Minnesota Vikings Remind The NFL That They’re Good

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by Peter Christian

The Vikings won 12 regular season games, they were 8-0 at home, they were 4-1 against 2009 play-off teams, they were 3 point favorites (2.5 at kick-off) and yet the majority of “the experts” were picking the Cowboys to knock off the Minnesota Vikings in the Metrodome… er… on Mall of America field.

Somehow going into the Divisional Playoff game the Cowboys were considered the better team even though the Vikings had a better record, statistically had a better defense and the difference between the two teams offensively was marginal at best. Sure the Vikings had struggled with 3 losses in December before bouncing back against the Giants, but Dallas lost 2 games in December as well and their quarterback was somewhat infamous for inducing his own gag reflex in the post season. Yet, Dallas was the team to beat. They had an answer for everything on both sides of the ball. Their defensive backs could cover anyone, their front 7 could get pressure on any quarterback as well as stuff any running back. Their rushing attack was going to wear down any opposing defense and the Cowboys passing attack was just too stocked with weapons to be stopped. By the sound of all the NFL pre-game shows, you’d have thought the Vikings were double digit underdogs and were just lucky to be playing.

Personally (and honestly) it wasn’t until late in the week that I began to shift my thoughts. Initially, I bought in that the Vikings were in for a game that they might just not be ready for (mostly a coaching concern) but as I kept hearing that the Cowboys were the better team and that they had the match up they wanted I changed my mind to think that the Vikings would not only win but would cover the spread and beyond. I figured they had to be getting into the mind frame of “Nobody Believes in Us,” because really, no one did.

Fortunately for the Vikings, they still suited up, went through the warm-ups and (gasp!) played the game.

The first quarter started out as many Vikings contests have of late as the Cowboys were able to methodically move down the field with intermediate gains and get into Vikings territory with relative ease. Five of their first offensive plays were positive gains and only a few minutes into the game, Dallas had 1st and 10 on the Vikings 34. Then the common theme of the day showed up as the Vikings got pressure on first down and forced an incompletion, Ray Edwards knocked Felix Jones back for a 4 yard loss on second down and then on third down Edwards again came up big as he sacked and stripped Tony Romo of the ball and the Vikings recovered.

That 9 play sequence was more indicative of the game than we knew. The Vikings defense perfected the “bend but don’t break” defensive philosophy throughout the game and got better and better as the game went on.

Most importantly however, the Vikings performed on a giant stage to remind everyone why they were considered one of the best teams in the NFL to start the season. If you remember just 43 days ago on December 5th, the Vikings were 10-1 and were nearly always mentioned in the same breath with the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts as the best teams in football. However, late season swoons by the Vikings and Saints mixed with the Colts giving up on two meaningless games led to NFL fans and pundits everywhere forgetting what those teams accomplished through the first two and a half months of the season and basically writing them off. In December I heard from multiple different sources people call the Chargers, the Packers, the Eagles and the Cowboys the best team in football. Now, all 4 of those teams are done for the season and the 3 teams that were discounted after compiling the 3 best records in the league are preparing for their conference championship game. It’s not a coincidence (although the fact that both teams in the NFC championship won their Divisional Playoff game by 31 points, most definitely is).

The Vikings, for being the forgotten great team of the 2009 season, produced more Pro-Bowl players than any other NFL team, had the NFL’s 2nd best RB/WR duo in combined yards from scrimmage (Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice finished 79 yards behind Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt), led the NFL in sacks, led all play-off teams in forced fumbles and was the only team in the league to have a 4,000 yard passer, a 1,200 yard rusher and a 1,200 yard reciever (and one of only 3 teams to have a 4,000 yard passer, 1,000 rusher and 1,000 reciever).

That was the team that the fans and media fell asleep on. That was the team that forced 3 turnovers against the team that had turned the ball over the less than any other NFL team. That was the team that emphatically covered the 2.5 point spread and then piled on another 28.5 points for good measure versus a team that some thought had the right stuff to get all the way to the Super Bowl.

Next up is the NFC’s top seed in the New Orleans Saints which will be another tough contest on paper (early indications show the Saints favored by 3.5) and I’m sure that the majority of people will pick the Saints to win next Sunday, but I highly doubt that anyone is truly sleeping on the Vikings. Those same fans and pundits that forgot about the Vikings have seen what they can do on both sides of the ball and once again people remember that the Minnesota Vikings of 2009-10 are a team to be reckoned with.

Game Balls:


Ray Edwards – The player of the game, bar none. 5 total tackles, 4 of them for a loss. 3 sacks and a forced fumble. The 3 sacks in a playoff game ties a franchise record that was set by Carl Eller on 12/28/75 (also against Dallas- “The Hail Mary”/”Drew Pearson Push-off” Game)

Sidney Rice – 141 yards and a franchise play-off record 3 TD’s is a great game for any receiver. Add in that this was his first play-off start and it was quite the game for Rice. He also just missed catching a 4th TD on a 4th down play late in the 4th quarter.

Vikings Defense – The six sacks tied a franchise play-off record (also from 12/28/75) and the 3 points allowed marked the first time in franchise post-season history that the defense didn’t give up a TD. The 3 takeaways marked the 4th time this season that the Vikings had forced 3+ turnovers.

Notes for next week vs. Saints: The Vikings are 11-0 on turf this season, the Saints are 10-2, the Vikings are 4-4 on the road, the Saints are 7-2 at home.

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Comments

  1. Peter,
    The only reason I believed in the Vikes this week is because everyone in the media had written them off. Last week everyone picked the Cards to lose. This week it was the Vikes. Seems like conventional wisdom is always wrong. The only people who thought Ohio State would win the Rose Bowl this year lived in Columbus. Every single person in the pregames picked Oregon… precisely why I bet on OSU(even though I hate them).

    I still have a hard time believing in this team. I’m not a Vikings fan(thankfully). This team has the same ability as the Jets to get their fans hopes up before absolutely crushing their psyche. Had the Vikes lost this week fans would have been disappointed but not heartbroken. Now everyone is excited again… next week could be bad.

  2. Brett Favre is good. really really good. I actually enjoyed my “Viking fan for a day” experience… and everyone needs to quit bitching that they ran the score up… pants on the ground, pants on the ground…

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