowl, the Minnesota Vikings are one of the most successful franchises in the league. It is, of course, incomplete. The Vikings have never won a championship. They are 0-4 in the Super Bowl. They have a proud tradition, a wonderful history, but no titles. It is a history both rich and empty

That's what this is about. We're going to learn if the story of the Minnesota Vikings is an Epic Quest, or some sort of Modernist novel about the futility of human existence. Winning a Super Bowl would be the capstone. Losing now would be one more oh-so-close moment for a franchise filled to overflowing with oh-so-close moments.

This might be another story about coming close but missing out. But this can be a story about redemption. Winning the Super Bowl could mean redeeming the 0-4 Super Bowl record. It could mean redeeming the ending of '75, of '87, of '98, of '00, of '03. It could change everything.

That's what this is about. That's what it means.

For the Fans

On Sunday, the Vikings played their last game in the Metrodome during what has been a dream season. Brett Favre quite likely played in his last game ever in the Metrodome during what has been a dream experience.

I see the Vikings' late touchdown pass as a bow to the fans: a thank you, and a last chance for the Thunderdome crowd to show its appreciation.

It's possible that Sunday is the last time the Minnesota Vikings will ever make their fans happy. I don't think they ran up the score, but came out for their bow.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


The overwhelming impression I take from the Vikes' 34-3 victory isn't Brett Favre throwing four touchdown passes (though that was awesome), or Sidney Rice catching three touchdown passes (though that was spectacular). The memory I'll keep of this game is quite simple:

The pass rush.

When the Vikings weren't sacking Tony Romo behind the line of scrimmage, they were forcing him to scramble, making him hurry throws, disrupting his timing, and hitting him as he threw. When the initial pass rusher couldn't hit the mobile Romo, he at least chased him away where another pass rusher could get to him. Over and over again, the Cowboys couldn't provide a real offensive threat because the Vikings (particularly everybody on the line: Ray Edwards especially, but also Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, Jared Allen, Brian Robison, and Jimmy Kennedy) were constantly in the backfield making it difficult for the Cowboys to run successful plays, and setting the Cowboys back in bad down and distance situations. The Viking offense made plays to get a lead, but it was the Viking defense that kept the Vikings in total control of the game, because Dallas couldn't mount any sort of comeback with Viking defensive linemen constantly bursting into the backfield.

When the Vikings pressure a quarterback like they did today, they are virtually unbeatable. They are also a joy to watch.

The Vikings are one game away from the Super Bowl. We'll need that pass rush to get us there. I trust Brett Favre. I think Adrian Peterson will get holes to run through. But we'll need the Vikings to rush Drew Brees to contain the Saints' offense.


Vikings 34, Cowboys 3 (ESPN Box Score)

Vikings 34, Cowboys 3 !!!

The Minnesota Vikings saved their best defensive performance for the playoffs. Against a "red hot" team that was being picked by many, many pundits to win this game, the Viking defense shut the Dallas Cowboys down. With Bud Grant and Prince looking on and FOX of course insisting on showing Drew Pearson pushing off, the Vikings crushed the Dallas Cowboys.

The pass rush was relentless, coming from all directions and all sorts of players. It wasn't one player dominating: how often did one pass rusher make Tony Romo scramble so that another pass rusher could hit him? We saw plays behind the line of scrimmage from Ray Edwards, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Jimmy Kennedy, Brian Robison, and more.

The tackling was superb: Dallas was unable to make big plays by catching and running. Viking linebackers and defensive backs were generally superb at taking Cowboy runners to the ground. The Cowboys also never had a successful kick or punt return: the Viking coverage and tackling was outstanding.

Brett Favre threw seven passes to Sidney Rice, and Rice caught six passes for 141 yards and three touchdowns. On the two long catches, Rice was closely but poorly covered, and Favre threw perfect passes and Rice made what must have been difficult catches look easy. Rice continues to prove himself to be an elite wide receiver. For Brett Favre, a season in which he had another 30 TD season, another 4,000 yard season, another 12 win season, another division title, and his first 100 rating season, he also gets a playoff win against the Dallas Cowboys.

The Minnesota Vikings advance to the NFL/NFC Championship Game for the ninth time in franchise history. Today is a joyous day. Let us hope it is not finished.

Skol, my friends.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

the playoffs are for horror.


Tom Powers is probably right (Pioneer Press):

"The fans are a wreck. They give off an odd vibe. On one hand, they've allowed themselves to get excited about the chances of this really being 'the year.' On the other, they half expect something terrible to happen. There is fatalism at work here. No question, Vikings fans are the new Red Sox fans. They wake up each day expecting disaster. There is a gloom over the happiest of circumstances."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

PV's Cowboys-Vikings Preview

The 2008 Vikings made the playoffs with Tarvaris Frerotte playing quarterback. The 2009 Vikings didn't get Brett Favre to make the playoffs again: they got him to win playoff games. This is it. This is what it was all supposed to be about. This is the Vikings' chance to go to their first Super Bowl since the 1976 season, and to win their first Super Bowl ever. And it starts with winning one home game against a very good Dallas team that does well in just about every aspect of the game.

2009 Vikings
2009 Cowboys

Offensive things for the Vikings
Screens. The Cowboys have a good pass rush, and Brett Favre is good at screen plays. This seems like an excellent game to call a lot of passes to Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson, forcing the issue with Dallas's linebackers and defensive backs, making them make plays.

Running the Ball. Yes, the Vikings have been most successful when throwing the ball well this season. But the Cowboys' four game winning streak came against teams that lacked the commitment or ability to run the ball. Adrian Peterson is the best running back the Cowboys will have seen this season, and the Vikings need to use him effectively.

Protect the passer. I think that if you give Brett Favre time to find a receiver, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, and Visanthe Shiancoe will get open and the Vikes will move the ball through the air. In my view the Vikings are effective with long passing and short passing, so if Favre is given time, the Vikes can take whatever the Cowboys are leaving open.

Defensive things for the Vikings
Discipline. The Cowboys run a lot of draws and fake draws. They run a lot of bubble screens, and they'll try to get running backs off tackle. They have a quarterback that can move. The Vikings defense (the scheme and the players) need to make sure they don't get drawn out of position.

Tackling. The Cowboys will get the ball to their playmakers in space: it is critical that the Vikings make open field tackles. Make the Cowboys sustain drives and convert first downs: don't give up big plays due to poor tackling.

Play well in the red zone. The Cowboys were 2nd in the league in offensive yards (ranking 6th in passing yards and 7th in rushing yards), yet they ranked only 14th in points scored. 2nd to 14th seems like a big disconnect: those numbers suggest the Cowboys are excellent and moving the ball but merely average at scoring points.

Cover the pass coverage weaknesses. The Vikes' vulnerability against the pass are the safeties and middle linebacker--the Vikes need to scheme to protect them.

Some other things
The Cowboy and Viking defense were tied for 26th in the league with only 11 interceptions. Brett Favre threw just seven interceptions all year, Tony Romo just nine. Both Favre and Romo have been known to throw interceptions, though, so the trends could break. Which way the trend breaks could determine the outcome.

If it comes down to a final kick, the Vikings have reliable Ryan Longwell, and the Cowboys have the less than reliable Shaun Suisham. Suisham could very well make a game winner if it comes down to one kick. But his lack of reliability also might lead the Cowboys into riskier options, like going for it on fourth down or pressing for a touchdown when a field goal could be got.

The Viking pass rush has been superb at home. Last week, the Cowboys were at home and still managed to commit stupid penalties, let the play clock wind down, etc. The Thunderdome noise can make a difference.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


For most of the season, I thought I would be undone by the interminable suspense during the playoff period. However, I'm rather relishing this time before the Vikes' first playoff game. The reason is simple: as long as the Vikes are still alive in the playoffs, there's hope. If they lose, there's despair. Right now I can live with hope.

But I do know that Sunday morning will be a long, suspenseful period, and that I will be experiencing intense physical anxiety during the entire game (the best way I can describe the feeling I get during close Viking games: my stomach turns into a vacuum, and my heart is fluttering around as if ready to fall into that vacuum). I expect it to be dreadful during this year's playoff games.

Viking fans: how are your nerves doing?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Midweek Blizzard

In case you didn't notice, the buzz word for the Cowboys right now is "red hot." I hear it on TV so often that I wonder if the candy is paying for product placements. I mean, look at this.

Anyway, I'm wearing a different Vikings shirt every day this week, hoping to be rewarded for my faith. Sunday is going to be a nerve-wracking day.

The Viking future

I've written about my sense of desperation, as this certainly feels like the Vikings' last best chance to win a Super Bowl, for a lot of reasons (40 year old QB, the Packers' youth, the possibility of relocation during this decade).

But there's another perspective here, too. Next year the Vikings will still have two Hall of Fame quality defensive linemen in their primes (Jared Allen and Kevin Williams). They are extremely loaded and extremely young at the offensive skill positions (current ages: Percy Harvin 21, Sidney Rice 23, Adrian Peterson 24). They'll have some defensive weaknesses to fix (safety, possibly linebacker), and they'll need to improve the run blocking. But if the Vikes can put a decent QB under center after Favre goes, that QB should have success with guys like Peterson, Harvin, Rice, Bernard Berrian, and Visanthe Shiancoe as targets. Right now I don't see any reason to think the Vikes can't compete to win 10+ games next season.

I expect the Vikings to be competitive again. But it doesn't change the reality: this is their last best chance to win a Super Bowl. They have an elite quarterback playing spectacular football. They have talent on defense, offense, and special teams. To get to the Super Bowl, they need to win two straight games on turf. This is it, and hence the desperation. If' the Vikes don't get a championship this year, I'll lose faith that they ever will.

The league-wide completion percentage in 2009 was over 60%, with the top five QBs completing between 66.6% and 70.6% of their passes. In this league, there will be completions. And teams, at the level of personnel choices and at the level of defensive focus, need to do two things to succeed.

First, develop a pass rush. Rushing the passer can lead to sacks, throwaways, hurried short completions, and general discomfort. To play effective defense, you need to rush the passer.

Second, and perhaps just as important, you need to tackle receivers at the point they catch the ball. Your opponents will complete passes, but if you prevent them from gaining extra yardage after the catch, you have a chance to stymie drives. It drives me crazy when a team I'm rooting against completes passes short of the first down marker on third down, but the receiver gains the necessary yardage by running with the ball.

I think Arizona's defensive collapse against the Packers demonstrates the need for open field tackling of receivers. The Packers repeatedly made big plays when receivers were able to run a long time after catching passes, due to good moves on their own part, but also due to bad tackling, bad angles, and generally poor coverage that left them open with room to run. If the Cardinals just could have tackled, Green Bay would have struggled to catch up. They would have been forced to sustain drives with more completions, and their drives would have taken more time off the clock. By giving up a lot of yards after the catch, the Cardinals allowed the Packers to score quickly, and Green Bay got back into the game because of it.

The Vikings need rush Tony Romo on Sunday. They also need to tackle well. The Cowboys have a lot of pass catchers that are effective running with it: if the Vikes stop them cold where they catch it, they can stop some Dallas drives. Dallas also has running backs capable of making defenders miss, or running over them. They also have a good punt returner.

If the Vikes tackle well, I think they win the game. If they lose, I think it will be because against either the run, the pass, or on special teams (or all three), the Vikings fail to tackle runners when they have the chance.

In my view, the top six QBs in the NFC all made the playoffs (you could argue Eli Manning over Donovan McNabb), though not in the AFC (Manning, Rivers, and Brady yes, but Schaub and Roethlisberger missed the playoffs with 9-7 teams, though I suppose Carson Palmer rounds out the AFC's top six this season). There's something correlational in that: good teams tend to make their QBs look good. But it also highlights the importance of good passing for NFL success.

Some Viking players have taken to calling Minnesota and the Metrodome "the hood. Whatever it takes (Star Tribune, Pioneer Press).

The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press have two nearly identical stories on the need for Bryant McKinnie and Phil Loadholt to stop DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas pass rush (same focus, some of the same quotes). The articles are both fine, but it might make one wonder whether we need two major newspapers covering local sports about as much as you need to buy the hardcover and paperback editions of a book (and now you say, "And it makes me wonder whether we really need yet another Viking blogger, jackass." And I say "Well, I try to bring something different to the table with my incessant neuroticism." And you say "You mean incessant whining." And I say "I think of it more as fear and despair than whining, but OK").

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Week

Following sports is supposed to be fun, but during playoff time, it is more fun to be a casual fan without much vested interest in who wins. Fun? This is intense, anxiety-inducing, gut-wrenching, obsessively worried, fearful, passionate.

Why? Because this feels like THE window for the Vikings to win a Super Bowl. They can win it this year: the pieces are in place. But of course they might not. And if they don't, when will they? Who is playing quarterback next year? How much longer do some key veterans (Pat Williams, Steve Hutchinson, Antoine Winfield) have left? For that matter, how much longer will the Vikings be in Minnesota?

This is it: the Vikings need to win one game, then the next, then the next. If they don't, they very well may never win the Super Bowl. Brett Favre has elevated the franchise, given us this chance.

This Viking team can win the Super Bowl. But they might also lose next Sunday, and if they do, that's it. The dream season is over. There won't be any Super Bowl, there won't be any championship, Brett Favre will retire, and we'll continue another dreary Minnesota winter with a football team that has never won the Super Bowl. The finality of it all is intense. Today Green Bay's 11-5 season ended when an overtime fumble got returned for a touchdown. They win the game, maybe they make a deep playoff run. Instead it's all over. For a young team like the Packers, that certainly hurts, but they're built to be back in this situation again.

For a veteran team like the Vikings, quarterbacked by a 40 year old legend playing the best football of his career, to leave the playoffs so quickly would be devastating. As a fan, I might not recover. This feels like the last chance.

So it's "fun," yes. I mean, it's better than most things. But it's also an intense, anxious, fearsome time.

The Vikings play the Cowboys next week: the winner goes to the NFC Championship game.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


Watching the Cowboys whip the Eagles tonight, I decided to post a little scouting report. Should I forward this to Brad Childress? After all, he gets involved in my profession and I support him. But this isn't really a scouting report (gasp!), but just some observations for Viking fans to think about.

Here are the things the Cowboys have that could hurt the Vikings.

The Pass Rush
DeMarcus Ware and friend are good at getting to the quarterback, and the Carolina game showed that the Viking coaches are adverse to adjusting the offensive scheme to account for a dominant pass rusher. The Vikings do a pretty good job pass blocking, but it's a concern.

The Big Offensive Line
The Eagle defense is good, but the Dallas linemen were just ripping open holes for Felix Jones (who is the type of speedy runner that can actually hurt the Vikings' generally dominant run defense). I'd feel better if E.J. Henderson were there to plug the hole, but he's not. The Cowboys have a very good, very successful offensive line.

The Passing Game
Romo can scramble and he can throw deep. He's also got a lot of options to throw to. And the Viking secondary is the team's biggest weakness: when the pass rush isn't effective, good quarterbacks exploit the Viking defensive backs. The Vikes will need to have an effective pass rush (which they usually do at home).

Special Teams
The Cowboys have a good kickoff guy, which could hamper Percy Harvin's opportunities to set the team up with good field position. They also have a good punt returner.

There are also some specific things Viking fans can be encouraged about.

At home, while dominating, the Cowboys still seem to commit a lot of procedural penalties, let the play clock wind down, and play sloppy with the football. What happens when they're playing on the road in very loud Thunderdome?

The Vikings don't blitz much.
The Cowboys destroy the blitz with all those quick passes, and they've got a lot of players that can get yards after the catch. The Vikes usually rely on the defensive line to generate pass rush, so there will be linebackers and defensive backs to get in the way of those passes and make the tackles when they're completed.

Wade Phillips
One of my dad's favorite parts of watching football seeems to be seeing the facial expressions and body gyrations of Wade Phillips (one of my favorite parts of football is when I get a little confused and forget who has the ball, and I'm watching the defense line up thinking it's an offensive formation, and I'm thinking "what on earth are they running here?" before seeing what I thought was the defense snap the ball. It doesn't happen often). The Cowboys are a very, very talented team, with incredible playmakers on all sides of the ball. I'm not so worried we're going to see the Vikings get outcoached next week, though.

The Cowboy Field Goal Kicker
If it's a close game, the Dallas kicking game will be really unpredictable.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Percy Harvin

Percy Harvin has been a spectacular player in 2009. As a receiver, he's been an awesome combination of big play guy (12 of his 60 catches were for 20+ yards, and he added two more 20+ yard runs) and reliable target in short and mid-range situations (42 of his 60 catches were for first downs). As a kick returner, he regularly set the Vikes up with great field position, not just from his 27.5 yard return average, but because the very threat of his explosive returns led opponents to avoid him with frequent short kicks.

Percy Harvin is also the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year ( He and Sidney Rice (83-1,312-8) make up perhaps the most exciting young WR duo in the NFL.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Best Quarterback Seasons in Viking History

Brett Favre 2009
68.4%, 4,202 yards, 33 TDs, 7 INTs, 7.9 ypa, 107.2 rating, 12-4 record

Daunte Culpepper 2004
69.2%, 4,717 yards*, 39 TDs, 11 INTs, 8.6 ypa, 110.9 rating, 8-8 record

Randall Cunningham 1998

60.9%, 3,704 yards, 34 TDs, 10 INTs, 8.7 ypa, 106 rating*, 13-1 record

Fran Tarkenton 1975
64.2%*, 2,994 yards, 25 TDs*, 13 INTs, 7.0 ypa, 91.8 rating, 12-2 record

*league leader

Based on regular season alone, who is the best?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Winter "Fun"

I'm going to be a bundle of nerves for these playoffs; it's going to be all sorts of anxiety and dread.

Share your playoff thoughts.

Singing Skol Once Again

After today, the Vikings' record on turf this season is 10-0, with an average score of 32.7 to 14.7.
On grass, they're 2-4, with an average score of 23.8 to 27.5.

That's one reason it's so important for the Eagles to lose today. If the Vikes get the #2 seed, they get a first-round bye, and any NFC playoff game they play will be on turf.

I mostly expected the Vikes to throttle the uninspired Giants; I'm much more nervous about this next game.

Now to root for the Cowboys as if they are the Vikings.