RSS

Tag Archives: NFC North

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.

Advertisements
 
5 Comments

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s Here it for the Fans

It’s hard to come up with an new and creative spin on how, from the craptastic ashes of the Minnesota Vikings‘ 2010 season, a majestic phoenix could rise and wing our beloved Purple back to greatness, but I’m really going to make a stab at it. At this point options are kind of limited for Vikings fans. We can either whine and moan about how the Vikings always find a way to break our hearts, or we can find a way to put disappointment behind us and look forward with some kind of hope. Actually, there’s still the option of tossing back a couple of valium and buying that one-way ticket to Costa Rica and never thinking about the Vikings, the NFL, or football again, but I’ve mostly given up that idea. Mostly.

No, like the rest of you hardcore fans, I’m not going to abandon the Vikings. Instead, I’ve tried to think about 2010 in terms of that Jerry Springer recap, you know that “moral-of-the-story” thing he would do after he got people to unleash a whole mess of crazy on his show, to explore what we’ve learned besides the fact that even sweet grandmas can throw a mean left hook given the right inducement.

The more I think about it, the more it seems that if we had to vote for a Minnesota Vikings MVP in 2010, it should be the Vikings fans. In a season rife with drama and disappointment, the Vikings fans did an almost heroic job of hanging in there with our team.

With the exception of the 1970s which was a pretty boss decade for the Vikings, Minnesota has at least one lousy season every decade. This last decade was a bit worse than usual because there were four seasons when the Vikings won less than half of their games and  two seasons when they merely broke even between wins and losses. So, for six out of the last ten years the Vikings have had a mediocre to crappy record. It helps put 2010 into perspective because 2001, 2002 and 2006 were as bad or worse than 2010. What made 2010 seem so much worse was how great 2009 had been.

That painful jaunt through the Vikings sub-par records for the last decade was just an overly elaborate set-up to my attempt to find the good in this steaming pile of disappointment. There is nothing like a brilliant, winning season, say like 2009, to attract fans. However, I don’t think you have the right to call yourself a fan, a real fan, unless you cheer for a team during a losing season. Until then, as far as I’m concerned, you’re just a fan intern.

For example, a lot of people became Vikings fans during the 1970s which, as I said earlier, was a totally boss era for the Vikings. They were the defensively dominant Purple People Eaters who made three of their four trips to the Super Bowl in that decade. As Ted Glover said in his great piece about the wonder of outdoor football, the Vikings of that era were some of the toughest mamba jambas to play the game of football. Yep, the 1970s were a great time to become a Vikings fan, but for those who remained Vikings fans during 1984, the infamous Les Steckel year, you my friends, you get props and a shiny gold star. I was only in kindergarten at the time so my memories of the 1984 season are kind of fuzzy.

And, like those fine folks who managed to hold on through the 1984 season, the people who became Vikings fans in 2008 and 2009 when our Vikings were the NFC North division champions and made it through 2010 with their purple pride somehow intact, you are now full-fledged Vikings fans. Embrace the pain and the paradox of our team.

If I had to come up with just one thing to hate it would have to be something that makes me sounds deep and wise and altruistic, and, somehow, I don’t think black jelly beans will cut it. However, if we came up with a bigger, longer, itemized list of the things I hate, bandwagon fans would be somewhere in the top 50%.

Bandwagon fans make me want to growl and grind my teeth. I don’t like them. I don’t like them with green eggs and ham. I do not like them Sam I am. So if there is anything to be gained from a craptastic season like 2010, it’s that the bandwagon fans who cheered for the Vikings the previous two seasons have drifted off to give their fickle support to the Packers and the people left are the real Vikings fans who cheer for the Vikings even when their home games are played on Detroit’s Ford Field or the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium.

As 2010 dragged on and it became painfully clear that it would not be a repeat of 2009, I expected a pretty big drop-off in Viking support from the local populace here in Minnesota. But I was pleasantly surprised at how many people were still showing their horns no matter how lousy things were going for our team. For example, I remember one day when I needed to get away from all things football for a couple hours and so I went to a sanctuary of all things dainty and girly–the teashop. I was going to eat scones, drink tea with my pinkie in the air, and enjoy not thinking about football for a little while. But that isn’t what happened. Instead, I sat there, eating my scone and drinking my tea while I eavesdropped on the grandmas sitting at the table behind me who were talking about what the Vikings needed to do to turn the season around. Now, for all you manly men out there who have never been to a teashop let me explain something, conversations about football are something of a rarity in places where there are more frilly doilies and dainty teacups than you can shake a stick at.

That those little, old ladies were so involved with the Vikings’ season that they simply had to discuss the Vikings’ season over floral teacups is both cute and kind of sassy. That those ladies weren’t atypical suggests that the Minnesota Vikings have better fans than they had any reason to expect this season. Yes, even in a season where our Vikings made under-performing and drama as commonplace as black nail polish on goths, people were still wearing their Vikings shirts in the middle of the week, were still putting up purple and gold mailboxes, and were still adorning their vehicles with Vikings decals and flags.

So, for all this Purple Pride in the face of adversity and general crappiness, I think the Vikings’ fans deserve some kind of acknowledgment. I would prefer my allotment of the aforementioned acknowledgment in the form of cash or tropical vacations, but I’ll take heartfelt thanks too. After a season like 2010, the Vikings faithful deserve at least that much.

*This piece is also posted at the Daily Norseman under my alter ego Skol Girl.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 31, 2011 in Football, Series, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mojo Not Working

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.

*This post is also available at http://vikingsmix.com/ and http://www.dailynorseman.com/ under the name Skol Girl.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 21, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football, Lifestyle

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Deja Favre

In this changing world it should be reassuring that some things never change. However, when one of those non-changing things is the “will-he-play-or-not” dance between the Minnesota Vikings and Brett Favre, it’s debatable just how reassuring sameness really is.

Reading the paper this week I was having a serious case of déjà vu. Once again Brad Childress was in Mississippi chatting with Brett Favre and trying to find out if he wants to come back for another season in the NFL. Once again every sports reporter worth his jockstrap* is asking every Vikings player and coach he can find if they think Favre is going to play for the Vikings. Once again, no one will probably know anything until after training camp.

Last year Brett Favre proved that he could miss training camp and play football just fine. Better than fine. With the Vikings Brett Favre posted one of his best years ever. That strikes me as an incredible fete considering that even if his mechanics were great he still didn’t know his teammates and what their tendencies and abilities were.

Maybe it’s because I’m drawing on last year’s experience where I got all worked up about the possibility of Favre coming to Minnesota, despaired when he refused, and then rejoiced when Childress picked him up at the airport, but I’m promising myself that this year will be different. This year I will not succumb to apoplexy with every little update on what the MVP quarterback thinks or feels. Nope, I’m practicing being cool as a cucumber, taking deep cleansing breaths, and just waiting this one out. Valium may also be employed to keep me in a Zen-like mindset. And I think there is some justification for that approach.

With the exception of the loss of Chester Taylor and Artis Hicks and the addition of Toby Gerhart, the offense is essentially the same as it was last year. So unlike this time last year, Favre knows his teammates and their capabilities. Seems to me that would be a very important factor in Favre’s decision-making process. He can weigh what he knows of those players against their chances of winning a championship.

He also knows that, with the possible exception of Tavaris Jackson, his teammates appreciated him and want him back—no training camp, no problem. By all accounts, the Vikings players embraced Brett Favre like a legend, a coach, and a friend all rolled into a grubby hat and hooded sweatshirt. Loyalty and admiration seem to have been part of the intangible “it” factor that helped the Vikings to win the NFC north last season for the second year in a row. For as much as football players are professionals who are paid to perform, and for as much as they are also competitors who want to win because they like it, after a loss Vikings players routinely expressed sadness that they hadn’t won for Favre. Are you kidding me? There’s a dome full of fans, there’s an even larger audience watching on television, there are disgruntled owners and coaches, but the players said they wanted to win for Brett Favre.

To a guy who felt, justified or not, as if the Green Bay Packers gave him the professional equivalent of “It’s not us, it’s you” and “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out”, knowing that nearly everyone (again, T-Jack might not be so keen on it) in the organization appreciates his contribution and wants him to return has to be like ambrosia. More than any assurances Childress and Rick Spielman make, I would imagine that all that goodwill and appreciation could be the deciding factor.

So, that is why I’m going to keep practicing my yoga breathing and make an effort not to get too worried every time Coach Childress mutters into is mustache something inconclusive about the Favre situation.

*Yes, I know there are some women who report on football, but, by and large, the area is dominated by men.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 23, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mother Love: Are the Vikings In Need of Maternal Motivation?

With the Minnesota Vikings bracing for their next game in the national spotlight on Monday, I find myself wishing that Sandra Bullock would reprise her roll as Leigh Anne Tuohy from The Blind Side and give them a hug-and-a-kiss-and-a-kick-in-the-ass pep talk to get them back on track.  Simplistic as it is, sometimes I think the team needs a mom.

Okay, it’s the height of overly simplistic, but there are a number of team issues that I can’t help but think a mom would help them get through. Here are a few of them.

  • Bernard Berrien and Adrian Peterson both getting ticketed for driving more than 100mph on Minnesota roads. That isn’t just speeding, driving that fast generally falls under reckless endangerment. And, I find myself seriously wishing that those two had a mother like a friend of mine who had been known, on occasion, to very loudly ask her progeny, “What is your goddamn problem?” In the face of an angry maternal figure asking that question, answering back, “I didn’t want to be late for team check-in,” or “I just didn’t realize how fast I was going” would be relegated to their proper place as lame and ineffectual answers, not to be repeated.
  • Brett Favre and Coach Brad Childress can’t seem to see eye-to-eye on audibles and when Favre should come off the field. For those of us with siblings, there comes a time when you realize you are going to have to find a way to get along because you are stuck with each other—at least that’s what I was told when I suggested we send my sister back where she came from. Likewise, Childress and Favre are stuck with each other. Childress hitched himself to Favre in order to deliver what Vikings owners the Wilfs want, a championship. I doubt Childress would have his lucrative contract extension if not for the success of our friendly quarterback from Mississippi. Favre hitched himself to the Vikings and Childress to get what he wants, a championship. Considering they have the same goal, folks need to put aside differences and figure out how to get the job done. They need a working compromise giving Favre the freedom to audible out of run plays based on what he sees on the field and do what he does best—use his experience to make things happen. They also need to agree that, since Favre isn’t a spring chicken, sometimes Childress is going to have to take Favre out of the games so to rest him for the postseason. If Favre is really going to be a team player, then he has to view his health heading into the postseason as a team asset.
  • Last week against the Carolina Panthers Bryant McKinnie said he had one of his worst games ever. When the St. Paul paper spoke with former Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer, he said it looked like McKinnie was on “roller skates” the way Julius Peppers pushed him around the field. I’ve tried to understand why people say McKinnie is good when it seems like every time the quarterback gets hit it’s from McKinnie’s side. The guy is 6’8” and weighs 335 pounds and yet Peppers pushed him around the field like he was on wheels. Make no mistake, I recognize that Peppers is good, but it is hard to believe he could sack and hurry Brett Favre as much and as consistently as he did if McKinnie wasn’t having a performance that was tepid at best. Since players don’t generally make it to the NFL by phoning it in, I think it is fair to say that somewhere along the way McKinnie may have lost some of that drive and urgency to do his best and be the best possible player at his position. If he took just a fraction of the passion he fuels into his bar fights and put it into his on-field performance, I don’t think ol’ Bretty would spend so much time getting pummeled.

Let’s hope the current NFC North Division champs don’t end up having to call in a little football mama to set them straight, but if they do, I hope that the Wilfs have Leigh Anne Tuohy on speed-dial.

*This piece is also posted at http://www.vikingsmix.com under my alter ego Skol Girl. Vikingsmix has fan blogs and links to news stories about the Minnesota Vikings. Check it out!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 28, 2009 in Brett Favre, Football

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: