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“What If”: The 2009 NFC Championship Game

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It’s “What If” week, so let’s get this one out of the way

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve been checking out any of the other SB Nation football sites today, you’ve probably seen that some of them have stories that can best be summed up as “What If” stories. We’re no different. . .that’s the point of the whole theme thing. . .and nobody has no “What If” moments than the Minnesota Vikings do. Even if we just keep it to recent history, we’ve got more than enough to go around.

So, let’s do this. . .and, while we’re at it, let’s bring the pain.

We’ve been over the 2009 NFC Championship Game ad nauseum. Despite everything that happened that night, the game was still tied at 28-28 when the Vikings forced the New Orleans Saints to punt the ball away, taking over on their own 21-yard line with 2:37 left on the clock.

Behind quarterback Brett Favre, the Vikings made their way down the field. They pushed the ball down to the New Orleans’ 33-yard line with 19 seconds to go. The Saints had burned their final time out with just over a minute remaining, while the Vikings still had a time out in their back pocket when they faced a 3rd-and-10 from the Saints 33.

Then, all hell broke loose. But what if it hadn’t?

What if, 12 men in the huddle version

Someone. . .and the blame seemed to immediately center on fullback Naufahu Tahi. . .gave the Vikings a 12th man in the huddle. That play pushed the Vikings back to the New Orleans 38. Now, while kicker Ryan Longwell was just about as steady as it got, that would have put a field goal attempt at 55 yards in one of the craziest road environments in the NFL. . .and that’s providing that the Vikings didn’t lose any more yardage. On the two previous plays, both Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson had been stuffed for no gain on back-to-back runs.

Now, if the Vikings don’t get flagged for 12 men, the sequence would have been obvious. The Vikings would have slammed the ball into the line again, ran the clock down to about three seconds before calling a time out, and given Longwell a shot at a field goal that probably would have been around 50 yards.

What if, run the stupid ball version

This is the part that annoys me about all of this more than anything. Even with the five extra yards, I have no idea why the Vikings didn’t just slam the ball into the line anyway. Again, the Saints were out of time outs, and while a 55-yard field goal would have been a tough one for Longwell at the Superdome, it still beats the heck out of throwing a pass, where any number of things could have gone wrong. . .and, as we know, eventually did.

Yes, I understand that hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but you know. . .it’s the job of an NFL coach to take these sorts of things into account during those situations. Maybe part of Brad Childress’ thinking was that the entire world was actually expecting a run and they went with a pass. Maybe Favre overruled Childress’ call, as was rumored to have happened quite a bit during that 2009 season.

Whatever the reason was, Brett Favre took a snap, rolled to the right. . .”rolled” being a relative term, given the shape he was in by that point. . .and threw one across his body for an interception. The Vikings didn’t get the ball back again, and Vikings fans got kicked in the face just one more time.

What if, the Vikings win version

So, what would have happened had the Vikings kicked the field goal at the end of regulation and walked off with a 31-28 victory? Well, I’m completely biased, but here’s what would have happened.

  • The Vikings go on to the Super Bowl and defeat the Indianapolis Colts for their first ever Super Bowl victory.
  • Brett Favre rides off into the sunset, having become the first quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl with two different teams. He does not come back for the clusterfudge that the 2010 season turned into.
  • A statue of Brad Childress is erected somewhere in Minneapolis, and there’s a marked increase in babies named “Brad” in the late October/early November time frame across the state of Minnesota.
  • Nothing that happened between then and now hurts nearly as much as it does.

But, they didn’t win. . .so here we are.

We’re going to have a few more “What If” scenarios this week, and though I don’t think any of them are going to suck as much as this one, I thought we’d get the big pain out of the way first.