Despite six fumbles and a pick--two of the turnovers inside the Saints' 10-yard line--the Minnesota Vikings still had an opportunity to defeat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. With the ball on the Saints' 30 yard line and nineteen seconds remaining in the game, however, the Vikings did what they always seem to do when faced with an opportunity to secure the franchise's first NFL championship in a half century.
With nineteen seconds showing on the game clock, all the Vikings had to do was trot out the field goal squad to attempt what would have been a routine field goal attempt for placekicker Ryan Longwell. It seemed tailor made for securing redemption for Gary Anderson's missed kick against the Atlanta Falcons. And it seemed true to the script for the entire season.
The Vikings began the sequence appropriately enough, calling a timeout. That's the last thing that went right for Minnesota--either for the team or for its long-suffering fans.
Following the timeout, the Vikings inexplicably had twelve men in the huddle. The resulting penalty set the Vikings back five yards.
Miscue notwithstanding, the Vikings were still well within Longwell's range, facing what would have been a 52-yard field goal attempt. The Vikings' coaching staff apparently felt otherwise, however, calling for a roll-out right and a short pass to Bernard Berrian in the flat.
Unfortunately, the Saints covered Berrian and Favre eschewed an easy five-yard pickup on the ground in favor of an impossible pass back across the field to a double-covered Sidney Rice. More unfortunately, the pass resulted in a pick.
The Saints won the ensuing coin flip and the Vikings never again saw the ball, losing to a team that, by most objective measures, they otherwise outplayed on the day.
The Vikings and their fans will look for silver linings in this loss, but there are none. To make matters worse, the Vikings face an off-season in which they might lose defensive tackle Pat Williams, running back Chester Taylor, and Favre. And if the Vikings struggled to the Super Bowl this year, imagine another year of the Saints improving with all of their key players back, the Packers improving, and the Vikings almost assuredly facing a much tougher schedule.
Following the Vikings' loss on Sunday, the offices at Winter Park became noticeably less drafty. Presumably, that was the result of some windows being closed after the recent warm spell.
Up Next: What Vikings Must Do To Succeed in 2010.