Pretty decent Minnesota sports weekend, overall. Vikings win. . .Twins split with the Rays. . .Gophers win. . .Bears lose a heartbreaker. . .Lions get smashed in San Francisco. . .and the Packers get run off their home field by Minnesota native Marion Barber III.
Yep. . .it's a fine Monday to be a Viking fan. Of course, every Monday is a fine Monday to be a Viking fan, just like every other day is a fine day to be a Viking fan, and to hell with anybody that says otherwise. Really, it's just a matter of whether I spend Monday being Happy Gonzo, which is better for all of the people in my immediate vicinity, or Angry Gonzo. . .which is not as good for all the people around me, but much better for this website, since Angry Gonzo seems to be a much better writer than Happy Gonzo.
And now that I've celebrated my multiple personality disorder and referred to myself in the third person a few times, join us. . .er, me. . .in taking a look back at yesterday's Viking triumph over the Carolina Panthers.
Don't get me wrong. . .I still really, really don't approve of Brad Childress' handling of the quarterback situation this past week. It's not the benching of Tarvaris Jackson that I have an issue with so much as how the matter was handled, but that's another debate for another time. What I WILL say, however, is that if this is the kind of thing that it took for Childress to actually open up the offense and try something other than "let's hand the ball to #28 until he collapses," then I'm alright with it for now.
The Vikings certainly weren't afraid to come out throwing on Sunday, as the first six offensive plays were all passes. . .in six minutes of actual game time, Gus Frerotte had thrown two fewer passes than Tarvaris Jackson had averaged in the first half of the previous two games. And Gus was making decent throws, despite one of those six passes being intercepted by Chris Gamble on a Bernard Berrian deflection (on a ball that Berrian really should have caught) and one was hauled in by Visanthe Shiancoe, only to have it knocked away by Gamble near the first down marker.
But near the end of the first half, it didn't appear as though anything was going to really change. The Vikings had driven 69 yards to the Panther 11-yard line, taking 15 plays and just over eight minutes to do so, but once again came away with nothing but a Ryan Longwell field goal to cut their deficit to 10-3. But just before halftime, CB Antoine Winfield made the play that just might have saved this season for Minnesota.
Panther QB Jake Delhomme dropped back to pass on a 3rd and 8 from the Carolina 29. Winfield, who had started out lined up on the outside receiver, came screaming in from Delhomme's right on a corner blitz. Delhomme, who appeared to be completely locked on WR Steve Smith for the entire play, never saw #26 bearing down on him. . .part of the appeal of only being 5'8", I guess. . .and Winfield crushed him, knocking the ball loose as Delhomme went down. Winfield scooped it up the ball and bounced into the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown, and the Vikings went into the locker room with a tie game and all the momentum on their side.
They carried that momentum over to the second half in a big way. Taking the second half kickoff, the Vikings stormed down the field, moving 80 yards in five plays, scoring on a 34-yard touchdown pass to. . .Visanthe Shiancoe? THAT Visanthe Shiancoe!? Yeah, nobody was more surprised than me. Well, except maybe Visanthe Shiancoe. The other big play on that drive was Frerotte hitting Bernard Berrian for a 47-yard gain on 3rd and 7 to keep the drive alive.
The Vikings defense took it from there, and the Panthers didn't mount a serious scoring threat the rest of the afternoon. The Four Norsemen of the Apocalypse were all over Jake Delhomme, with Jared Allen registering a sack and forcing Panthers' LT Jordan Gross into a couple of holding penalties, including one that negated a big gain from Steve Smith that could have gotten the Panthers into Minnesota territory. Kevin Williams also racked up his first two sacks of the season.
If I were to give a game ball to anybody from the defense, however, it would have to be E.J. Henderson. If the Pro Bowl rosters come out in late January or early February and E.J. Henderson isn't the starting middle linebacker for the NFC, then I'm sorry, but the system is broken. Henderson was an absolute monster against the Panthers, putting together 12 tackles (11 solo), with 3 of those tackles going for losses, a quarterback hit, and basically being everywhere on the field all the time.
Hopefully this is the start of something bigger for the Vikings. They've got a tough one coming up on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, followed by a trip to New Orleans for a Monday night battle in Week 5. After a slow start, it would be nice if the Vikings could get it together and turn the corner before too much longer.