I love the days after a Minnesota Vikings win. No matter what the weather is like outside, it's a beautiful day. And when I opened the paper on Monday, it didn't disappoint. The local beat writers cultivate a world-weary demeanor, kind of a too-cool-for-school thing, but on Monday, to a one, they were pretty excited about the Vikings' upset win over the San Francisco 49ers. Like unto the Spanish Inquisition, no one expected it.
And, if anyone had thought that there might, just might, be the possibility of a Vikings win, it would surely have come at the hands of a bad call, or have been squeaked out by the power of Blair Walsh's right leg in the final seconds of a suspiciously close game. That the Vikings won decisively after holding a lead the entire game was nothing short of astounding and the sports writing community, who pretty unanimously expected the Vikings to lose, was pleasantly amazed.
In an article I wrote a few weeks back, I talked about Brian Robison addressing to a group of stadium supporters at a Minnesota Momentum appreciation event at training camp in Mankato:
That focus on moving forward, competition, and playing disciplined football falls in line with the team goals. Robison shared that there are three team goals and, considering the team finished last season 3-13, they seem audacious. However, audacity doesn't make something unattainable, it makes it a challenge. The team goals are to 1) win the NFC North division, 2) clinch a first-week bye in the playoffs, 3) win the Super Bowl.
Time will tell whether the team reaches those goals this season. Vikings fans likely have doubts, but I would guess 49ers fans had doubts heading into 2011 too.
Okay, I wrote that, but I didn't really think the Vikings were going to find a way to win last Sunday. After the messy loss to the Indianapolis Colts, it was hard to believe that the Vikings were even capable of the dominant and largely error free coup that they pulled off yesterday at the Mall of America Field. But having seen the Vikings not only beat a team that plays balanced, disciplined football, but to do it by playing better balanced, disciplined football than the 49ers...well...it's hard to write off those goals as simply locker room bravado.
I mean, it is locker room bravado, but that doesn't mean Robison is wrong.
From beginning to end, the Vikings put together a complete, dominant, largely clean game on Sunday, so different from what they had done in Indianapolis the week before that it was hard to believe it was the same team. Given that, it's hardly surprising that the Vikings weren't picked to win. PredictionMachine.com forecasts game outcomes and is said to play the game as many as 50,000 times in simulation before the players ever take the field, and it projected that the 49ers would win 25-16. But the shortcoming with any prediction is that you can't account for the human spirit.
The Vikings were well-prepared on Sunday, but it wasn't just about film study, technique, and game-planning. No, the Vikings were mentally tough. They didn't get too excited when things were going well, nor did they get too down when they made mistakes. That might not sound all that revolutionary, but the last time I remember the Vikings giving a complete, commanding, and mentally tough performance, it was January 17, 2010 when the Vikings beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-3 in the divisional round of the playoffs. The December 28, 2010 game when the Vikings beat the Philadelphia Eagles 24-14 in Philadelphia after the two-day snow delay was great, but for sheer dominance and confidence in all aspects of the game, the Dallas game gets my vote.
It's been a long time since that win and the Vikings have seen confidence and dominance suffer in the last two years of chaos and transition. How much Sunday's win means for the future of this team's season, is hard to say because it depends largely on whether or not they can duplicate the success and continue to play disciplined, dominant football. Could this be a one off sparked by Antoine Winfield's moving (apparently it was, but the team isn't sharing details) team speech? Or, is this the start of sustainable success? Could the Vikings finally be heading toward a goal other than chronic underachievement?
It wouldn't be the first time a team has taken a big step forward after looking like it didn't know what direction to head--just ask the 49ers.
With teams in transition, they are bound to have inconsistency, but if the Vikings can hang onto the mental toughness and discipline they displayed on Sunday, there's no reason they can't make waves in the NFC North division and challenge for the top spot. The Vikings made a statement on Sunday, continued performances like that could make for a storyline that few outside of Winter Park expected this season. We'll find out if this victory is a fluke, or if the Vikings' hard work and lofty goals is going to pay off with them catching fire.
Sorry, moments like this one just seem to demand a cheesy, quasi-inspirational movie song from the 1980s. Can't help it, had to be done. The power of big, back-combed hairstyles compels me.
Got a cheesy, quasi-inspirational song you think would be great? Love to hear it, share it in the comments. We're looking way too professional around here with DN's snazzy new look.