Last weekend against the Redskins, the Vikings gave us one reason to keep watching: the hope of a veteran team rallying around a new head coach and just plain having fun again.
I would like to give you another reason to watch, based on my previous experience...
In 2002, the first full season under Mike Tice, the Minnesota Vikings were terrible. No way around it. The defense couldn't stop even the worst of NFL offenses, Daunte Culpepper set a record for turnovers lost, and Tice hadn't quite "got" the whole head coach thing down yet.
After thirteen weeks, the Vikings' record stood at 3-10. The playoffs were a pipe dream, and three straight losses had fans wondering if another win would even be forthcoming. But then, a funny thing started to happen. Not only did the team win, but it won in spectacular, memorable fashion. The final three games of the season included:
In New Orleans, in a game that saw Culpepper rush for two scores throw one to Randy Moss, the Vikings scored (Pep to Moss again, of course) on the final play from scrimmage to move within one point of the lead (you see, Aaron Brooks, Joe Horn, Duece McCallister, and Co. had also been shredding our D). However, with the season lost, Tice decided to go for the two point conversion and the "W". Now, of course, with a physical specimen like Pep taking the snap, one would have to think QB-lead. That is exactly the play that happened...until the ball bounced off Daunte's hands like a superball on a sidewalk. Inexplicably, though, it came right back up to him and he dived into the endzone for the victory.
Then, back at home, the Vikings took on the Dolphins. In a game that saw #84 THROW a TD pass to Dwayne Bates, of all people...
...the game again came down to the final play. As old Gary Anderson lined up to kick a 53-yard field goal, former teammate Cris Carter (now trying to prove he had something left in Miami)...
...was shown on the sidelines telling his teammates that Anderson had no shot of making the game-winner. Seconds later, Gary swung that creaky old leg one more time and put the ball just over the crossbar. Though it never erased the pain of the '98 playoffs, that kick from Gary did a little bit to help those old wounds toughen up a bit.
Finally, the last game of the season saw Kelly "It Is What It Is" Campbell absolutely torch the Lions for two scores in a 38-36 victory.
So, in a season that ended up as a 6-10 disaster, those final three games (especially the Saints/Dolphins) are contests that I will never forget. Some would probably saw that all those wins gained the Vikings was a lower draft pick, but I don't buy that for a second. When 60,000 people pack a stadium to cheer their heart and soul out for the home team, you do what it takes to win the game, and potentially create exciting moments like those above.
Could the same happen in 2011? The great thing is, you just never know!