Another year, another dreary January for Minnesota Vikings fans.
Just over a year ago, the Vikings were playing for their postseason lives against the New York Giants at home on wildcard weekend.
It’s funny to look back on the two teams that comprised that matchup. Both teams went through a regression in the year that followed, but curiously, the result of that game was a misnomer.
It is abundantly clear that the Giants’ downfall was much more severe than the Vikings’. Entering that matchup, the narrative was that the Vikings were the best fraudulent team of all time, and the Giants were just happy to be going to the dance.
It’s fair to say that Minnesota was being held to loftier expectations than New York prior to and during that game.
I mention that game because in it was the defining play of the season for Minnesota. Unusually, it was also the last play of the season. 4th and 8 summed up the Vikings of 2022 - always in the game, always in position to take the game at the death. They almost always did, too.
What made it defining though, is that they didn’t. After a year of crazy win after crazy win, a bad play singlehandedly decided both the season and the identity of those Vikings. The wider NFL community still called them frauds - and that play gave them all the evidence they needed to set that moniker into stone.
This year, it is much more difficult to narrow down the play that summed up what it was to be a fan of our beloved purple and gold.
My first thought was the achilles injury to Kirk Cousins. It represented the biggest turning point of the season. While by far the most important play, I don’t think it quite summed up this year’s identity.
It also can’t be any amazing Justin Jefferson grab or Josh Dobbs magic scramble. Those plays all end with some positive outcome (a first down or touchdown). There are few positives at the end of this season.
After racking my brain for more than awhile and sifting through the pain I landed on a play from very early on in the season.
It was Week 2, and the Vikings were on the road in everybody’s favorite away environment... Philadelphia.
The heavily favored Eagles had taken an early 3-0 lead on their first possession of the game, and the Vikings would give the ball back after a 3-out the following drive. The Eagles would match that feat with a 3-out of their own.
And we have arrived. Philly punter Arryn Siposs, kicking from his own 6, booted an unimpressive 40-yard punt which Brandon Powell fielded to return - great field position for the Vikings even at the spot of the catch.
Powell, however, had more on his mind. By running the ball an additional 12 yards on a great looking return, the Vikings had the ball just 34 yards from the Eagles’ end zone, already in position to tie the game.
Instead, that was as long as the Vikings’ possession lasted. Powell just couldn’t be satisfied with a great return and PHI’s Justin Evans punched the ball clean away with Eagle Nick Morrow recovering.
Philadelphia gained 20 yards on a punt. Yes, you read that right.
Why does it sum this season up then?
I feel it is indicative of both the weird football stuff that happens to the Vikings (this is a long-term trait of the Vikings). It also sums up the expectations the fans had (especially after turning a 0-3 record to 6-4)- and the way this year’s team lived up to them in the end.
The defensive stop deep in PHI territory got everyone excited (like the win against San Fran), a great return got turned the excitement into joy (Dobbs mania), and then a stupid and weird football play quashed all of the momentum and set the team back (like Weeks 11-16).
What’s your defining (NOT best) play of the year and why?