There was a time this season when it looked like Brad Childress might not last to the end of the year. The Vikings, picked by some to contend for the Super Bowl before the season, were 1-3 after a Week 4 loss to Tennessee and had a tough road game coming up in New Orleans. The blame for the bad start was falling squarely on the head coach who two weeks before had replaced his starting quarterback in what appeared to be a desperation move. But – call it a miracle if you will – the Vikes were able to win that game against New Orleans and momentarily lower the heat on their leader. They would follow this victory by barely edging Detroit, evening their record at 3-3; then would come a tough 48-41 loss to the Bears, dropping them back to 3-4 and stirring the Fire Childress crowd back into action. A bye week followed. Some speculated that the Vikes would have a new coach coming out of the bye, but when they took the field against Houston, Childress was still there. A win over the Texans made them a .500 team again – and the next week they beat the Packers to climb to 5-4. A stumble against Tampa Bay dropped them back to .500, but after that came the defining stretch of games – three on the road against Jacksonville, Detroit and Arizona with a home game against the Bears mixed in. The Vikes would win the four games by an average score of 30-14. The team that started 1-3 was now 9-6 and a win away from securing the NFC North. The Fire Childress crowd was quiet. The crazy, sometimes infuriating season would culminate two weeks later with a 20-19 win over the defending champion Giants. For the first time since Childress took the reins, the Vikings would find themselves advancing to the playoffs.
The Turning Point
My mind keeps going back to that New Orleans game as the turning point of the season. And the key play in that game was actually a bad one by a Viking: It was 17-10 Vikes with the Saints driving when Chad Greenway forced Reggie Bush to fumble, preventing a potential tying score. Replays showed Greenway actually face-masked Bush but the refs never saw it. The momentum of the game would’ve been entirely different had the Saints scored there to tie it at 17-17. As it was, the Saints would come back in the second half, exploding for 17 points in a little over 5 minutes thanks mostly to two Reggie Bush punt return touchdowns. Gus Frerotte would quickly tie the game on a TD pass to Bernard Berrian, on a play where Berrian actually appeared to run the wrong route. The winning score would come courtesy of Ryan Longwell, whose field goal was set up by a questionable pass interference call on Saints safety Kevin Kaesviharn.
The whole Vikings season ended up hinging on that game, and those few crazy plays. Had they lost and fallen to 1-4, there’s a good chance Brad Childress would’ve been fired. Even had Chilly survived, it seems unlikely that the team could’ve crawled all the way out of that hole and made the playoffs. If you boil it right down, the Vikings probably owe their whole season to the referees in that game – for not calling a face-mask and for calling pass interference. But there are myriad other plays and calls in other games that we could point to as well – and that’s how it is in every season.
Thank You Giants…and Bears
The Vikings also owe the New York Giants who did us a favor by pulling players in the second half yesterday. The Giants had us stifled until they decided to let Justin Tuck and their other defensive stalwarts rest, and basically called off the dogs on offense. The Vikings scored 10 fourth quarter points against second-stringers, and despite their own clock-management ineptitude, managed to kick a game-winning 50-yard field goal. Of course it all ended up being moot as the Bears could not find a way to defeat the Houston Texans.
It seems fitting that the season should’ve come down to a shaky game management situation and a player basically bailing out the coaching staff – cause that’s how it’s been all year. Thank goodness Ryan Longwell still has huge leg and can’t be iced no matter how many time outs the other team calls. Thank goodness Gus Frerotte was able to have a few good games and keep the whole ship from sinking. Thank goodness Tarvaris Jackson came in late and sparked the team after Frerotte ran out of gas. Thank goodness our defensive line is one of the most talented in the league and can cover for a secondary that often looks like it doesn’t know what it’s doing. Thank goodness our offensive line is sometimes able to open holes for Adrian Peterson who occasionally manages to hold onto the ball. Thank goodness talent and skill are able to overcome shoddy game-planning, idiotic situational management and pinheaded motivational nonsense. Brad Childress is still here because we have good players at most positions. I hope he appreciates that. Now let’s hope he doesn’t shit his pants against the Eagles.
Topics: Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian, Brad Childress, Chad Greenway, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Gus Frerotte, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Justin Tuck, Kevin Kaesviharn, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Reggie Bush, Ryan Longwell, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tarvaris Jackson, Tennessee Titans