At last writing, we knew that at least two of Minnesota's sports teams would not exorcise demons this past weekend. What we did not know was whether the Minnesota Vikings would follow the dubious lead of the Twins and the Gophers or forge a new path.
On Sunday afternoon, with the roof over the Texans' stadium open, the Vikings chose the latter and proved that Minnesota teams can succeed in spite of their demons--and in spite of themselves.
After a first half in which the Vikings dominated in every conceivable category, Minnesota took a 14-0 lead into the lockerroom and Coach Tice was brimming with pride.
The Houston Texans were on the losing side of that statistic and their coach, Dom Capers, had a different impression of the first half. "We didn't play our game," he said. "We let Minnesota dictate the pace and take us out of our game," he followed.
But Capers did not rest with these cliches. He rumbled to the locker room and let loose with the expletives. Capers also left his veterans to hand out some additional tongue lashings.
Apparently, tongue lashings and tirades trump complacency in the NFL locker room--though lashings and tirades also appear to take a quarter or so to take hold.
After the third quarter, the Vikings looked to be comfortably in control of the game with a two touchdown lead (once a three TD lead). But then the Vikings apparently remembered that they were playing a road game and the sky fell in. Well, almost.
After the Texans rallied to tie the Vikings, it appeared that the Vikings were destined to lose yet again, on the road in the elements.
But after receiving the ball in overtime, and after being forced to punt (as all Vikings' fans resignedly expected), the Vikings did something improbable--particularly given the circumstances of the 4th quarter. Rather than folding and allowing the opponent to drive down the field for a game-winning score, the Vikings' defense improbably rose to the occassion.
The defense was not there in the third quarter. It was not there in the fourth quarter. But, inexplicably, the Vikings' defense emerged in overtime and even sacked Texan QB David Carr. Unbelievable.
More unbelievable was that the Vikings drove into Houston territory on its next possession and almost sealed the game when Culpepper hit Robinson for what almost certainly would have been a game-winning touchdown. Of course, the expected happened; Robinson dropped the pass as his bulging eyes appeared to knock the ball out of his open mitts.
But just when a weekend of dispair was about to set in, just when it appeared that Robinson was not the answer at the #2 receiver, everything changed.
Facing a 3rd and 12 from midfield, the Vikings salvaged Minnesota sports fans' weekend and exorcised their road-weakling demon. Two plays after dropping the game-winning pass, Robinson redeemed himself when he caught a slant pass for a 50-yard touchdown.
The game was not without some of the flaws that have appeared in earlier games this season. The Vikings' secondary lost another pick--this one in the endzone and this one ultimately permitting Houston to drive for the tying TD; The Vikings again had too many penalties--10 for the game, including four on Nat Dorsey (one holding and three false starts); and Chris Hovan, though more present in the mix (probably as a result of increased rest as he primarily backed up Steve Martin), again had an uninspiring game.
But, as Tice says, a win is a win. And, in the NFL, where only Cleveland, on the road, gets blown out, that's not bad. At least it's not a loss.
Up Next: First ratings of the season. Plus, more post-game. See you then!