Silencing the Doubters


One win isn’t enough to get the doubters off your back – not in the NFL, where a team’s fortunes can turn on a dime. So, if the Vikings wanted to earn real credibility, they had to follow up their stunning 41-17 dismantling of the Giants by proving themselves against the division rival Detroit Lions.

Detroit seemed equipped to possibly spoil things for the Vikes. They may have been playing poorly coming into the game, but they had beaten the Vikings earlier in the season, holding Adrian Peterson to 66 yards while carving up Minnesota’s notoriously porous pass defense to the tune of 359 yards. And they had a confident QB in Jon Kitna and an ingenius offensive coordinator in Mike Martz. In the end, though, the Vikings would prove themselves more than up to the challenge – in fact they would thoroughly dominate Detroit, beating them 42-10, and proving that the Giants game was not a fluke.

The win over New York raised the hopes of Vikings fans, who had seen their team fall to 3-6 and out of realistic playoff contention, then watched them get back to 5-6 by crushing a supposedly superior opponent. Those hopes rose even higher at the news that Adrian Peterson would return after tearing his LCL during the 34-0 loss to the Packers. Peterson, like the team, had some naysayers to address – people who said he was rushing back, that he wouldn’t be the same runner, that his season was ruined. All Peterson has done all year is make such people eat their words, and again today he fed them a big helping of crow. Wearing a brace on his knee, Peterson ran and cut and dashed nearly at the same pace he achieved unencumbered, rolling up 116 yards and 2 TDs, and leaving behind a field strewn with the jocks of helpless Lions defenders.

Peterson was spectacular again – but, unlike earlier in the season, he was not required to do the job practically on his own. The Vikings have developed a full, well-oiled offense in the few weeks since that disheartening shut-out at the hands of the Packers, and the big key has been the play of Tarvaris Jackson. The maligned signal-caller, an albatross around the organization’s neck according to some, has come into his own the last three weeks, and today played the best game of his career, racking up 204 yards and 2 TDs while minimizing mistakes (his 1 INT came when the game was already out-of-reach).

Jackson’s emergence is a demonstration of how fine the margin is for a quarterback. Before he was off just enough, his passes a touch too soon or too late, too high or too low; his decisions coming a fraction too slow. But now Jackson is in rhythm with his receivers. He hit Bobby Wade and Sidney Rice with regularity today, helping the running backs move the team down the field. And he used his running ability prudently and effectively, keeping drives alive with his scrambles. Where before he looked uncertain, now Jackson looks in control. His new-found assurance, coupled with this sudden offensive revival, have gone a long way toward validating Brad Childress, who was hammered relentlessly – by me as well as others – for sticking with the seemingly hopeless Jackson when there were other options. Now, we are beginning to see what Childress must’ve seen in Jackson all along.

Finally, the Vikings offense has become truly kick-ass.