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Feeling Superstitious About MN Vikings’ Loss in San Diego

14 Sep

Normally, I’m not a superstitious person. I have a black cat in residence who is constantly crossing my path, I don’t shy away from picking up coins that are tails side up, on occasion I have opened umbrellas indoors, and 13 never seemed like a particularly ominous number to me. But my normally levelheaded attitude is pretty much gone when it comes to football. Games like Minnesota Vikings‘ season opener against the San Diego Chargers, don’t do much to dispel that tendency.

While there are plenty of reasons for why the Vikings wrote A Tale of Two Halves at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday, it seems that bad ju-ju is as likely a reason as everything else I have heard.

I trace the change in the game’s momentum to the seemingly reasonable idea of putting my 20-month-old niece down for a quick nap. My sister and my niece were flying back home to Michigan Sunday evening and we thought it was worth a try to get Rookie (a.k.a. baby niece) to take a nap because it was going to be a late evening for her. Until this point, Rookie had been suited up in her new Adrian Peterson jersey and she was grooving to “Skol Vikings.” It was crazy cute to walk into the room and see her get excited that the rest of us were wearing purple jerseys just like her jersey.

All suited up and armed with a wiggly toddler, we watched the Vikings start off their season with Percy Harvin returning the ball 103 yards for a touchdown. That opening play was fantastic, but things got even better because the Vikings’ offensive line did a respectable job of helping Donovan McNabb stay upright and giving Adrian Peterson holes to run through. Free-agent acquisition Michael Jenkins gave us hope for the receiving corps. Fred Pagac’s aggressive defense kept San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers from getting comfortable with pressure from the Vikings’ revamped defensive line. Mike Singletary’s linebackers tackled like men on a mission. The Vikings looked a lot more like a team making a statement than a team in a dreaded rebuilding year.

Then Rookie, much to her very vocal dismay, was put down for a nap and things went all pear-shaped for the Vikings. Now, I suppose that it might be silly to credit the Vikings’ second-half collapse with the absence of a toddler whose understanding of the game is comprised solely of her affection for the color purple but, when faced with the possibility that Bill Musgrave’s offense is no better at adapting and executing than Brad Childress’s offense, I lean toward the missing toddler theory because it’s a much easier fix.

That offensive breakdown was the loose thread that unraveled what could have been an upset victory for the Vikings on the road in San Diego. Instead, the Vikings are starting the season in the NFC North’s basement because all the other teams in the division won their opening games. While being one game behind the rest of the division is hardly hole the Vikings can’t climb out of if they correct the problems they had on Sunday, it isn’t the way Leslie Frazier wanted to start his first full season as head coach, and it isn’t a great way to build positive momentum for a team that is seeking a new stadium.

For me, the most mind-boggling moment in Sunday’s game came when the Vikings sent Joe Webb in to take snaps in the Wildcat formation. As much as I love watching Joe Webb play, I’m biased against the Wildcat formation-not because it isn’t a good idea, but because I’ve never really seen it work. It’s supposed to confuse and confound an opposing defense so the offense can break lose an explosive play. While the Wildcat did confuse the Chargers on Sunday, it also seemed to confuse the Vikings because after two plays they were in a third-and-ten situation. But the worst part of it was that the Vikings squandered the momentum Adrian Peterson had created with two strong runs.

Adrian Peterson wasn’t awarded a $100 million seven-year contract just because he’s a swell guy, he got it because he’s a strong, punishing running back. The offense is built around him and he’s going to be the face of the franchise for many years, so why, why would you take the ball away from him when he’s hot? Seems to me that Bill Musgrave would do well to heed the immortal words of Bruce Springsteen, “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.”

When you’ve got a talent like Adrian Peterson, why would you want to do anything else?

The Vikings’ running game is the center of the Vikings’ team identity. It’s meant to punish and demoralize defenders who try to stop it, the running game sets up the passing so the quarterback can take advantage of opposing defenses loading the box to stop the run, and it takes time off the clock helping the team win the time of possession battle. Taking time off the clock is especially handy in spelling the defense so they have the energy to stuff the opposing run and force them into third-and-long situations. Therefore, I cannot understand the decision to abandon an effective running game for a gimmicky play. The Vikings didn’t need to do it.

When faced with both the possibility that the Vikings new offensive system is falling prey to the same mistakes that their previous offensive system made, is it any wonder that I prefer to hope the offense can be fixed by making sure Rookie doesn’t miss a game? Making sure my niece has access to NFL Season Ticket is a lot easier than suffering through another season of Childressian offense.

*This post is also available at The Daily Norseman, a fantastic SB Nation blog. At The Daily Norseman I write under the name Skol Girl.

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5 Comments

Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Football, Sports Writing

 

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5 responses to “Feeling Superstitious About MN Vikings’ Loss in San Diego

  1. Purplegrey

    September 16, 2011 at 7:06 AM

    Hi Chin,

    Nice post and I have to say that I agree with it wholeheartedly. It’s especially frustrating to see our Vikes start out so well only to have them lose in the end. I don’t know….It seemed that they lost their offensive fire when they came out for the second half. I do know one thing though. If the offensive line doesn’t play better, this is going to be a repeat of last year. One positive thing though is the fact that it’s only the first game of the season and it’s long from being over yet. Hopefully this coaching staff will look at the films and learn from its mistakes before it’s too late. Anyway, win or lose, I’ll still be in front of the tube rooting for the purple on Sundays because that’s what we Viking fans do….

    BTW, I like your inclusion of Jeff Beck in the article. The man is a brilliant guitarist who’s floated around for years just under the radar. One of my favorite performances on CD is the live version of his song “Going Down” performed by him and Stevie Ray Vaughan when they toured together in 1989. You can find it on the SRV boxset. Check it out if you get the chance.

     
    • chinspeaks

      September 23, 2011 at 3:38 AM

      Grey!

      Good to hear from you sir, it has been an age! Where have you been hiding? I haven’t seen you on DN in forever.

      In football, doesn’t it always seem to come down to the offensive line? If they can’t create holes for the running back you can’t run the ball effectively. If they can’t protect the quarterback long enough for the receivers to get into position, you can’t stretch the field. And, maybe more so than some of the other positions, linemen have to really synchronize their efforts. While he certainly wasn’t playing up to his potential, you have to wonder about how losing Bryant McKinnie has affected that cohesion. And problems in one area always seem to affect other areas. When the offense can’t stay on the field, the defense gets gassed and can’t get off the field. I’m hoping that the Vikings can find a way to put together a complete game against the Detroit Lions, 30 minutes of good football followed by 30 minutes of implosion is getting old fast.

      I chose that version of “Superstition” solely because I thought you would dig Jeff Beck. He replaced Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds :)

       
      • Purplegrey

        September 24, 2011 at 5:06 AM

        I’m still kicking around. I’ve just been very busy this summer working two jobs. My main one has me working 12 hour shifts and I don’t get on the computer too much during that schedule. My second one is at a trucking company helping a former boss get his driver mileage logs up to date (yeah, sounds like fun, right?) Add to the fact that I keep my couple of acres and my widow neighbors yard cut through the season and the time just flies. I still try to read up on DN when I can but getting the time is the problem.

        I watched the first half last week and had to leave for a memorial service for a childhood friend thinking there was no way they would lose. To say that I was shocked when I got back was a huge understatement. Still, I have a high level of optimism for this team. I just pray they don’t get too far back before they start to gel. In the past Detroit has been just what the doctor ordered when the Vikings needed a win. I’m hoping the trend will continue this game.

        Ahh, the Yardbirds…The British blues band that spawned a who’s who of legendary guitarists and other musicians. Everytime I hear “For Your Love” it’s hard to believe that Eric is playing the lead. Such a classic.

        BTW, my little princess has started school! And she LOVES it. I asked my wife where the heck she got that from? Seriously though, I hope she keeps her love of learning. She”l need every advantage she can get as the years pass.

        Take care and hopefully we’ll have something to celebrate come next Monday morning.

         
      • chinspeaks

        September 26, 2011 at 9:18 PM

        Hey Grey,

        I feel tired just reading about your work schedule, and pretty spiffy that in the midst of all those important things you make time to read little ol’ me :) Honestly, when do you find time to sleep? Shoot, no wonder you’re tired. Maybe fall will slow things down for you and let you catch your breath, I’m guessing you’ll find something new to keep you busy, but we can hope. After all, you’re going to need your energy to keep up with all the cool things your daughter is learning in school and will want to show you.That really is great that your daughter loves school. I’m basically a nerdy academic at heart and hearing about kids who love school makes me smile.

        Right now I’m being a bad blogger and I haven’t even started writing anything for DN to recap yesterday’s loss to Detroit. It is a funny thing, it is easier to write about a Vikings’ loss from a material standpoint (so many things to cover), but it is difficult from that emotional fan-standpoint. Writing about it just means I have to focus and ruminate on yet another second half collapse. After the second half collapses in the first two games it wasn’t as surprising when it happened against Detroit, but that doesn’t really help. It just means that I have a looming sense of dread come the third and fourth quarters. I know I’ll have to write something, but it’s tough to cover new ground in my take since Sunday’s loss followed the same template as the first two weeks.

        Hey, does this mean I get to brag to Chris, Ted, Eric, Kyle, and Mark that I’m your favorite DN writer? I like to think it does ;-)

         
  2. Purplegrey

    October 15, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Sorry about the long pause in my response back, but besides what we talked about before, I’ve recently purchased a chainsaw (yeah, I know, sounds scary…) and I’m doing a major makeover on low hanging limbs in my yard. Fall is really my favorite time of year because even though my work load may shift to other chores, at least the weather cools off to the point that it’s actually pleasant to do things outdoors. The smell of the hickory and walnut trees along with the leaves falling always invigorates me.

    Well, the guys finally got their first win out of the way (hell, they should be 5-0 right now) and here’s hoping it’s a sign of things to come the rest of the season. Chicago’s never easy though, especially on the road.

    Yeah, I guess it does mean you can brag to the rest of the guys. Take care and I’ll be writing back soon.

     

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