Wincing the Night Away: Preparing to Watch the Vikings Rematch with the Saints

The Vikings faithful are counting down the hours, the minutes, and maybe even the seconds until the Minnesota Vikings face the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night to kick off the 2010 NFL season. If you’re bothering to read material on a Vikings blog site, then you don’t need to be told that this is kind of a big deal because, not only is it the first game of the season, but it’s also a rematch of the hard-hitting NFC Championship game when these two teams faced off in the Super Dome on January 24, 2010.

There are some things that I have had a hard time letting go of and just accepting over the years.

  1. That Milli and Vanilli were lip-synching. Admit it, "Blame it on the Rain" was a good song.
  2. That the disreputable musician I had a crush on a few years back did not crush back even though I went camping so I could see his sorry ass in concert. I hate camping.
  3. That Coke Blak did not catch on. Carbonated coffee—what’s not to love?
  4. That the Minnesota Vikings lost to the New Orleans Saints on January 24, 2010 at the Super Dome.

Join me after the jump for a little music and my reasons for wincing while watching Thursday’s season opener through my fingers.

It was a tough loss and I found it especially difficult to let go because it wasn’t so much that the Saints beat the Vikings, despite being out-played, but because the Vikings beat themselves between penalties and turnovers. The other thing that continues to haunt me and make it hard to let go is because it was such a costly loss in terms of injured players.

 

In that game Brett Favre got hit like a piñata. He took 16 punishing shots, two of them even garnering fines from the NFL. And, for as hard as it was to watch the game, the pictures of the big, purple bruises on his thigh and ankle were worse. It was hard to blame him for wanting to retire.

So The Favre* hobbled back to Mississippi and, in an uncharacteristic move, he did not immediately hold a tearful press conference to announce his retirement. Granted he didn’t say he would come back, but he played coy with the media. Eventually the Vikings got tired of that coyness though and sent Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson, and Jared Allen down to chat, possibly drug him, and get him on a Minnesota-bound plane by any means necessary.

And now his first regular season game back in purple is against the Saints. Crap.

Gregg Williams, defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints, is known for coaching a blitz-happy defensive style that verges on thug nasty. Seriously, his players could work for loan sharks during the off-season because they know how to take out a knee like nobody’s business. I can’t imagine anyone would claim that players in the NFL don’t know the risks every time they step onto the playing field, but Williams is so outspoken about wanting to "send a message" every time the defense goes after a quarterback that he’s managed to raise eye-brows even in the hard-hitting NFL.

I’m not sure why, maybe it was because of the free-agency restrictions or maybe it was because of their draft position, but the Vikings did not do much during the off-season to improve depth on the offensive line—something they absolutely should have done to woo Favre back. Not only that, but Vikings center John Sullivan may not be on the field Thursday night because of a calf-strain. This would mean that on the night when the Vikings are facing a team that almost blitzed The Favre into a lasting retirement we might have a replacement at center, we’ll have a rookie next to him at guard, and we’ll still have the highly erratic Bryant McKinnie on the line. Maybe the Vikings should try keeping McKinnie focused by promising to take him to a strip club after the game if he does a good job. Positive reinforcement can work wonders.

And, while injuries to Favre were bad and have been talked about a lot as Thursday night’s game draws closer, Cedric Griffin and Sidney Rice are both still recovering from injuries they received during the NFC Championship game. It isn’t just Favre who’s still feeling the pain. In one game the Vikings lost a star receiver, a solid cornerback, and, nearly, their MVP quarterback.

That this rematch is coming at the beginning of the season could be good or bad. On the upside, the starters are as rested and healthy as they are likely to be all season. On the downside there is a fair chance that not only will the Saints' blitz attack on Favre become the template that all other teams will use this season to harass the Vikings offense, but the Vikings may also lose starters for the very positions where depth is the biggest problem.

However, no guts, no glory. So I’m going cross my fingers, don my lucky John Randle jersey, wear the Helga horns, and get ready to scream my heart out for my Vikings. But, just to be on the safe side, I may also stockpile some get-well cards and put Carl Johnson, NFL VP of officiating on my speed-dial. A girl's gotta hedge her bets.

I’m on a one-woman campaign to get The Favre to become Brett Favre’s semi-official nickname, the way Donald Trump is referred to as The Donald. Probably won’t catch on, I have a thing for lost causes, like Coke Blak.

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