EDITed to add poll. . .enjoy!
Honestly, folks, is there a better time than right now to be a fan of Minnesota sports? We got to watch the Minnesota Twins win five consecutive must-win games (starting with Thursday's series finale in Detroit and concluding with Tuesday's play-in victory), and sandwiched in-between was the Vikings defeating their cross-border rivals in what was, quite possibly, the most hyped and most heavily promoted regular-season game in the last couple of decades. Now, at the quarter pole of the 2009 NFL season, the Beloved Purple are one of only five teams in the National Football League whose record remains unblemished (along with the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, New Orleans Saints, and New York Giants).
Yep, it's a pretty good time to be cheering for teams that call Minnesota home. So let's go into what happened on Monday night. . .oh, and if you want to re-live everything again, the NFL Network will be re-playing the Packers/Vikings game at 8:30 PM Central time. I'll be flipping back and forth between that and the new episode of South Park from 9 to 9:30. Hey. . .man's gotta get away every once in a while. (-:Last season, had you come out before a Vikings game and said that Adrian Peterson would rush for 55 yards, average around two yards/carry, and that he'd lose a fumble that was taken back for a touchdown, the only question you would have gotten from a Vikings fan would have been along the lines of "So, did we lose by three touchdowns, or did we manage to keep it within two?" Over the last couple of years of the Brad Childress era, when Adrian Peterson has had a bad game, the Vikings have gotten beaten (with a couple of exceptions). But watching Monday night's game, you knew things were going to be different. . .and you didn't know how you knew, you just knew.
On a night when the best running back in the National Football League just couldn't get himself going, a guy that will turn 40 years old on Saturday put his new team on his back and showed his old team. . .and the rest of America's doubters. . .that he's still plenty capable of getting the job done. After he connected on a beautiful 31-yard rainbow to Bernard Berrian in the third quarter to make the score 28-14, he was 18-for-21 for 226 yards and three touchdowns. For a team. . .and, specifically, a secondary. . .that allegedly knew everything there was to know about Brett Favre, #4 spent a lot of time making the guys in green and yellow look foolish. On the touchdown pass to Berrian, Al Harris looked about as lost as he did on a certain touchdown pass in a certain playoff game a few years ago, as he thought he had deep help that simply wasn't there, and Berrian slipped untouched into the end zone.
Favre's performance was good enough to earn him the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week for Week 4, as he finished up with a stat line of 24/31, 271 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. More importantly, he didn't take a single sack during the entire evening after taking nine in the first three weeks, and was rarely even pressured by Green Bay's front seven.
This was a pretty stark contrast to his counterpart on the other side, Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers spent his night under constant pressure from the Vikings' defensive line, and the pressure came almost exclusively from the outsides, as Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, and Brian Robison continuously made the Packer offensive tackles on both sides look silly. Allen wound up with 4.5 sacks on the evening, half a sack shy of tying the Vikings' single-game record of five, and that included a forced fumble by Rodgers on the opening drive of the game, and Allen's third safety in the last two Viking/Packer games at the Metrodome, as he took Rodgers down in the end zone after a beautiful Chris Kluwe punt in the fourth quarter. At first, it appeared as though it was another fumble by Rodgers that Allen recovered at the Green Bay 1-yard line, but the Packers challenged it, and replay confirmed that #69 had taken Rodgers down in the end zone before the ball came loose. Overall, the Vikings wound up with eight sacks on the evening, and seven of them came from defensive ends (4.5 for Allen, 1.5 for Robison, and 1 for Ray Edwards). Jimmy Kennedy was the lone interior lineman to register a sack for Minnesota on Monday night.
Not everything about Monday night's game was all sunshine and lollipops, however. On the rare occasions that Rodgers did get time to throw, he ripped the Vikings apart pretty good, finishing the game with 347 yards passing and two touchdown passes of his own (along with his first interception of the season, a pick by Antoine Winfield that led to another Minnesota touchdown). The Vikings also got mauled by a fast, strong tight end again, just as they did by Vernon Davis against the 49ers the week before, as Jermichael Finley caught six passes for 128 yards, including the 62-yard touchdown pass that answered the Vikings opening score.
I'm not the world's biggest Aaron Rodgers fan. I don't think he's the next Johnny Unitas or anything crazy like that. But after the absolute beating the Vikings subjected him to on Monday night and for him to answer the way he did, it's really, really hard to question his toughness at this point. That guy put his big boy pants on this Monday night, and it was darn near enough for him to lead his team to a victory even after getting sacked eight times and spending his evening running for his life almost every time he dropped back to pass.
Speaking of quarterbacks, much was made of the quarterback makeover that the NFC North underwent this season. Rodgers is the only quarterback starting for an NFC North team this year that started for the same team last year, with the Lions, Bears, and Vikings all bringing in new starters. At the quarter point of the season, how do those quarterbacks compare? Well. . .see for yourself:
Yep. . .the old guy seems to be living up to the hype after all, I'd say. Will he be able to maintain his current pace? Well, I don't think he's going to end the season with a 32/4 TD-to-INT ratio or anything, but I think he's still going to have a significantly larger number in the TD column than he'll have in the INT column. In any event, it sure as heck has been fun to watch so far, hasn't it?
So, what do we have to look forward to in the second quarter of the season? Well, only one of Minnesota's next four games will be in the comfy confines of the Metrodome, for starters. They'll start this stanza with a trip to St. Louis. . .a potential trap game if there ever was one. . .for a date with the Rams before hosting the Baltimore Ravens in Week 6 in what should be an extremely physical, hard-hitting contest. No rest for the Vikings after that, however, as they travel to the House that Ketchup Built in Week 7 to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, and then make the annual pilgrimage to Lambeau Field to take on these same Packers before heading into their bye in Week 9.
As far as the rest of the NFC North, since we should be tracking them, too, both Chicago and Green Bay have Week 5 off. The Packers will host the Lions and travel to Cleveland before hosting the rematch with the Vikings. Chicago has a Sunday night date with the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6, followed by a trip to Cincinnati to take on the surprising Bengals and a home game against Cleveland. Detroit has the defending world champions at home this Sunday, followed by a trip to Green Bay, a bye week of their own, and a home contest against St. Louis.
It's been a great start to the 2009 season, ladies and gentlemen. . .and I'm happy as heck as you've spent it here with DN. Don't go anywhere the rest of the year, since we'll still be here providing the best Vikings coverage you'll find anywhere. Have a good rest of your evening, ladies and gentlemen. . .go Twins, and SKOL Vikings!!!!