There were a lot of subplots to Sunday's game against the Cowboys. It was the return of Randy Moss to the Metrodome, a depleted secondary that is barely treading water, and an offense that can't find their rear ends with both hands, much less the end zone. But the over riding theme was desperation. And not just your run of the mill, 'I need to marry my assistant or I'll get deported back to Canada' desperate like Sandra Bullock in The Proposal, but a 'I need to cut off my own leg with a pocket knife or I'll die here in this canyon' desperate.
For awhile, it looked like both teams were willingly going to screw up enough to let the other team win, but eventually the VIkings quit being gracious hosts and won the game. The Beloved Purple improved their record to 2-3, and started to right the ship. With losses by both Chicago and Green Bay, the NFC North looks like The Division of Misfit Teams, and if the Vikings can go into Green Bay and win next week, it's a whole new ballgame. If they can just hold on loosely through the next few weeks and don't let go, they should be okay.
Hmm...it seems to me that there's a song with lyrics like that.
Take it away, .38 Special:
If you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control.
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EJ Henderson, LB: Last week I said that I wasn't sure how, but the Vikings were going to the playoffs, and it was going to be epic. Henderson's performance against Dallas was the foundation to said epicness. He had two huge interceptions that lead to Minnesota's first TD, and their game clinching FG. He was all over the field, and it was apparent that at times he was carrying the defense on his shoulders. Oh, and if EJ Henderson was stuck in a canyon, he wouldn't panic and cut off his leg, because it's titanium. EJ Henderson is Superman.
Percy Harvin, WR/KR: Remember way back to 2009 when every time Percy Harvin touched the ball you thought he might score? I kind of got that feeling back last week against the Jets, and now it's all the way back after the Cowboys game. Just like the Jets game, a Harvin score reignited a moribund team and a moribund fanbase.
Antoine Winfield, CB: Is there a better tackler in the NFL? Don't answer, because that's what we like to call a 'rhetorical question', or one that isn't required an answer because said answer is so obvious. No, no there isn't a better tackler. When Winfield moves in to make the stop, the stop is made. If he's the only guy between a stop or a score, it's a stop. Always.
Brett Favre: Finally, Favre played a mistake free game. He was charged with a fumble, but replay showed that was clearly on Adrian Peterson. He didn't have a great day, but made a nice TD throw to Greg Camarillo and got on the same wavelength with Randy Moss.
Favre to Moss: No touchdowns this game, but Moss moved the chains and made some big catches, especially to open the second half. Moss is the security blanket that Favre didn't have, and it's going to pay off big.
Jim Kleinsasser, TE: He's not pretty and he's not silky smooth, but Jim Kleinsasser is 270 pounds of moving badass. He's more like a pissed off Hippo who has had his territory invaded, and someone is going to pay. He's been a great role player for the Vikings who has never sought the spotlight, and he's made more clutch catches for the Vikings in five games than he did all of last season.
Asher Allen, CB: Pressed in to duty because of injuries to Cedric Griffin and Chris Cook, Allen did okay. He broke up a couple of passes, made some nice tackles, and most importantly, wasn't Lito Sheppard. Allen is a good nickel back, and if Cook comes back healthy next week the Vikings secondary will be all right.
Lito Sheppard: Speaking of Lito Sheppard, he's terrible, just terrible. His legacy of terrible in a Vikings uniform rivals the French Military, and he's done. He can't cover, he can't tackle, and he can't get out of his own way.
Bernard Berrian: Berrian's name was mentioned once on Sunday. He committed a penalty that negated a big play. $16 million guaranteed...for this?!?!?!?!
Frank Walker: Newly acquired Frank Walker's name was called once on Sunday, too. He also committed a penalty. If Frank Walker had to guard Bernard Berrian, they'd call offsetting penalties of Ass on every play.
Ryan Longwell, K: Watching the early games today I got a sense of adventure when watching other teams kickers trot out on to the field. Just for the record, that's not a good feeling to have with your kicker. I don't have that with Longwell.
Defensive Line Pressure: It's been spotty this year, but I thought the front four did a good job of harassing Tony Romo. Jared Allen didn't register a sack, but he was bringing it from the outside from early in the second quarter on.
Greg Camarillo, WR: Camarillo caught his first TD pass as a Viking, and it seems that he is slowly but surely supplanting Bernard Berrian. which I think we can all be grateful for.
Defensive Halftime Adjustments: Dallas gouged Minnesota with screen passes and off tackle runs early in the game, but give credit to Leslie Frazier. he turned that spigot off in the second half, and Dallas had a lot of difficulty running the ball for the final thirty minutes as well.
Adrian Peterson's Angry Running: Peterson converted every short yardage situation, including a goal line TD. Hey, did you notice that when you run between a hall of famer and an All Pro on the left side, there's a hole so big Johnny Wad couldn't plug it? Touchdown, Vikings. So why, again, did Chilly run right on the goal line against the Dolphins? Just asking...
Third Down Backs, Except Percy Harvin: Okay, I was wrong. I thought losing Chester Taylor would be a loss, but not a complete void. Wow. Toby Gerhart and Albert Young just aren't getting it done, and you can't leave Adrian Peterson on the field every play. It's a troublesome development, and I don't see any improvement around the corner. But when they lined up Harvin in the backfield on third down and gave him the ball, good things happened. Hmmmmmm....
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE: Has Shiancoe caught a pass since week 1? This was a guy that was a borderline All-Pro and Favre's favorite red zone target last year. The only thing I can think of that is more ineffective than Shiancoe right now is a condom with the end cut off.
The Vikes Are Out Of It Meme: 2-3 isn't great, but at least we're not Dallas fans right now. Chicago is the worst 4-2 team in NFL history, and the Packers might have too many injuries to overcome. Packer week starts even before you started reading this, and a win in Lambeau leaps the Vikings ahead of the Packers into second place, with two games against Chicago still on the books.
Keep the faith, Purple Nation. This was a big win, and the division is still wide open. And when you look around the rest of the NFC, there is no team that is running away with this thing. The Vikes will be in it at the end.
Like Winston Churchill famously said, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. And this beginning has sucked.
Uh, that last sentence was mine, but you probably knew that.