Okay. . .now that we've all had a chance to decompress from yesterday's thriller at the Metrodome, it's time for another vote for the Sprint Game Ball of the Week. We didn't have one of these last week, largely because I had forgotten that it was supposed to be an every other week thing rather than weekly, but we're all caught up and good to go now, and what better way to get back into it than by discussing who was the best player in the victory that may have saved the Vikings' season.
There are no shortage of candidates for this one, either. . .some obvious, some not so obvious, and some folks that we haven't spoken about in really glowing terms for a while. We'll examine all of it further, right after the jump.
Brett Favre - Duh. Seriously, throw all the cliches out there you want to about this guy and how he may have cost the Vikings games this season and all that other jibber jabber. The guy put on an amazing show in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter and in overtime yesterday, and finished the afternoon having thrown for over 400 yards for only the second time in his 20-year NFL career. I don't want to say that it's been a while since he threw for over 400 yards, but the last time he did it, on 5 December 1993 against the Chicago Bears, Percy Harvin. . .who tallied 126 of Favre's 442 yards on a bum wheel. . .was five years old. Think about that for a minute. . .the guy that led the Vikings in receiving in Brett Favre's second-ever 400+ yard passing game was in kindergarten when Favre had his first one. We'll certainly talk more about Favre's heroics over the next day or two, but he obviously needed to be included on the list of Game Ball nominees for this week.
Greg Camarillo - However, for all the talk that Favre's heroics will certainly generate, there's a very good chance that none of it comes to fruition if not for one of the best hustle plays you'll ever see. On the Vikings' first drive, Favre was hit has he attempted a pass to Greg Lewis, and the ball floated to Cardinals' safety Kerry Rhodes at the Cardinals' 31-yard line. Rhodes began to weave through traffic, avoiding and breaking tackles, and it appeared as though he was going to find his way into the end zone for an Arizona touchdown. However, Camarillo had a little something to say about that. Having been lined up wide to the left at the beginning of the play, Camarillo was on the opposite side of the field of the interception, and could have easily given up on the play. But he didn't. . .and he caught up to Rhodes right around the Minnesota 5-yard line. From there, a karate chop that would have made Mr. Miyagi jealous dislodged the ball from Rhodes' right arm. . .the ball hit the turf, bounced back up and hit Rhodes in the facemask, and rolled out of the end zone for a touchback. So, rather than starting in an early 7-0 hole, the Vikings dodged a bullet and got the ball back at their own 20. For good measure, Camarillo threw in 66 yards receiving on four catches, and also returned seven punts at an average of 12 yards/return.
Bernard Berrian - THE SHOES! MY EYES! THE GOGGLES, THEY DO NOTHING! I don't know where Berrian got those yellow shoes he was wearing yesterday, but I was digging them, to be quite honest. But when it comes to on-field performances this season, we've been pretty rough on Bernard Berrian this year, and with good reason. . .for most of the first six weeks, it looked like the guy had been stealing paychecks from Zygi Wilf. And I'm not sure if it was the release of Moss that lit a fire under him, or whether he just had more time to work with Favre or what the deal is. . .but for the first time this season, #87 showed up ready to play on Sunday. He brought in nine passes for 89 yards, and was basically uncoverable on the shallow crossing route all afternoon on Sunday. . .when you think of Bernard Berrian, you generally don't think about routes over the middle of the field and, apparently, the Arizona Cardinals didn't think of it, either. The nine catches matched his total receptions from the first seven games of the season combined, and the 89 yards doubled his season output in that category as well. With Sidney Rice poised to come back and Percy Harvin. . .well, being Percy Harvin. . .Berrian could be a huge factor for this offense in the second half of the season.
Jared Allen - This could probably go to the entire Vikings' defensive line, but I'm going to single Allen out here because, quite frankly, he has taken quite a bit of flak this season as well. . .and, just like Berrian, much of it was deserved. But when the Vikings were down 24-10 yesterday and had just gotten stopped on fourth and goal from the 1, the Minnesota defense needed to step up. From that point forward, the Arizona drives looked like this:
Drive starting at Arizona 1-yard line after goal line failure - 0-yard run, 1-yard run, incomplete pass, punt
Drive starting at Arizona 24-yard line after Adrian Peterson TD - (-1)-yard run, 1-yard run, 6-yard pass (and an outstanding stop by Lito Sheppard), punt
Drive starting at Arizona 37-yard line after Favre/Shiancoe TD - Sack by Allen, incomplete pass (screen tipped away by Allen), sack by Ray Edwards, end of regulation
Drive starting at Arizona 27-yard line after overtime kickoff - Incomplete pass, sack by Chad Greenway, sack by Allen, punt
And that was your ball game, as Minnesota scored on their only overtime possession. After coming into the game with only six total sacks and having gone without a sack for three consecutive games for the first time in team history, the Vikings put up six on Sunday afternoon alone, and Allen came out with 2.5 of them. The Vikings' defensive line has been much maligned for the better part of the season thus far, and we don't know if a switch got flipped on Sunday afternoon, but the Vikings sure could use that kind of pass rush for the rest of the season. . .they certainly have the talent up front to make it happen, but we'll see how things go the rest of the way.
And those are your nominees, folks. Voting will remain open for about 48 hours or so, so have at it!