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Feeling Superstitious About MN Vikings’ Loss in San Diego

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

 

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Minnesota Vikings Idol: Saturday Night’s Look at Deep Talent

How great is it to get to watch Minnesota Vikings football again, even if it is only preseason? I’ll confess, I didn’t always like preseason football. While I always welcomed the return of football, I used to see preseason football as the redheaded step-child of regular season football because the games didn’t “count” and the star players hung out on the sidelines wearing visors. However, I have seen the error of my ways and have new appreciation for preseason.

After avidly following the Vikings draft choices and practice squad for the past couple years, the preseason now has a certain American Idol quality. Even though I don’t get a vote on who stays on the team and who goes home, I do like that feeling that I was there at the start of their NFL career.

But, if I did have a vote about who makes the Vikings roster and who doesn’t, here are a few guys who got my attention last night in the Vikings 28-7 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Asher Allen. Not only does this guy have a rock star name, he also is showing that he means business at cornerback. Only 5’9”, Allen is hitting big, not unlike Antoine Winfield, and prevented a few deep plays with good coverage forcing a Rams fourth down.

Colt Anderson. Sometimes it isn’t so much about stunning ability as it is about tenacity. On special teams Anderson was flattened into the turf twice trying to stop a Rams return but he kept getting up, kept honing in on the play, and eventually was in on the stop.

Chris Cook. A lankier cornerback at 6’2”, Cook really got my attention on a special teams play where he slapped the ball out of the returner’s hands and Kenny Onatolu recovered it.

Garrett Mills. With so many of the Vikings offensive stars injured, guys farther down on the depth chart have gotten more reps. Mills showed off all that practice, pulling in four catches for 106 yards and a touchdown.

Jayme Mitchell. With the cloud of uncertainty that has followed Pat and Kevin Williams in their legal fight against a four-game suspension, the Vikings have quietly built up the depth on the defensive line. Mitchell sacked, hurried, and all-around terrorized the Rams first-round pick Sam Bradford.

Logan Payne. A former Minnesota player, Payne caught 7 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. Even when he was getting mugged by the Rams secondary, he showed a scrappy persistence.

Joe Webb. His footwork was kind of a mess and there were a few times when he was running for his life from the Rams defense, but what a run he had. Webb rushed for 24 yards and connected with rookie Mickey Shuler for a touchdown. There is no doubt that Webb is raw, but the talent is there validating the decision to switch him from receiver to quarterback.

This post is also available at http://www.dailynorseman.com and at http://vikingsmix.com under my alter ego Skol Girl. Yeah, you should see me in my Helga horns…

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2010 in Football, Lifestyle

 

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