Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Glass Half Empty

Ahh, it's nice to be back from the land of forever sun. A place where temperatures consisently hover between 75 (night) and 90 (daytime) during "winter." No longer do I need to worry about overexposure to the sun, pool chlorine, or sea salt. Nor need I, for now, worry about relative humidity.

That is how the optimist would view a return to the tundra from a trip to the Caribbean. That is how one views things from the perspective of the glass being half full.

But, as much as I can put a good spin on a return to winter, I find it more difficult to be the optimist about other, seemingly more comforting concerns. Namely, I find it difficult to get too dialed up about the Vikings, even given their thrashing of the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.

It came as no surprise to Vikings' fans, on the heals of a 3-7 finish, that the Vikings were picked to lose to the Packers last weekend. The odds makers had the Vikings losing. The Packers had the Vikings losing. Vikings' fans had the Vikings losing. Even the Vikings appeared willing to concede.

But that was before Brett Favre pulled out one of his truly ugly performances. Despite pasting the Vikings for 34 points in two previous meetings, despite facing a team that had allowed all but one opponent to exceed yearly scoring averages, despite having the personnel to assist him, Favre reached back, way back, back on his heals, and, with the assistance of his ever plunderable defense, pulled out defeat.

A glass half full person would look at the Vikings' victory on Sunday and pronounce the Vikings healed. Tice claimed that the Vikings had been "playing tight" all season. Randy Moss, Matt Birk, Bryant McKinnie, and other Vikings' players contended that the tightness had been cured at a hair-letting-down ceremony during a spirited week of practice. For these hale fellows, and doubtless other Vikings' fans, the cup now runneth over. And the new mantra, rather than the former lament of "woe is us," is now "look out world!"

But that's not good enough for this Vikings' fan.

All along, most Vikings' fans have suspected that the Vikings were capable of beating one-dimensional teams. At this point of the season, that includes virtually every team in the NFC. That's what made the season-ending, 3-7 slide so disappointing. That's what made most fans skeptical that a team that could lose to Chicago and Washington on the road could beat an offensive team on the road, particularly one that had already delivered two defeats to the Vikings this season.

The conclusion regarding the likely winner of the Vikings'-Packers' playoff game was inaccurate, but the reasons for that conclusion were sound. The Vikings' defense is among the dregs of the league; the Vikings' offense endures long stretches, often in the second half of games, during which it appears utterly befuddled; and the coaching staff generally appears unable either to make the proper adjustments on the fly or to coax apparently unwilling desciples into buying the game plan. Despite emerging victorious on Sunday, those elements once again reared their ugly head.

The Vikings beat the Packers on Sunday because they did what they have been incapable of doing all season, they took advantage of opportunities on defense. When Favre chucked one into the Vikings' mitts on Sunday, as he did four times, the Vikings picked it. That did not happen in two previous games against the Packers this season, games in which the Vikings had a minimum of six pick opportunities that they failed to convert.

The four picks against Favre represent more than 33% of the Vikings' regular-season pick total of 11. That suggests that the Packer game is an aberration. That suggests that more of Philly's drives will extend further down the field this week. And that suggests that, barring a continuation of last Sunday's aberration, the game against the Eagles on Sunday will be, at a minimum, tight.

But before I get to far ahead of myself, a bit of half-cup analysis of Sunday's game against the Packers is in order. And that is what is on tap for tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

- Stat from ESPN: Vikings haven't won in Philadelphia since 1985.

- Stat from Strib: Vikings were the top-rated defense among teams playing in the Wild Card round.

- Red McCombs calls for Joe Buck to abstain from calling the game on Sunday for Fox because of Joe Buck's obvious bias, stemming from his comments about Randy Moss. Way to go, Red!!


- Observation: the Eagles are a rhythm offense. Will their weeks off hurt their rhythm?

- Don Banks of SI says Randy Moss will be traded in the off-season unless the Vikings go "deep" in the playoffs this year. (Yeah right.)


- SI's Jeffri Chadiha accuses Tice of letting Moss loose and says of the Vikings: "They're still an erratic team, one that could easily get embarrassed in Philadelphia this weekend."


- All NFC teams left have artificial surfaces, and three have domes.

Anonymous said...

We hear about Peyton Manning's inability to win a big game, but what about Donovan McNabb?

At Syracuse, his team lost the Orange Bowl to Florida, 31-10. Since coming to Philadelphia, McNabb has lost three straight NFC Championship games, despite having plenty of talent around him.

Put pressure on McNabb in a big game, and the Eagles will fold.

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