I like an exciting football game as much as the next person, but there are some forms of excitement I can do without. Biting my nails and hoping that the Baltimore Ravens kicker Steven Hauschka would miss a field goal so the Minnesota Vikings could win, falls into that category. Considering the first quarter that the Vikings played, I didn’t think the game would be decided in the last two seconds. I don’t think anybody did.
In what seemed like proof of the fabled offensive gelling we’ve been hearing so much about, Brett Favre and the Vikings offense took the field (with obscenely good field position, thanks to Percy Harvin) and set about kicking some ass. Just nine minutes into the first quarter the Vikings had put 14 points on the board and the defense prevented the Ravens from answering back with so much as a first down.
For a Minnesota Vikings fan, life was good. And then things started getting…interesting, and not in a good way.
The Ravens, eventually, mounted retaliation, but nothing that seemed like cause for concern. The Viking lead was still firmly in place. Normally, when a team is up 27-10 in the fourth it looks like they will win, but the Ravens, whose offense had been stifled for most of the game, scored 21 points in an incredible surge with just ten minutes left in regulation. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice made it look easy.
Worse than the points on the board, which were bad enough, Antoine Winfield, Adrian Peterson, and Percy Harvin were injured. The loss of Peterson and Harvin, though very bad, is somewhat mitigated by the depth at those positions. However the loss of Antoine Winfield seriously maimed the Vikings defense exposing a major deficit in the defense’s depth at cornerback as they tried to defend against Joe Flacco’s laser-guided passing attack. Jared Allen was in Flacco’s face, Kevin Williams was giving him a “welcome-to-gravity” hug, and they guy was still hitting his receivers in stride. Karl Paymah may be good, but it is readily apparent that if Winfield isn’t playing, the Vikings defense isn’t good enough to stop a red-hot passing game.
That saying “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and ability” came into play in the last two seconds of the game when Childress called a time out just as Steve Hauschka was going to kick a 44-yard field goal. Childress iced the kicker, the kick went wide left, and the extremely lucky Minnesota Vikings won.
I hate feeling depressed about a win. There is nothing wrong with luck and football is not like figure skating, you don’t get style points. So, a win is a win.
Let us now turn to what went right. In the midst of all the uncertainty that the Vikings’ uneven play against the Ravens garners, let’s all cheer Sidney Rice on his breakthrough game. Favre connected with him on six catches for a scorching hot career-high of 176 yards. It is probably too early to say this, but seeing some of the catches Rice made reminded me of watching Randy Moss. Brett Favre threw no interceptions, kept his cool when the game was on the line in the fourth, and bombed out his own laser-guided missiles as often as the conservative play-calling allowed him to. And, Adrian Peterson had his first game of more than 100 yards since the season opener.
If the Minnesota Vikings are going beat teams with winning records, then consistency and aggressiveness are going to have to be their watchwords. And that isn’t just for the players, that goes for the coaching staff too. Another team started their game Sunday hitting hard and scoring fast, the New England Patriots. Unlike the Vikings, the Patriots didn’t score a couple touchdowns and then start calling conservative, eat up the clock plays. Who eats up the clock in the first quarter? They stayed aggressive and piled up the points against the Tennessee Titans faster than the snow on their field. Tom Brady threw 5 touchdown passes in one quarter. There wasn’t any of this eat-up-the-clock madness, champions just don’t do that.
There have been plenty of times when the Vikings defense has bailed out the offense, now it is time for the offense to step it up and return the favor. For the Vikings to win big games against tough teams, they need the tough play-calling that will bury opposing teams, not let them hang around for a fourth-quarter comeback. We don’t need that kind of excitement.
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