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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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Punch Up with Detroit at the Dome

On Sunday when the Minnesota Vikings beat the scrappy Detroit Lions 24 to 10 at Mall of America Field it was as if Vikings fans everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief. Gone were the dire predictions of what happens to teams that start the season 0-3—and not a moment too soon. Honestly, if I had to listen to another rousing rendition of “They’re Completely Screwed If They Start 0-3” statistics I would probably develop a twitch like Herbert Lom’s character Inspector Dreyfus did in the Pink Panther movies every time bumbling detective Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) made an appearance.

However, it looks as if statistics about how teams with an early bye-week perform will take its place so there’s still hope that I will become a twitchy mess.

While it would be nice to see the Vikings play again this coming weekend so it wouldn’t feel like a fluke or like the Vikings got lucky because the Lions still know how to sabotage their own success, that is not to be. Instead we’re staring down a bye-week and won’t see the Purple play again until they take on the New York Jets on the road.

I’m trying to be hopeful about it, but that’s still eleven days away and my post-win good vibrations could wear off by then. More concerning, the Vikings’ post-win good vibrations could wear off too—considering how long it took to get that winning feeling back, no one wants to see it disappear.

In a game that had moments of both amazingly brilliant plays (like Brett Favre’s touchdown pass to Percy Harvin or Adrian Peterson’s 80-yard touchdown run) and amazingly ugly flubs (the Vikings committed three turnovers and 12 penalties), one of the greatest moments of the team coming together didn’t exactly involve an actual play. Nope, it was a fight between Vikings defensive end Jared Allen and Detroit quarterback Shaun Hill.

If you can believe it, Shaun Hill actually went after Jared Allen in the fight for the ball after a Brian Robison sack. Hill gets points for spirit, but not brains because Allen is big and crazy. It flashed me back to the time Lions offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus leveled his helmet into Jared Allen’s knee back in 2008. Allen already had a third-degree shoulder separation and he came up from that hit to his knee hopping on his one good leg, swinging his one good arm, fully prepared to kick Cherilus’s ass. If Ray Edwards hadn’t gotten in Allen’s grill and stopped him, he probably would have done it too. Allen is crazy, who picks a fight with him at all, let alone when he’s healthy?

But Shaun Hill must have a good dose of the crazy himself because he came at Jared Allen, Allen refused to back down or take that, and in split seconds the field was swarming with Vikings and Lions players trying to either help embattled teammates or separate them. At one point Viking defensive back Eric Frampton was trying to pull Jared Allen away from half the Lions’ team—a pretty funny thing to watch because Frampton is 5’11” 205lbs and Allen is 6’6” 270lbs. Really, it was like a six-year-old trying to take the Great Dane for a walk and it was just about that successful.

It’s fairly likely that the league will mail out some fines this week, and they probably should, but that fight seemed like a much-needed tension-breaker for the Vikings. Even though the Vikings were leading by 14 points, they still seemed so tense and brittle that, regardless of the score, they didn’t project a winning countenance. Considering the previous two games, it’s possible that despite needing to win and having a lead, they didn’t feel like winners.

However, stalking back to the sidelines full of righteous indignation, adrenaline, and relief only to be teased/congratulated by Brett Favre, well, it looked like the game stopped being about the Vikings’ desperate need to prevent a slide to 0-3 and more about kicking some Detroit ass. It looked like football was fun again. Well, fun for the Vikings anyway.

After the bye-week when the Vikings get back to Winter Park and they prepare for their Monday night game against the New York Jets, let’s hope that spirit is still with them. Or, we might get lucky and Mark Sanchez might try to throw a punch at Jared Allen in the first quarter. Hey, whatever it takes.

*This piece is also posted at http://www.dailynorseman.com/ and http://vikingsmix.com/ under my alter ego Skol Girl.

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2010 in Brett Favre, Football, Lifestyle

 

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