JIM SOUHAN COLUMN: Do the Vikings really deserve to make the playoffs?
MINNEAPOLIS - Sunday, Minnesota showed how to conduct a big NFL game during a winter storm, with the Metrodome putting a twist on the concept of the snow globe. The swirling snow stayed on the outside while the Vikings were inside getting shaken ...
MINNEAPOLIS - Sunday, Minnesota showed how to conduct a big NFL game during a winter storm, with the Metrodome putting a twist on the concept of the snow globe. The swirling snow stayed on the outside while the Vikings were inside getting shaken like a bad martini.
An optimistic sellout crowd filed into the joint brushing snow from its shoulders, ready to see a sixth consecutive victory and the clinching of a playoff berth. These fans fought through snow-choked streets to get to the Dome, partied outside in the gloaming, then started roaring during the pregame introductions and continued proclaiming their undying loyalty right up until Tarvaris Jackson threw his first pass.
It was intercepted by the notorious Fred Smoot, and the crowd began booing, remembering that Vikings history features two phases: great teams that couldn't win the big one, and lesser teams that couldn't win the one to get to the big one. For at least a week, the 2007 Vikings will have to reside in the latter category.
The question for Vikings fans today is: Do you really want them to make the playoffs? Are you certain you want to see this group against another good NFC team?
One other important question was raised in the fourth quarter: Should you ever feel good about betting on sports?
The Vikings' comeback attempt was thwarted not so much by a great play but by the convergence of encroaching technology and goofy rules.
With Washington leading 25-14, the Redskins completed a long pass. The Vikings didn't think their receiver, Santana Moss, kept his feet in bounds. While the Vikings' sidelines implored Brad Childress to throw his red challenge flag, the Redskins tried to get off a quick snap.
The Redskins fumbled, the Vikings recovered - and Washington coach Joe Gibbs threw a challenge flag, claiming the Vikings had 12 defenders on the field.
The video found that to be true, so Gibbs' challenge was successful. Childress went nuts, running onto the field to dispute the call, saying the Vikings have the right to change personnel when the Redskins do. No matter - the Redskins kept the ball and scored.
After the game, Childress railed against not only the call but how it was made. Getting worked up about that call, though, ignores something else that was caught on video, other than a 12th defender: The Vikings stunk up the joint for most of the game. (Also, if quarterback Todd Collins hadn't been in a hurry, he probably wouldn't have fumbled.)
Before the Vikings began their five-game winning streak, they lost 34-0 to the Packers. Sunday, they received a bookend to that manhandling.
The Redskins clobbered them in the first half, taking a 22-0 lead and evoking memories of 41-donut, the embarrassment of the NFC Championship Game following the 2000 season. By halftime, some fans were booing and others were gathering their coats. Those who left early proved that discretion is the better part of driving in the winter or cheering for the Vikings.
In the biggest game at the Metrodome in a few years, the Vikings were dominated. The Redskins used eight and nine-man fronts, sometimes with four linemen and four linebackers and a safety up close, and wunderkind rookie Adrian Peterson managed 4 yards in the first half and got stuffed on fourth-and-1 to start the second half.
Meanwhile the Vikings' worst fears about their quarterback play were confirmed, as career backup Collins outplayed Jackson. Collins looked poised and competent while Jackson threw two unsightly first-half interceptions and failed to take advantage of the Redskins' willingness to overplay the run.
The Vikings head toward the last week of the season having watched their weaknesses - mediocre quarterback play and a porous pass defense - exposed. What's worse, they had their strengths - rushing offense and run defense - neutralized.
So you who left the dry confines early Sunday night, ask yourselves: Do you really want to see this team in the playoffs?
Souhan writes for the Star Tribune (Minneapolis).