Monday, December 8, 2008

A win's a win


Even when you beat the league's worst team by four points?

Even when you sweep a historically bad team by a total of six points in two games?


Yes, the Vikings did beat the Lions, sending the Motor City Kitties tumbling down to 0-13 in the process. And the Vikings went to 8-5 on the season, keeping a one-game division lead on the Chicago Bears. And hey, with the Packers losing and dropping to 5-8, that pretty much eliminates them from the playoffs. So it's a good day all around, right?

Well, yeah. I guess I'm happy. Then why don't I feel like it?

Probably because, at least in terms of the "visible" coaching, frequent scapegoat Brad Childress was fine. Play calling was fine, with 30 runs to 22 passes (and two kneeldowns). The defense had four sacks and three fumbles and, apart from one play, held the Detroit offense in check.

No, if any blame has to be assigned for this week's not-as-dominant-as-we-would-have-liked victory, it has to rest squarely on the players' shoulders.

And you have to start with the main man himself, Adrian Peterson. Three fumbles? Really? And nearly a fourth? All this with a "meh" 4.4 yards per carry against the league's worst rushing defense (though some of that blame can also go on the offensive line). Is that really all you've got late in the season when you're team's fighting for the division title?

Speaking of running the ball, at one point, my friend turned to me and asked, "Are you sure they didn't suspend the Williams brothers?" Looking at the final numbers, I'm amazed to see that the Lions finished with just 76 rushing yards and a 2.8 average, because they sure seemed to be running well throughout the game.

Five offsides calls. Guys, there's this thing, see. It's called the line of scrimmage. You're supposed to line up behind it. Got that? Good.

Gus Frerotte. Yech. Now, didn't I say a couple weeks ago that if Tarvaris Jackson has to play, it won't actually be the worst thing in the world, as bad as Gus has looked over the past month? Sad as it sounds, I think the best QBs on the field yesterday were, in order, Daunte Culpepper, Tarvaris Jackson, and Gus Frerotte.

And then there was Benny "the sap" Sapp. Redeemed himself with a late interception last week against Chicago after a boneheaded personal foul gave the Bears a free first down. This week he again had an awful penalty (holding) that negated a third-down sack and gave the Lions new life, which they'd cash in on the very next play for a 70-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson (running right past Cedric Griffin). He was also flagged for one of the offsides penalties above...really, how does a DB line up offsides? Come on.

The thing is, we can never know what amount of coaching leads to these mistakes. And really, to a large extent, you have to blame it on the players. A DB lining up offsides isn't the coach's fault. A running back (who's normally very sure-handed) fumbling three times isn't the coach's fault. A journeyman 37-year-old QB looking his age isn't the coach's fault. If the Vikings would have lost this game, it wouldn't have helped Brad Childress's case any, but I would have had a hard time pinning this one on the head coach. the end, the Vikings did win, and next week they head to Arizona in what is essentially a battle for the #3 seed in the NFC and a chance to avoid playing the Giants in the second round. Still, this has the look of a team that, if it has to play a good team on the road in the playoffs, will get beaten like a rented mule. But until then, we can hope for a division win, maybe a fluke upset of the Giants (either by us or by another team so that we can host another playoff game), and maybe, just maybe, if Gus can't go, we can hope for another solid outing by T-Jack in the desert next week.

Or is that asking too much?

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