Before we get started, let's pause for a little perspective. I'll cover some positive facts first:
- The Vikings will host at least one playoff game for the second consecutive year as champions of the NFC North.
- The Vikings can sweep the division with a victory on Monday night.
- The Vikings already have 11 wins, ensuring them their best record since the 2000 season. Another win in the next two games makes it the best record since the memorable 1998 campaign over a decade ago.
- The Vikings do not have Jay Cutler as their "quarterback of the future". Which is nice.
But of course, it isn't all warm fuzzies in Vikingland. Not after the Purple shoved an entire coal mine into our Christmas stockings against Carolina on Sunday night. Gonzo, Anthony, and all sorts of commenters in the Fan Post section have done a great job covering "hey wha happen?", but I would still like to throw in my two cents about what I saw on Sunday night.
First and foremost, the offensive line play was atrocious. Like "Oh my gosh who gave Allen Barbre and Orlando Pace Vikings jerseys?" atrocious. There were rarely any holes for the running game; what Adrian Peterson had to do to score our only points of the game is probably considered assault in most states. Mt. McKinnie was more like Volcano McKinnie--he caved in and left a trail of destruction everywhere within a 20-mile radius. Brittany Murphy could have done a better job blocking Julius Peppers on Sunday. (What? Too soon?) I think it was smart for Childress to bench him.
But that's about the only smart thing the coaching staff did all night. Peppers was devouring one-on-one blocking like Mark Mangino eating...well, anything. Did the coaching staff try to double team him with Jim Kleinsasser, the best blocking TE in the league? I didn't see it. Did they run to the left side to make Peppers think twice before repeatedly barreling into Favre all night? Hardly.
The Panthers coaching staff certainly made adjustments. They employed what I like to call the "Monty Python Brave Sir Robin" offense with Matt Moore and Steve Smith. They simply ran away from Jared Allen with bootlegs. To combat any double teaming of Smith, they had him run a ton of crossing routes to the same side of the field that Moore was rolling to. Throw in some shoddy tackling by a defense that was gassed in the fourth quarter thanks to all the three-and-outs by their counterparts, and you get a 26-7 defeat to an inferior team.
Two final notes about the game:
- That field in Carolina sucked. There were times where it looked like "NFL on Ice" thanks to the terrible footing. I'm not saying it cost us the game because both teams have to play on the same field. But it can serve as a convenient equalizer for lesser teams. This just solidifies the fact that we really want to play all our playoff games indoors. Just ask these 49er fans if they enjoyed their recent trip to Philadelphia:
- Dear Benny Sapp: never, ever, ever talk junk to Steve Smith. EVER. He feeds on it. If you disagree, watch his post-game interview with Andrea Kremer's nose below. Running your mouth to Steve Smith is like urinating on a Wolverine and then sticking around to see what happens. It just isn't a good idea.