Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Letting it sink in

After a few days to absorb "the loss," I find that my opinion hasn't really changed much. The wound has healed slightly, and I'm moving on with my life. Just like Brett Favre. Or maybe not.

This paragraph, right here, will be the only thing I write from now until the start of the next season about whether I believe Brett Favre will return. My opinion: I don't know. Neither do you, and neither does he. We can all speculate, we can all guess, we can all read rumors, hear quotes, we can read on the Internet, hear on the radio, watch on ESPN, whatever. None of it means anything. Anything. Yes, he currently says it's unlikely he'll play again, but that's because he's tired, sore, and mentally exhausted right now. We've been through this before. By April, he'll be healed up and get that "itch" again and make some offhand comment to someone and then it'll be FavreWatch all over again. I'm willing to play out scenarios about the Vikings' quarterback situation going forward, and I'll include caveats about "If he returns," but all they'll be is speculation, just as if I was saying "If the Vikings draft a quarterback this year." It might happen, it might not. Until Week 1 of the 2010 season begins and Brett Favre is not suited up, then he is returning to play again. Until that time, I'm not interested in speculation. Really. Not at all. (In related news, Brad Childress won't set a deadline for Favre to return, which is like telling your boss that it's OK for him to take tomorrow off.)

Now that I've got all that out of my system, it pains me to admit that I can't really blame the NFC Championship Game loss on Saint Brett. Yes, those two interceptions, especially the one at the end of regulation were brutal, but even if he runs for a few yards on that play, as many have pointed out he could have, it would have left us with a 50-ish-yard field goal for the win. Ryan Longwell is certainly capable of making that in a dome, but it's not like Favre outright "lost us the game." He lost us a chance to win, yes, but probably no worse than the 50/50 chance we essentially had in overtime. I also don't blame the officiating crew who, despite some questionable calls in overtime, seemed pretty even-handed in dishing out the lousy calls all around, including a classic "roughing the Favre" penalty that even Troy Aikman didn't believe should have been called. Folks, when Troy Aikman thinks roughing the passer shouldn't be called, it ain't roughing the passer. And the Vikings' defense and special teams played surprisingly well, allowing just 257 yards from scrimmage and just one big kick return while completely bottling up Reggie Bush on punt returns. Even the playcalling was mostly good, if a little conservative late in the game.

No, the blame has to go around to guys like Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and Bernard Berrian, for their stunning inability to hold on to the football. None of Peterson's official three fumbles were recovered by the Saints, though he was probably to blame for the fumble at the goal line on a botched handoff at the end of the first half. That, as well as Harvin's and Berrian's fumbles all were recovered inside the 10-yard-line (either the Saints' or the Vikings') and it's easy to see that avoiding just one of those plays would have made a huge difference in such a tight game. Avoid all three and the game is likely a blowout for the Vikings.

It's amazing, though, to realize that even with five turnovers and a -4 margin, the Vikings were still just one play away from winning, which stands as a tribute to their overall strong play in other areas. This stands in stark contrast to their last NFC Championship Game appearance, the infamous 41-0 thrashing at the hands of the Giants in 2001. Even the agony of the 1999 loss to the Falcons seems more hurtful than this game, if only because we were supposed to win that one easily. This was a game on the road against a team with a superior offense and we practically dominated them. The manner of the loss is hurtful, but the loss itself seems less than unexpected.

But it's still a loss, and it's another gut-wrenching end to the season for the Vikings. I suppose I should be used to it by now. After all, statistically, only one out of 32 teams ever finishes the season the way it wants to, so the odds are always against us. But hope springs eternal, I suppose, and I'll be hoping again with the rest of you when September comes along.

Wait 'til next year.

No comments: