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The Mourning After: What Now?


The loss last night was such a doozy that I had to look up the Sports Guy's Levels of Losing column this morning. Looks like we suffered a combination of The Stomach Punch and The "This Can't Be Happening". Take a look for yourself--I think you'll agree.

Here's part of what I wrote in my quick Fan Post yesterday before the game:

The Bears are a terrible team that's ready for 2009 to be over with. The Vikes need to get a lead early to remind Chicago that they should just continue sucking to improve their draft pick next year. The longer we let the Bears hang around, the more likely they are to pull a Carolina on us.

Besides my obvious oversight about their draft pick (Chicago's first round pick goes to Denver thanks to the Jay Cutler "sweepstakes"), I basically foreshadowed The "This Can't Be Happening" Game. Well, it can happen and it did happen. We spotted the lowly Bears a 16-point halftime lead. Although the comeback was valiant, it's tough to come all the way back like that against any NFL team.

I have a bunch of random observations I want to share, but since I'm still a bit shell-shocked from last night I don't think I'll be able to tie these points together very well. Therefore, you're getting the age-old writing trick for solving this problem--good ol' bullet points:

  • Something's still wrong with Antoine Winfield. I know Devin Aromashodu is fast, but #26 did his best Fred Smoot impression on the game-clinching touchdown in overtime. It wasn't just that play either. Winfield looked really slow changing directions all night, which tells me he's still not 100%.
  • The tackling this month has been horrendous, which is far and away the most alarming problem with the defense right now. It's never a good thing when ESPN does a "Missed Tackles" montage about your team. I think the Vikings were actually in the right position most of the time last night (outside of the few costly blown coverages), but Deion Sanders would have been embarrassed by some of the efforts last night. When will they realize that simply throwing your body at an NFL player doesn't guarantee a tackle? (Yes, I'm talking to you Jasper Brinkley and Cedric Griffin.)
  • The line play for Minnesota on both sides was much better in the second half. But that was preceded by six awful, awful quarters for the Vikings' offensive and defensive lines. Even after the improved second half, one sack from the alleged best defensive line in the NFL isn't gonna cut it in the playoffs.
  • Apparently our special teams thought it was 2008 last night. I'd elaborate, but I don't think I need to.
  • Adrian Peterson is more upset than anyone else about his fumble in overtime. It ruined an otherwise great game from Purple Jesus.
  • I'm not sure if it was Favre or Childress that took control of the offense in the second half, but I'd be pretty shocked if Brett didn't have more to do with the turnaround. Whoever it was, make sure that person is in charge next week and in the playoffs, OK?
  • Speaking of Chilly, the Vikings were 10-1 when Brad Childress received his contract extension. They're 1-3 since. I'm not saying that we should have waited until the end of the season until we gave Mr. Noodle the reigns for the next four years but...wait, that's exactly what I'm saying.

As much as we could nitpick all the what-ifs from last night (like "What if that extra point doesn't get blocked?" or "What if we actually intercept those passes from Cutler in the first quarter?"), the Vikings need to move on in a hurry. They have a short week and they're facing a team with literally nothing to lose in the New York Giants. As it stands right now, the Vikings hold the #3 seed in the playoffs. If the Eagles win on Sunday, we're hosting a Wild Card game with no bye. Which means that for the first time in my entire life, I will be cheering for the Cowboys on Sunday.

Excuse me. After typing that last sentence, I have the uncontrollable urge to take a 45-minute, scalding-hot shower. I'll be right back.


OK, I feel a little better now.

The Vikings could have a bye or host any of three teams in the Wild Card round depending on how the Week 17 games go. As we all know, our loss clinched the #1 seed for New Orleans. I was in the process of breaking down each scenario for the other five NFC playoff teams, but my buddy Jeff came through and provided me with this awesome chart. I'm not 100% sure that it's completely accurate, but I went through it and everything looked good to me. If you find anything wrong, let me know in the comments section and I'll get it updated. Remember, it's Eagles @ Cowboys and Packers @ Cardinals this week, which eliminates some permutations of wins and losses for each team.

UPDATED 4:15 PM 12/29: In the case where Dallas gets the 2 seed, GB would actually get the 5 seed over Philly, therefore setting up another potential PHI @ MIN instead of GB @ MIN.

Simple, right? Compared to the AFC Wild Card picture it is! Unfortunately, what isn't so simple is how Minnesota is going to regain their form. The team has looked downright bad for most of the past month while other NFC contenders have just started hitting their stride.

I took a look at the Fan Posts following the game, and there's a lot of "same old Vikings" and "same old Favre" gloom and doom talk from our commenters. And you know what? I can't blame anyone for thinking that. They've ripped our hearts out for as long as they've been in existence. Being let down is woven into the fabric of being a Vikings fan.

But I'm not counting this team out just yet. As Gonzo has pointed out numerous times, take a look at Arizona last year. The Cards got their lunch handed to them in December, yet came within a play of winning the Super Bowl. Playing great in December is nice, but you ultimately need to play your best come January and beyond.

There's still time to right the ship. Just not that much.