Admit it folks--and if you don't, you're either a liar or a brand new Vikings fan--when the Vikings jumped out to a 20-3 lead in the third quarter, you didn't start breathing easier, because deep down, you knew.
You knew it wasn't over. You knew, in fact, that the fun was just beginning.
And when the Packers offense stayed on the field, and the Vikings defense was noticeably slowing down, you felt deep down in your bones...here it comes. Another gut punch. Another 'you've got to be kidding me' moment that only fans of the Vikings can really, truly understand.
Only something funny happened on the way to our most recent nut punch...it didn't happen. In fact, the tables seemed to be turned, and it was the Green Bay Packers who, dare I say, went all Vikings and choked.
It was the Packers, and not the Vikings, who had to use a critical timeout late in the game, trailing by seven points.
It was the Packers, not the Vikings, who kept committing untimely penalties. It was so funny that at one point Cris Collinsworth actually started offering Conspiracy Theories as to why the referees might dare call a penalty on the Packers. Since, you know, they hardly ever did before last night.
It was the Packers, not the Vikings, that gave up a crippling fumble/scoop/score, that put the home team on their heels and inflicted what was ultimately a fatal wound. And, almost miraculously, it wasn't reversed on review.
It was the Vikings going on the road. It was the Vikings playing a divisional game. It was the Vikings outdoors, on grass, in primetime. It was the Vikings in Lambeau, with the division title on the line. Before last night, that was a recipe for heartbreak, with a healthy scoop of misery thrown in, mixed around, and then forced down our throats, raw and distasteful.
Last night, though, one of the last remaining dragons were not only slain, but disemboweled. In Lambeau. On national television. And let's be honest, if Teddy Bridgewater hits a couple of those deep passes early, this game is essentially over at halftime.
But he didn't, and it wasn't. And we had to endure another nail biter, down to a last second Hail Mary to end the game. And throughout the fourth quarter, and most of the third, the Vikings had every opportunity to be the 'same old Vikings.'
A lot of fans were just waiting to say 'This damn team. This goddamn team.'
And you could say they even tried to be 'this damn team.' The Vikings put the absolute fear of Odin into us with the Bridgewater/Peterson fumble, but in another sign that things might be different, the Vikings recovered the ball. No damage done.
Yeah, This Damn Team is no longer your father's Minnesota Vikings. Every time they faced a Futility Demon from the past, they stared it down and sent it to football Hell. And for their reward, they won the NFC North division, something that had eluded them since 2009.
They won it by winning on the road, going 5-3. They won it by winning on the road in the division, going 5-1. They won it by winning in Chicago and Green Bay in the same season for the first time since 1998.
And they won it with everything on the line, in the most dramatic way possible on the home field of the reigning Kings of the North, just so there couldn't be any 'yeah but' qualifiers thrown in later.
What's my point in all of this, kids? I've been a Vikings fan for over 40 years. I have been alive for all four of the Super Bowls and remember three. I remember the Hail Mary, Wide Left, 41 Doughnut, Nate Poole, The Love Boat, and Bountygate.
But I also remember an era of hard nosed football, anchored by a frenetic, almost spastic defense, that was everywhere at once, and strangled an opposing offense like a python with a relentless pass rush, sure tackling, and blanket coverage. Wins were expected, not hoped for, as the Vikings ground their opponents in to dust more often than not, and even when the team was having an off day, they found a way to gut out a win. They were tough, hard nosed, and all business. And they won, a lot.
THAT was the Minnesota Vikings I grew up watching...and THAT is the Minnesota Vikings I am starting to see once again.
So if you're still waiting for the other shoe to drop, or for the next kick in the junk, stop. It takes a lot to re-calibrate the brain from a lifetime of thinking, I get that, but after what we've watched this team with this coach accomplish, they can play with, and beat, anyone in the NFL.
Starting this week. Skol Vikings, beat the 'Hawks.