Whether they're willing to admit it or not, the NFL really seemed to be trying to set the Minnesota Vikings up to get their butts handed to them by the Philadelphia Eagles in front of a large, national audience. Sure, that two-day delay was about fan safety, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. It had absolutely nothing to do with making sure the field conditions were ideal for a little of that Michael Vick blitzkrieg combo of passing and rushing. Nope, not at all.
It's hard to say what sparked it, maybe having the game delayed for two days or maybe the accumulated frustrations with a season that failed to live up to expectations or maybe the relaxing hotel spa treatments, but on the first Tuesday Night football game in 64 years the Vikings countered Philadelphia with a little blitzkrieg of their own. Yes, the down and out Vikings routed the NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles 24 to 14 and gave the NFL a much better game than anyone expected. It adds a layer of sweet on this victory knowing it's the first time the Vikings have won in Philadelphia since 1985.
If only there was a song that would allow me to use the word blitzkrieg just one more time...
Join me after the jump for more basking in a rare Vikings win.In a season that, I thought, had seen it all, the Vikings added a refreshing dose of winning to the mix. Not only did they win, but they won in a game where the odds certainly appeared to be against them. Michael Vick, the NFL's most recent, and most dynamic, comeback kid, seemed poised to pick apart a Vikings secondary that has struggled in vain most of the season to defend against the long pass. If recent performances were any indication, Vick was going to have pretty much all evening to lounge around in the pocket and throw downfield because the Vikings had also struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks with their front four. Add to that the myriad woes of the Vikings offense that would be starting a rookie quarterback who had been drafted as a wide receiver and...well, let's just say I was expecting more fight out of my chips and guacamole than the Vikings.
But, despite all the reasons why it was easy to believe the Vikings would lose, they won-and they won with style. In fact, between the aggressive blitz packages interim defensive coordinator Fred Pagac was dialing up and the way rookie quarterback Joe Webb was rushing, the Vikings looked more like the Eagles than the Eagles did.
Sports writers and analysts have been quick to say that a large part of the Vikings success was that the Eagles didn't really "show up" on Tuesday night. In my very best grade-school rhetoric, so what? You think all the teams that have beaten the Vikings this season got an asterisk beside their win that said, "This is technically a win but it should be noted that the Vikings didn't really show up so it only counts as a half-win." Heck no.
Interestingly, Eagles' coach Andy Reid did not seem to write off the Vikings victory as quickly as the media did. In a statement that's shockingly candid for Reid, he said that the Vikings both out-played and out-coached the Eagles on Tuesday night.
While beating the Eagles doesn't salvage the Vikings 2010 season or answer so many of the questions that will be facing this franchise in 2011, it does expose the Eagles, a team widely regarded as a Super Bowl contender, as beatable. Michael Vick didn't get much help from his offensive line that failed to adjust its coverage to account for the Vikings' blitz and the Vikings sacked him six times, leaving him limping and keeping him from getting comfortable and being able to connect with his speedy receivers. If I had to guess, I would say teams who face Philadelphia in the playoffs will keep that in mind.
Of course it helps if you have Antoine Winfield on your team. The Vikings veteran cornerback was a beast and became the NFC player of the week for a performance that included nine tackles, two sacks, one tackle for a loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery that he ran back 45 yards for a touchdown. Hallelujah, can I get an amen!
The aggressive, blitz-heavy play calling for the Vikings defense was just half the fun because, for a change, the Vikings offense was on the move too. About a week later than expected, rookie quarterback Joe Webb had his first NFL start and managed to do what neither Fran Tarkenton nor Tommy Kramer did*, he won. That's right, Joe Webb, a kid who was drafted in the sixth round as a wide-receiver won his first rookie career start as a quarterback. And Webb did it all looking so poised and calm that, most of the time, it was hard to believe it really was his first start. Of course then he'd overlook a wide-open receiver. However, Webb had a good performance that included a rushing touchdown and no interceptions. After the game Webb was quoted as saying, "I sensed the pressure, but I didn't focus on it. I stayed in the pocket and focused on the throw." Shoot, if that doesn't sound like an NFL starting quarterback, I don't know what does.
No, the Vikings' win on Tuesday night didn't save the season or fix all our problems or make the uncertain off-season anymore certain, but, seeing the Vikings soundly spank a team with a winning record, absolutely beats the pants off watching them lose.
*That fun fact was brought to you today courtesy of the Star Tribune.