By Peter Christian
The Minnesota Vikings have a long and rich history that dates back almost 50 years that includes 4 Super Bowl appearances, 7 appearances in the NFC Championship game and the 2nd highest team winning percentage in NFC history. So the Vikings fan base should have plenty to sit back on, right?
The Vikings, while one of the most consistently successful regular season teams in the NFL-AFL merger (only two teams have more regular season wins than the Vikings since 1970), the team is famous for always coming up short (read: choking, gagging, crapping the bed, puking on the coffee table) and letting people down (read: the state of Minnesota). There’s the 4 Super Bowl losses in the 70’s, there’s the 4 NFC Championship game losses, which include an overtime loss at home while sporting the then best offense in league history, a 41 point beat down that is in the record books as the largest margin of victory in Conference Championship history and a game in which the Vikings had 1st and goal with less than 2 minutes to play and down by 7 and failed to get in the endzone in 4 plays. That is all etched into every Vikings fan’s memory.
So what’s the point?
The point is that in less than 5 days the Vikings have yet another chance to add to that list. The point is that even if the Vikings beat Dallas on Sunday, they are still a long way from atoning for all the heartache and distress they’ve caused their loyal fans over the past 40 years (Monday was the 40th anniversary of the Vikings first Super Bowl loss in which they were 13 point favorites, by the way). The point is that I’ve spent the last two days trying to summarize the 2009 Vikings season and the best I’ve come up with is comparing the season to a very long road trip with a group of friends. The season started out with excitement, but contained enthusiasm as all parties knew there was a long way to go. There was a feeling out process in which everyone slowly figured out exactly what they could and couldn’t do within the car. Then as the destination grew nearer, those boundaries that had worked so well began to break down and it eventually led to a couple wrong turns, a few arguments and 1 person even had to stop at the hospital. Through all that turmoil, however, the car still reached its destination and still ahead of schedule no less. And even though the first two-thirds of the road trip was possibly one of the best first two-thirds of a road trip ever, no one really remembered because of all the crappy stuff that happened at the end.
So the Vikings are now getting prepared to embark on a new trip that is much shorter and the margin for error is exponentially smaller than the first trip.
Looking at the game itself, I’m completely terrified to try and break it down. Both teams, at their best, are very similar. Competent QB’s with a history of trying to do too much, balanced offensive attacks with weapons at nearly every skill position and defensive schemes that rely on the talent of their front 7 to cause mayhem in the backfield to overcome some weaknesses among their DB’s.
The Cowboys averaged about 20 yards more per game, but the Vikings scored an average of a touchdown more per game. The Vikings defense gave up about 10 yards less to opposing offenses than the Dallas defense did, but the Dallas defense allowed about 4 points per game less.
So basic statistics give Vikings fans nothing to hang their hopes on, but they also don’t give us anything to hang our fears on. The Vikings were 8-0 at home in the regular season, the Cowboys were 5-3 on the road and the Vikings sported a 3-0 record against common opponents while Dallas was 0-3. So we’ve got that going for us.
I wish I could give a super inspiring summation that describes how the Vikings will handle the Cowboys and give hope to the faithful fans for a better ending than the Vikings have been able to write in the past, but I’m still not convinced that Brad Childress is a good enough coach to lead the team to new heights. I’m still not convinced that the defense can be relied on in crunch time without E.J. Henderson. Most importantly, I’m definitely not convinced that the offensive line can stand up to an opposing defense that can bring pressure from both sides.
Even with that, even with the history of letdowns, choke jobs and (to steal a term created by Sports Guy) “Stomach Punch losses” I’m still counting on the Vikes to pull out one more victory on Mall of America Field this year.
Now, someone pass me the biggest bottle of Tums you can get your hands on.