An incredibly exhausting, at times mind-numbingly frustrating season finally comes to an end today in Detroit. The Vikings are coming off their best win of the season, a shocking, in some ways dominating 24-14 victory over the playoff bound Eagles. The Lions, meanwhile, are on a rare hot streak, having won their last three including two straight on the road. Another win for the Lions would, by virtue of tiebreakers, lift them out of last place in the NFC North and send the Vikings tumbling to their first basement finish since the infamous 1984 Les Steckel season.
Which Vikings team will show up this afternoon is anyone’s guess. Maybe it will be the one that stunned Philadelphia with an effective and balanced offense and an aggressive quarterback-smashing, turnover-creating defense. Or maybe it will be the one that laid down like sick dogs the prior two weeks. The obvious excuse for the Vikings, if they do fold like a cheap tent again, is that they played on Tuesday night, giving them just four days in between games. They won’t get much sympathy from the Lions who every year on Thanksgiving are required to play with only three days of preparation.
Hopefully, it will not be too much to ask for the Vikings to muster one last solid effort and send the fans into the off-season happy. We certainly expect nothing less than full engagement from Joe Webb, who has endeared himself to the fanbase already with his tenacity and flair. We also expect nothing less from Adrian Peterson who plays every game like he wants to maul someone and then eat their family. Ditto Percy Harvin who, despite being dogged by physical issues all season, has never stopped giving it his all on the field. As for the offensive line and secondary: well, let’s just hope they don’t completely fall apart like they did against the Packers and Bears. Adequacy is about all we can hope for from these injury-plagued and mistake-ridden areas of the team.
If the Vikings do manage to pull themselves together and win one last game, they will finish the 2010 season at 7-9 – a far cry from what some expected coming off an NFC Championship game, but better than what they seemed destined for when they sat at 3-7 after getting drubbed at home by the Packers and firing Brad Childress. No one is suggesting the team or fans should be happy with a 7-9 finish, but after the chaos that descended in the middle of the season, I believe a 4-2 stretch run would be something worth deriving at least a little encouragement from, especially if it ends up including 3 road wins. Obviously, you can’t overlook the 2 humiliating losses included in that stretch run, but at least you can argue that there were extenuating circumstances, including an unstable quarterback situation and a completely messed-up schedule. And no, I’m not trying to make an excuse for the team. Brett Favre and the Metrodome may have both collapsed, leaving the team rudderless and homeless, but these were hardly insurmountable situations. Had the rest of the roster stepped up, they could’ve beaten the Giants in Detroit, and could’ve at least given the Bears a game. That they fell so flat in those games can only partly be attributed to the crazy circumstances surrounding them; the rest of the blame falls squarely on the players, who needed to demonstrate a little more gumption in the face of adversity.
Obviously, this is far from a perfect team. There is talent in some areas but not others. Some of the guys have undeniable passion while others are at best inconsistent in their effort level. Today’s game gives everyone their last chance to assess this roster before an off-season of tough decisions. And it’s the last time we’ll be seeing our favorite team in a real game until September, so we better enjoy it.
Site5 and Fansided Holiday Season Charity Drive: Give to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.