The morning after the Minnesota Vikings lost to the New Orleans Saints, I found a new gray hair. Now, after the Vikings lost their home opener on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, I’m afraid to even look at my hair. I may just ignore the mirror altogether and go straight to making an appointment with my hairdresser. If the Vikings continue to play the way they have for the last two games, I’m going to need some serious all-over color to cover the damage.
While the Miami Dolphins are by no means a crappy team, it seemed like a safe bet to think the NFC North Champion Vikings could win on their home turf. And the crowd at Mall of America Field had every reason to believe that the Vikings would do it. After all, last year the Vikings were undefeated at home.
But Sunday, it was not to be. The Miami Dolphins beat the Minnesota Vikings 14 to 10 in Minnesota.
During the game I was flashing back to previous seasons, seasons when the Vikings didn’t have an MVP quarterback, seasons when the Vikings defense had to pull the offense’s butts out of the fire.
Far from being the vaunted run-stuffing defense they have been in seasons past, the Vikings defense looked porous in the first half, instead allowing the Miami offense to set the tempo for the game. Somewhere along the way the Vikings defense stiffened up, severely limiting the Miami offense. But the Vikings offense never had a similar regrouping in a game where quarterback Brett Favre never seemed to get comfortable throwing the ball.
If he keeps throwing interceptions at his current rate, The FavreTM is going to be into double digits before the season reaches the half-point. There are different ways to win games, but I’m pretty sure no one is going to include throwing lots of interceptions into even the most renegade game plan ever conceived. Championship ball clubs win the turnover war.
Last season, the Vikings won all of their home games. Ideally, a team likes to win all their home games and at least half of their road games to set up a winning season and a championship run. Unless the Vikings offense discovers a previously unopened can of whoop-ass, that plan is beginning to look like giddy optimism.
We’ve made a big deal in the press about the Vikings having almost the exact same starting roster as they had last season when everything looked much more rosy and the Vikings were off to a winning start. But it would seem that having the same names on the roster doesn’t mean the players are really the same. Yeah, I know that sounds like hair-splitting semantics, but hang with me for a second.
Brett Favre is a game changer. As he goes, so goes the team. It’s for that very reason, that intangible something, that the Vikings did everything in their power to bring him back for a second season in Minnesota. But this time…well, it doesn’t feel the same as it did in 2009.
Brett Favre doesn’t seem to have the same optimism and sense of fun that he did heading into the 2009 season and starting out 0-2 won’t help. Considering the disappointing way his tenure with the Jets ended, it wasn’t going to take much for him to top his 2008 performance. But, not only did Favre top his 2008 performance in his first season as a Viking, he posted some of the best numbers of his entire 19-year career and came within one game of the Super Bowl. So, I can’t help wondering if the pressure to repeat in season 20, when combined with his lack of reps with the starting offense, is draining The FavreTM of his mojo.
If it is, then it’s a shame because if ever the Vikings could use a little of that intangible Farvian mojo, it’s now. Star receiver Sidney Rice is out for weeks to come and the loss of Chester Taylor is still being felt. While Adrian Peterson is doing all he can to silence fumble talk and give his team a chance to win, he can’t run every single play—even if he wants to. The Vikings need at least a marginally effective passing game to keep opposing defenses honest, something that won’t happen if Favre keeps throwing to the other team.
While I can’t prove a lack of mojo, the Vikings record makes it apparent that something is going to have to change if they’re going to put themselves back in the running for the Super Bowl. If they keep to their current trend I may end up as gray as Brett Favre by January.