Archive for October, 2009


Favreageddon: A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity We Get to Witness

There are few momentous sporting events that take place in our lifetime that we have the privilege to witness firsthand.

The Miami Dolphins completing their perfect season of 1972.

Mark McGwire and then Barry Bonds breaking the single season home run record (before we knew how they were able to).

Pretty much everything Michael Jordan ever did (except for his hall of fame speech).

This Sunday will see another of those as the Brett Favre, once the face and forever legend of the Green Bay Packers, returns to play his former team as a member of their most hated rival.

The events and backstories behind the scenes of this matchup are enough to create a Broadway show. Despite all that has been accomplished between Favre and the Pack, there are feelings of bitterness and resentment, as well as words being thrown back and forth then dismissed as out of context.

When asked about Favre’s motivation to come back, he gave the old political answer of just wanting to play and win a Super Bowl, but when a reporter asked why not just come back with the Jets, Favre didn’t have an excuse lined up, and merely said that it’s over with and to move on.

Now the teams have already played once this year, but in Minnesota. The Vikings stymied the Packers for a win, but Aaron Rodgers refused to go down without swinging. Even after being sacked and intercepted multiple times, he kept firing away. Maybe it’s a good thing these teams have played once already but not in Green Bay.

The feelings of Brett Favre’s return were at first mixed, but now after seeing him beat the Packers in a Vikings jersey, it is unanimous. And there is the burned and destroyed Favre memoribilia to prove it.

The team, organization, whole city and state, and Packer fans across the world are huddled for this game, an almost war if you will. The Vikings are in first place and up by two games. The Packers and specifically Aaron Rodgers NEED to win this game if nothing more than to justify the business move of not catering to Favre’s diva wishes to come back before training camp in 2008.

I think the pressure is more on the Packers than on Favre. Winning this game may be, er who am I kidding, IS more important than winning the Super Bowl, at least this year. Even if the Pack don’t make the playoffs and the Vikings win the Super Bowl, they could always brag that Favre couldn’t get it done IN Green Bay. But what if he does?

What if Brett Favre comes into the stadium he was worshipped in, wearing a Vikings jersey, throws for 300 yards, 4 touchdowns, does one of his celebratory knock down of players in an attempt to seem like he’s still young and cool, not to mention tries to throw a block on a Packers defender? Well, that isn’t as much of an issue if he is unable to beat the Packers IN Green Bay?

But how would the fans react? Unhappy is the least descriptive word. Can we expect beer bottles thrown onto the field ala the Cleveland Browns in 2001 on an unpopular call by the officials? What if it snows, and we could see snow balls hurled to the ground like in Giants Stadium back in 1995 (against the Chargers of all teams)?

However, one has to wonder, is this what Favre wanted all along? Even though we heard the almost as redundant statement “I’ve never taken steroids” that he was not interested in coming back again, the evidence tells a different story.

He booked several hotel rooms for this game back when he was still “retired.” He convinced the Jets to release him, which was the only way he’d get to play for any team in the NFC North (part of the clauses in the trade to the Jets).

Instead of signing with Minnesota right away, he manipulated the media as he has been doing into hyping it up. Then, waiting until after the Vikings actually play a preseason game, he decides to play for them. Therefore, other teams do not have as much time to study up on Favre as the Vikings quarterback and will not be as prepared for him.

Now other legendary players who left their original teams only to come back in another uniform have happened before. Alex Rodriguez was initially booed in Seattle with a Texas Rangers uniform on, but has since become an after thought. Mark Messier returned to New York as a member of the Canucks and was greeted with open arms. Michael Jordan, when he returned with the Washington Wizards, was not villified.

So why is this particular case of same guy, different shirt so emotionally different? Other than the whole reasoning of how this all happened (which really does play a hand in it), playing the position of quarterback in the NFL is different from any other position in any other sport.

What if John Elway came back to play in Denver wearing a Chiefs jersey? Or Peyton Manning playing in a Patriots jersey in Indianapolis?

I can only assume Favre will have extra security on hand. But since this is something he’s been planning since the summer of 2008, I’m sure he’s left no note unchecked.

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Packer Fans: It Takes a Waffle to Know a Waffle

For the past decade-and-a-half, Sunday afternoons in Wisconsin have sounded something like this:

“Our Favre,
Who art in Lambeau,
Hallowed be thine arm.
The bowl will come,
It will be won.
In (insert Super Bowl city here) as it is in Lambeau.
And give us this Sunday,
Our weekly win.
And give us many touchdown passes.
But do not let others pass against us.
Lead us not into frustration,
But deliver us to (insert Super Bowl city here).
For thine is the MVP, the best of the NFC,
and the glory of the Cheeseheads,
now and forever. Amen”

Well, at least 16 of the past 18 years.

This Sunday, when Favre’s Vikings (oh, you haven’t heard? Favre plays for the Vikings now…) goes to Green Bay to take on the Packers, there will be nothing but a hateful respect.

Meh, who am I kidding. It will be down-right, blinded by rage hate.

Green Bay mayor Jim Schmitt asked Packerland for “tasteful” ways to welcome the former Green Bay god back to Lambeau field. The itinerary for Sunday’s game includes waffle fries (reflecting on the quarterback’s retirement troubles) and has requested that fans wear flip-flops to the game.

Packer fan site cheeseheadtv.com wants to have a video montage of Favre’s interceptions, concluding with his last pass as a Packer, which was an interception in a 23-20 loss to the New York Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship Game. The Pack was 13-3 that season, which was tied for the best record during the Favre era.

They have even temporarily renamed Minnesota Ave in Green Bay to Aaron Rodgers Place.

Never mind that Favre broke every offensive passing record while with the Packers. Never mind the three consecutive MVP awards. Never mind a Green Bay’s first NFL championship in 30 years. Never mind that Green Bay had two winning seasons from 1970 to 1992. Never mind that Green Bay had one losing season from 1992-2007. Never mind that he is one of the most recognizable and respected NFL stars over the last 20 years.

Never mind that he still wanted to play for the Green Bay Packers when they traded him to the New York Jets in 2008.

If anything, Packer fans should be grilling Packers General Manager Ted Thompson for trading the legend in the first place. Favre has shown that he can still obviously play, going 15-8 since leaving the Pack.

If you think that that is interesting, read this:

On KFAN-1130 AM out of St. Louis Park, MN, radio host Dan Barreiro read an e-mail from a fan:

“Aaron is the second best quarterback ever in Green Bay after Bart Starr.”

I don’t know if this was a sincere e-mail from a sincere Packer fan, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

After all, last year’s 6-10 season is behind them. The Packers are 4-2, and one of their losses has come from Favre’s Vikings.

Last Wednesday, there was a long discussion on a local Milwaukee radio station debating A-Rodg’s bid for the Hall of Fame.

Are you kidding me? Obviously it is a case of withdrawal from trading one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. A-Rodg doesn’t have a winning record. He hasn’t won a playoff game, let alone made the playoffs.

Yes, you can argue that he has put up some lofty numbers, but how many legit teams has he beaten?

Rodgers has a career 10-12 record. In 2008 they beat the Lions twice (0-16), they beat the Seattle Seahawks (4-12). Yes he beat the Indianapolis Colts (12-4), the Chicago Bears (9-7), and the Vikings (10-6).

In 2009, off to their hot 4-2 start, they have beat the Chicago Bears (3-3), the Detroit Lions (1-5), the Cleveland Browns (1-6), and the St. Louis Rams (0-7), while they have lost to the Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) and the Vikings (6-1).

We will see what stage Rodgers is at when he plays the tougher part of his schedule (at Pittsburgh, vs. Baltimore, at Arizona) later during the season.

Favre is the only quarterback to have beaten every NFL franchise. 

In a August 2008 interview, Rodgers was quoted as saying, “The things I can’t understand and take personally is when I’m punching in my punch code and somebody says (bleep) you to me. It kinda bothers me. Or when a little kid is yelling swear words. That kinda gets to me.

“The boos, they expect a high level of play and they miss Brett Favre. I understand that. But the (bleep) you, and the little kids saying swear words to me? I don’t understand that.

It has gone from there to Packer fans, being what they are (waffles) who used to wear at their quarterback now swear by him.

I have nothing against Aaron Rodgers. The guy is a class act and will probably have a good career.

But seriously, Packer fans. All the hype and all the pressure you are putting on this kid is way too much.

You used to have the greatest pressure-situation quarterback of all-time. And you traded him. Brett Favre only comes once in a lifetime. You could have had him for his entire non-bench-sitting career. He would have been remembered as a Packer and only a Packer.

But from now on, when you mention Brett Favre, the Vikings are going to come up.

And for Vikes fans, there is nothing sweeter than to have the best player in your franchise history extend all of his records and play for the “best team he (Favre) have ever played for”, have dramatic come-from-behind wins, be all over the media in Minnesota when you could have kept him in Green Bay.

The only explanation for the sudden Rodgers swing is having Favre in purple. Before, Packer fans didn’t care much. Favre was traded to New York. He was in the AFC.

But now he is back, and he is playing in the division.

The entire anti-Favre pro-Rodgers saga is a defense mechanism. Fans, in my opinion only love Rodgers to get back at Brett Favre.

It is love at second sight. And the only reason that it is love at second sight is that they are desperate.

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The Song Remains The Same For The NFL

As another Sunday approaches for the NFL, one cannot help but recall certain themes that have transpired thus far. The days of parity appear to not be in play this season. With the Rams, Lions, Chiefs, Redskins, Browns, Raiders, Titans, and Buccaneers all struggling, as well as the Dolphins, Seahawks, and Panthers all with just two wins as well, it has become a case of the have and have-nots. The list of have-nots may be the deepest in recent memory for the league. Will things change after the new collective bargaining agreement on the horizon?  That is one tune waiting to be composed.

Was anyone really shocked to see Brett Favre fumble then throw away the game for the Vikings last week? It was about time if you ask me. We are talking about the NFL’s All-Time Turnover King. No player has thrown away the ball more in history than Favre, and he is just three fumbles away from tying Warren Moon for the record of most fumbles ever. With 313 interceptions and 158 fumbles, and counting, the Steelers decided to just let Brett be Brett last week. When you do that, you will win more than lose to him. Just be ready for the inevitable mistake. With a career average of 1.7 turnovers for every game he has played, it is a sound strategy.

Watching Larry Johnson bubble over with frustration, you have to wonder what is the biggest deal is. Is it his homophobic remarks, his rant on his new head coach, or his bemoaning the loss of cash? Johnson, some may say, had his mind destroyed along with his body with all those carries several years ago. Some may recall former Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil calling his character into question once. Johnson, a coaches son, realizes his career is coming to an end and that he will never again command the salary he current makes. He stands to lose $600,000 this week, not exactly chump change. Though his comments were not politically correct, this still is America. Freedom of speech and expression is a right. Taking his money hurts, but watching his career end has to gouge him deeper. If he does latch on with another team next year, he will be a part time back with a pay rate showing such a role.

On with the picks. I am now sporting an unimpressive 60-27 record after going 9-4 last week. Let us see if I can do better.


Denver Broncos @ Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are approaching this game as a must win. They are at full health again with their offensive line, which will be critical in this match up. The Broncos have been, and is the surprise of the league so far with a perfect record. Both teams have had two weeks to prepare for this, so expect a hard hitting game.

Ravens
27   Broncos 21


Houston Texans @ Buffalo Bills

Houston is a team who appears to have found their groove on both sides of the ball, and could go on a winning streak if they are not sidetracked by injuries. Buffalo is a team still trying to find their identity.

Texans 34  Bills 17

Cleveland Browns @ Chicago Bears

Cleveland heads into the Windy City at a tumultuous time. Bears fans are unhappy with their teams inconsistent play on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Chicago expects a win over the lowly Browns, and Cleveland seems to have already packed it in for the season.

Bears 31  Browns 27

Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys

Dallas came away with an impressive victory last week that was a much needed statement game as well. This game is critical in keeping the momentum going. Seattle is missing their best linebacker, and their best running back is dinged up. They will need to pass to win, which isn’t easy against the Cowboys cornerbacks.

Cowboys 38  Seahawks 27

Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets

Miami stopped the Jets winning ways just three weeks ago. After dropping another two games, the Jets won big last week. Miami came off their bye week by blowing a big lead to the Saints last week, Miami needs to run well to win, while the Jets are hurting in the middle of their defense especially. It should be another close game between these two rivals.

Jets 24  Miami 21

 

San Francisco 49ers @ Indianapolis Colts

The 49ers lost last week, but quarterback Alex Smith may have won the confidence of his teammates. The Colts are undefeated and getting healthy. Even if Smith repeats last week performance, it will be hard for the 49ers secondary to stop the Colts passing attack all game.

Colts 34  49ers 23

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles

Though the Eagles won last week, they did not look much sharper than the team that lost to Oakland two weeks ago. The lack of running game has proven to be this teams Achilles heel for years, and it has been in the spotlight even more this year. The Giants realize they need to get back on track after two weeks of consecutive losses. Expect the Giants to pound the ball on the ground, while Philly tries to exploit a suspect Giants secondary.

Giants 23  Eagles 21


Saint Louis Rams @ Detroit Lions

It is too bad these teams cannot face each other more this season. They would win more if they did. Detroit appears ready to go with Culpepper at quarterback this week, and possibly the entire season. Though both teams have veteran quarterbacks, I expect this game to be won on the ground. Steven Jackson will carry the Rams to one of their few victories this week.

Rams 28  Lions 24


Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers

The Raiders have been as inconsistent as their young quarterback JaMarcus Russell. After controlling the Eagles two weeks ago, they were pulverized by the Jets last week. The Chargers are as inconsistent, mostly due to an underachieving defense and banged up offensive line. If the Bolts do not get it going this week, they may never get anywhere this year.

Chargers 48  Raiders 24


Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans

The Titans are still without a win, and owner Bud Adams has ordered coach Jeff Fisher to start Vince Young at quarterback over veteran Kerry Collins. Though Fisher realizes the problem isn’t just at quarterback, expect him to comply. The Jaguars handed the Titans a 20 point loss a month ago. They did it by pounding the ball down the Titan’s throats all game. Expect a similar strategy, but something tells me Fisher has a plan this time.

Titans 23  Jaguars 17

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

Game Of The Week

As I told you the first time these teams met a few weeks ago, this is the game to watch. Not only is it the return of a certain Hyckocrite to Lambeau Field for the first time as a visiting player, but both teams have developed their personalities more since the first meeting. The Packers have had trouble running the ball this year, even with Ryan Grant’s 148 yards versus Cleveland last week. The Vikings are excellent at stopping the run as well.

Expect the Packers to air it out against a depleted Vikings secondary, while the Vikings attack them with a balanced attack. Though the focus seems to be on quarterback in Minnesota, the main reason they win is by running the ball, controlling the clock and field position. This game will be a prime example of that, assuming their quarterback doesn’t cough up the ball and victory as he did last week.

Vikings 34   Packers 31

Carolina Panthers @ Arizona Cardinals

The Panthers have been a disappointment so far. Their passing attack is nearly non existent, and their running game is not at full strength with Jon Stewart battling injuries. The Cardinals are trying to find their running game still, but they realize how good their passing game is. If the Panthers do not get to Kurt Warner, the Cardinals may score often.

Cardinals 38  Panthers 17

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints

The Falcons are just not running the ball as well this season as opposed to last year. This causes their defense to stay on the field longer that they would like, and for their secondary to be exploited. The Saints are also trying to get their running game more consistent so they do not have to rely on Drew Brees arm so much. This is a game Brees can air it out to multiple receivers, while Atlanta will need to control the clock to keep that from happening.

Saints 41  Falcons 30

NFL Power Rankings

1. New Orleans Saints

2. Indianapolis Colts

3. Minnesota Vikings

4. Denver Broncos

5. New England Patriots

6. New York Giants

7. Cincinnati Bengals

8. Pittsburgh Steelers

9. Baltimore Ravens

10. Atlanta Falcons

11. Philadelphia Eagles

12. Houston Texans

13. Green Bay Packers

14. Dallas Cowboys

15. San Diego Chargers

16. Chicago Bears

17. Miami Dolphins

18. New York Jets

19. Arizona Cardinals

20. Jacksonville Jaguars

21. San Francisco 49ers

22. Seattle Seahawks

23. Buffalo Bills

24. Oakland Raiders

25. Carolina Panthers

26. Detroit Lions

27. Kansas City Chiefs

28. Washington Redskins

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

30. Cleveland Browns

31. Tennessee Titans

32. Saint Louis Rams

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Suicide Hotlines Flooded With Calls Concerning Brett Favre

Jon Merz volunteers at a suicide hotline in Los Angeles every other weekend.  He’ll be on duty this Sunday, the same day Brett Favre makes his highly-publicized return to Lambeau Field as a Viking.

Jon is expecting it to be a busy weekend.

“I was here on Tuesday.  We were already getting calls from people in preparation for this weekend, saying that they didn’t know if they could handle all the coverage that Brett Favre would be getting this week.  Especially on Sunday.”

What Jon is referring to is the endless amount of hours and countless segments that are likely to be spent talking about Favre returning to Green Bay to play the Packers at Lambeau for the first time. 

For most of the last 15 years, anything Favre has done has usually been talked about on sports radio and television, making sure to cover every detail. 

From his on-again, off-again retirements to his trade to the Jets to his “heroic” Monday Night performances, the name Brett Favre has been uttered on ESPN an estimated 4.6 million times. 

One such caller into the suicide hotline was 31-year-old Marcus Clinton. 

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” said Marcus.  “I love sports.  I love the NFL.  But if I hear someone talk about Brett Favre one more goddamn time I’m going to blow my brains out.  I know that’s a figure of speech, but I really mean it.  Who really cares if (Favre) is playing on another team?  Joe Montana played on the Chiefs.  Emmitt Smith played on the Cardinals.  He’s just one guy, get over it.”

As I sat in the room last night with the volunteers at the call center, I heard call after call of similar complaints.  After two hours of sitting there, nearly 30 people had called in worried about whether or not they would make it to Monday. 

“I don’t even know if Monday is going to be safe,” said Merz.  “Monday Night Football is on ESPN.  What do you think they’re going to talk about, or who do you think they may talk to during halftime?”

As public concern for the situation grows across the country, sports media outlets have yet to show any signs of backing off the Favre coverage. 

“Brett Favre is America.  He’s everything.  He’s God.  And I’m going to talk about him to death.  Also, I can tell you what day Brett Favre will retire.  Dec. 21, 2012,” said ESPN analyst Chris Berman.

At approximately 9:15 PM last night, a call came into the center from a hysterical woman who went by the name “Nancy.” 

She simply said, “THEY KEEP HYPING UP THIS INTERVIEW BETWEEN BRADSHAW AND FAVRE!!  OH MY GOD!!  OH MY –.” 

There was a loud bang and then simply silence.

Thanks, Brett.

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Vikings-Packers Preview: Are You Ready for Some Gunslinging or Mudslinging?

Note: The quotes in this article are fictional.

Brett Favre’s long-awaited homecoming in Green Bay is upon us, and it couldn’t have been scripted any better.

The Minnesota Vikings are 6-1 with the Green Bay Packers close behind at 4-2. A Packer win would forge a practical tie atop the division.

The Packers have won two straight by a combined 57-3 score, while Minnesota lost for the first time last week, falling to the Steelers 27-17 in Pittsburgh.

“This may be the most anticipated event in Green Bay since my first tearful retirement press conference,” says Favre. “This game has the potential to be a real barn-burner. Throw in some snow and Matt Hasselbeck, and you’ve got the makings of a true classic.

“I’m not sure how the fans will react to my return. I’m not expecting casserole for my homecoming. With the game taking place a day after Halloween, it’s appropriate to say my reception will be ‘Trick Or Treat.’ That’s just fine. I don’t mind Halloween-themed events, nor do my teammates, who just enjoyed a cruise on Lake Minnetonka on the SS Ghostly Tail.

“I guess I can expect somewhat of a cool reception in Green Bay. I was once considered a god there, but it seems my status as a deity is no longer. It looks as though my inability to ‘decide’ has resulted in a case of ‘deicide.’ That’s a ‘vowel movement’ this 40-year-old would rather not experience.”

Favre’s counterpart, Aaron Rodgers, was sacked eight times in the Packers’ 30-23 loss in Minnesota in week four. Jared Allen recorded 4.5 of those sacks, as well as a forced fumble.

“We can’t have a repeat of the last game,” says Rodgers. “Allen is an avid outdoorsman; there’s nothing he likes more than a ‘sitting duck’ or a ‘deer in the headlights.’ After last time, I think my offensive line owes me better protection. They’re beholden to me. And if they don’t think they can stop the Vikings front four fairly, then they better ‘be holdin.’”

What will there be more of when Favre comes to town: gun slinging or mud slinging? Packer head coach Mike McCarthy has stressed a Viagra theme all week to his offensive linemen, because their job is to keep Rodgers upright. Like the decision to retire, that’s easier said than done.

Vikings win 27-23 as a stunned hush falls upon the stadium—not a Lambeau “peep” to be heard.

 

Check out more game previews at www.sports-central.org

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Contrary to Published Reports, Former Viking Orlando Thomas Is Not Dead

The NFL world was shocked Wednesday evening when it was reported that former Minnesota Vikings player Orlando Thomas had passed away at the age of 37 after a four-year battle with ALS.

I’m sure the person who was most shocked was Orlando Thomas himself, as he was watching TV with his family when the report was broadcast on ESPN.

The Vikings reported Thomas’ death on their website Wednesday evening after officials from Louisiana-Lafayette, Thomas’ alma mater, called to inform them that he had died. The Star Tribune followed with a blog post, citing the Vikings’ website as the source of the information.

According to Thomas’ agent, Mark Bartelstein, the rumor started on somebody’s MySpace page.

“You know how in today’s world once rumors start, it spreads like wildfire,” Bartelstein commented. “You know how people communicate nowadays. But it’s totally false. He’s sick, but he’s good and and he’s fighting the battle he fights every day. He’s fighting like heck, and he’s alive and well.”

Former Vikings WR Jake Reed, who is very close to Thomas and his family, has been frantically Tweeting from his page JakeReed86 all evening, trying to spread the world that Thomas is still here.

“OT (Orlando Thomas) has not died! I just spoke to him! Please reprint!!!!” was sent to the Star Tribune‘s Twitter page.

“What? ESPN reporting it too??? Wow, he is not dead!” another tweet said.

The Vikings had already planned a pre-game ceremony in honor of Thomas during their November 15th game against Detroit.

Thomas has been battling with ALS, more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, since 2004 and is no longer able to speak.

Thomas had 22 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries for the Vikings from 1995-2001.

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Minnesota Vikings Continue to Confound

Football can be a fickle game, sometimes.

Twice on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings were inside the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ twenty-yard line, in the fourth quarter, and poised to take the lead (or at least tie the game).

Twice on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers ended those drives with touchdowns of their own.

What goes around, comes around, so they say; and the breaks that had gone the Vikings way the previous couple of games most certainly did not go their way Sunday.

If a slightly suspect tripping penalty isn’t called…If Brett Favre‘s pass is a little lower and a millisecond later…If Chester Taylor catches a pass he should have and normally does…

Losses are going to happen, however.  This is a fact of football, even for that 16-0 Patriots team.

The confounding aspect of this loss is that it could have—and maybe should have—left Vikings’ fans feeling better about the team than last week’s win over Baltimore did.

The Vikings went to the defending Super Bowl champions’ homefield, against the number-two ranked pass offense and one of the best defenses—if not the best—in football, and outplayed them on 125 of the 127 plays.

Those two plays were pretty big, however, and the Vikings need to consider what put them in the situation to lose because of two plays.

Having a first-and-goal from the one-yard line and giving Adrian Peterson the ball only once is a good place to start.  

Brad Childress allows the team to get too cute sometimes, and that was definitely one of those situations.  For future reference, Brad: No team will stop Adrian four times at the one-yard line.  A defensive line of Joe Greene, Reggie White, Deacon Jones, and Alan Page wouldn’t stop Adrian four times from the one.

And yet the team got cute, threw two incompletions, settled for a field goal, and cut the Pittsburgh lead to three—instead of taking a one-point lead for themselves.

The end of the first half was a problem, too. Childress curiously kneeled the ball with one timeout and 24 seconds at the Minnesota 28-yard line, after a soft prevent-shell allowed Pittsburgh to go 91 yards in 1:15 for their only offensive touchdown of the game.

That drive—and a couple of disconcerting Rashard Mendenhall runs to the right scattered throughout the game—were the only problems the defense had Sunday.  

Other than that, Minnesota played arguably their best defensive game of the season.

The Vikings held Ben Roethlisberger to 159 net passing yards, and Hines Ward to one catch for three yards.  Pat Williams had his best game of the season, days after his 37th birthday; the combination of Karl Paymah and Benny Sapp played admirably in Antoine Winfield’s absence; and rookie Asher Allen was spectacular in his first NFL game.

Speaking of rookies: Percy Harvin, ladies and gentleman.  The Human Touchdown.  He is fun to watch, isn’t he?

Speaking of wide receivers: Sidney Rice, ladies and gentleman.  The Human Bungee Cord.  He is fun to watch, isn’t he?

There just really is not that much to get angry about, when you get down to it.  

Favre played the smart, veteran game pundits thought he couldn’t play anymore; the offensive line, despite some inconsistency in the run game, did an excellent job of pass protection for the most part.

The punter?  That’s it, pretty much.  Be angry at the punter, but it’s hard to get mad at the rest of the Vikings right now.

Minnesota’s next game against Green Bay is the more important game regarding the division and conference, and it might even be a must-win affair. But the Steelers game showed the Vikings how close they are to the elite level, and how two plays can be the difference.

Childress will have to learn to get out of his player’s way, and stop trying to out-maneuver the opposition in some mythical chess match he’s concocted in his mind.  Chris Kluwe will have to stop punting like he has a broken leg, and Ray Edwards will have to start playing up to his supposed potential at some point.

Otherwise, there ain’t much to feel down about.

Each week, Minnesota has taken another step towards looking like the Super Bowl team they want to be; be it the improved secondary this week despite the unavailable Winfield, or the ongoing maturation of Rice, or matching the defending Super Bowl champions hit for hit, play for play.  Almost.

If the breaks go one way, this team could be 4-3; they go another way, and the team could be 7-0.  That’s football, and the Vikings still don’t know how good they are, or could be. 

Either way, any Vikings fan should feel better about this team this week.

Even after a loss.

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Hey, Vikings Fans, Don’t Blame Brett Favre for This One

If you simply looked at the scoreboard and the fact that Brett Favre was at least partially responsible for two turnovers returned for touchdowns, you’d easily say that Favre blew it.

That he finally showed his “true colors” or that he “Favre-ed” this one.

If you truly believe this loss hangs on him, you’re sadly mistaken.

A closer look beyond the box score actually shows a hard-fought game that came down to two intense, meticulous drives led by Favre, which saw the Minnesota Vikings dink-and-dunk down the field twice in the final seven minutes in fantastic fashion.

Both drives saw the very best of Favre and the Vikings offense, as they completed pass after pass against what is still clearly one of the league’s better defenses.

The box score itself reads:

Brett Favre fumbled: LaMarr Woodley recovered fumble and returned for 77 yards; and

Keyaron Fox intercepted Brett Favre for 82 yards.

While you can’t discredit the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ aggressive pass rushing and ability to be where the ball is to make the play, it also wouldn’t be correct to simply assume that Favre lost the game on his own.

After a game-winning touchdown pass against the San Francisco 49ers and another clutch fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens in Week Six, Favre had restored his fizzled reputation of late-game heroics.

Despite two turnovers that would suggest otherwise, it was quite obvious on Sunday that Favre’s magic was still exuberant, even against the Steelers.

With less than seven minutes remaining, Favre and the Vikings marched down to Pittsburgh’s 23-yard line, trailing 13-10.

Favre dropped back, avoided the initial rush, and just as he was about to release the ball, had the ball knocked out of his hand from behind by Steelers lineman Brett Keisel.

While Favre did hold onto the ball after a pump fake and was at least partially responsible for the turnover, it was not a blatant fumble and was arguably credited more to the Steelers’ pressure on the offensive line.

The final play that decided the game can’t be blamed on Favre either.

Only the biggest of Favre haters will sit back and laugh at the future Hall of Famer while insinuating that he “blew” this game.

In all actuality, it was just plain old dumb luck…

To finish the rest of this article, go here.

Kevin Roberts is an official Brett Favre Examiner, covering one of the NFL‘s greatest quarterbacks and giving you the best editorials and coverage in what could be his final season.

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Drinking the Vikings Kool-Aid

I know the Vikings are 6-1. I know they have the best running back in the league. I know they have a (surprisingly) mistake free quarterback in Brett Favre. I know they have arguably a top-five defense.

I know all these things.

What I don’t know, however, is if I am ready to throw myself into this Vikings team. Unlike most Vikings fans, I don’t know if I am ready to drink the Kool-Aid.

This isn’t simply an overreaction to the Vikings’ first loss. I don’t think anyone expected the Vikings to even sniff an undefeated season – other than maybe Ron Jaworski and the Monday-Night-Favre-Lovers. I’m just choosing to approach this season with a level of cautious optimism, and there is one very simple reason for this.

1998.

We all remember the juggernaut that was the 1998 Minnesota Vikings. We all remember the mention of “greatest-of-all-time” offense. We all remember the 15-1 season. We all remember the certainty of a Super Bowl.

Everything about that 1998 team made a Super Bowl seem inevitable. Everybody felt it. We were drunk off the Kool-Aid and there was no turning back.

The 1998 Vikings were completely unstoppable–right up until they were stopped.

Unlike some fans, I have no illusions of comparing the 2009 Vikings to the 1998 Vikings. There is no comparison. The 1998 Vikings were better, and it wasn’t all that close. The 1998 offense was vastly superior. The defense, while hardly dominant, was solid. They even had a resident afraid-he-might-eat-me fat guy in Jerry Ball to rival Pat Williams.

With that said, the 2009 Vikings are still a very good team. It is highly likely they will make the playoffs, and they certainly have the talent to make a title run. I’m not claiming the Vikings can’t win the Super Bowl, a championship certainly seems plausible.

I’m just not ready to throw myself into Super Bowl mode for a team that hardly seems dominant. Let’s remember Brad Childress is still the coach, after all.

The season has been a success so far, and the Vikings are certainly establishing themselves as one of the championship contenders. I, however, will continue to approach this team with cautious optimism.

I remember how quickly the Kool-Aid can turn sour.

 

 

 

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Minnesota Vikings Impress In A Game They Had No Business Losing

Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was a painful game for the Minnesota Vikings, to be sure, but one they had no business losing.

Plenty of things went right for the NFC North-leading Vikings, who stuck with the favored Pittsburgh Steelers for virtually the entire game. Questionable play-calling and poor luck got in between Minnesota and a perfect record, though, and the Vikings fell to 6-1 on the season.

Heading into the game, much ado was made regarding the injury and absence of Minnesota corner back Antoine Winfield. The Viking’s best defensive back, Winfield would force the Steelers to think twice before launching the ball down field.

With Winfield out for a month, the consensus among fans was that Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger would have at least one receiver open all day. It was thought he would be free to pick apart the corner back-by-committee approach the Vikings would take.

During the game, few throws were lofted downfield. The only extended period of time when Roethlisberger was able to consistently find open receivers for 20-25 yard gains was at the end of the first half, when Minnesota was implementing a soft cover-two defense with extremely deep safeties.

Other than that 1:39, the Steelers were held mainly to the ground. This wasn’t of particular concern to Pittsburgh, however, as they managed to have success against the suddenly-porous Minnesota rush defense.

In the first half, the Minnesota defense was surprisingly solid. Despite having to deal with horrible field position because of awful punting, the Vikings held Pittsburgh to just three points (not including the touchdown resulting from the poor defensive scheme at the end of the half.)

Earlier in the half, however, Minnesota had perhaps the best offensive drive of the season. Going 76 yards on 13 plays, Brett Favre led Minnesota down the field with methodical dips and dukes to his receivers.

The perfect picture of Minnesota’s ideal offense was painted when Favre mixed in the occasional 15-20 yard heave to Sidney Rice. If opposing defenses want to know how to stop the Vikings, they need look no further than the drive that resulted in an Adrian Peterson two-yard touchdown dive.

Minnesota had the ball with 3:30 remaining in the half while holding a slim lead. Completing one first down, the Vikings found themselves near midfield, and in prime position to add to their lead going into the half. If coach Brad Childress didn’t feel comfortable going for the end-zone, another acceptable strategy would have been running the clock down.

Instead of going for the points or consuming time, however, Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell accessed their infuriatingly conservative playbook. The play that stuck out the most, though, was on third-and-15, with just under two minutes remaining in the half.

Bevell called for a Chester Taylor dive up the middle, in essence forfeiting the drive. Minnesota was forced to punt, and Roethlisberger took over at his own nine-yard line with 1:39 remaining. That drive resulted in a touchdown.

Rashard Mendenhall tore apart the Vikings during the first drive of the second half, which ended in a Pittsburgh field goal to push the score to 13-7.

With seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, Childress called for the Vikings to attempt a fourth-and-one from Pittsburgh’s 35 yard line, much to the joy of Minnesota fans everywhere.

Favre connected with Sidney Rice for the first down, who ran the ball down the one-yard line to set up the eventual Minnesota field goal. The relationship that has developed between Rice and Favre is certainly worth mentioning and probably deserving of its own column.

Without the mentoring and right arm of Favre, Rice would have never reached the level of performance he has so far this year. Putting up two consecutive 100-yard games, Rice has impressed upon Vikings’ fans the importance of a veteran in the locker room.

Later in the third quarter, the Steelers were in a first-and-goal position thanks to two big plays from Mendenhall and Santonio Holmes. A touchdown would have given Pittsburgh a 10-point advantage, but a Mendenhall fumble helped spark a long Minnesota drive.

Following three penalties early in the fourth quarter, Minnesota faced a third-and-18 from their own 23-yard line. Needing a big play to keep the potential go-ahead drive alive, Rice did his best impression of Vikings’ great Cris Carter on the right sideline, completing a 25-yard pass that was originally ruled an in-completion.

Perhaps the most frustrating penalty call of the game occured at the most inopportune time for the Vikings. A 10-yard touchdown throw to Rice was nullified by a supposed tripping penalty (seen at the 2:00 mark of NFL-Scoreboard-Vikings-Steelers-highlights”>this video ) by Jeff Dugan.

This penalty fueled a 14-point turn around for the Steelers, as they forced a fumble and ran the ball across the field for a touchdown, putting the score to 20-10.

Rookie receiver Percy Harvin ran the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown of his own, though, giving Minnesota the momentum despite still being down by three points.

The highlight-reel clip of the game came from Peterson in the play directly following the two-minute warning. Facing a critical third-and-four from his own 45-yard line, Favre shuffled a quick pass to Peterson up the middle.

Turning around after catching the ball, Peterson saw Pittsburgh’s William Gay six inches from his face. Instead of attempting a spin, or juke, Peterson simply lowered his head and continued plowing forward for a gain of 29 yards. (See it here at the 3:06 mark. )

In the red zone with under two minutes to play, Favre had the chance to give the Vikings a four-point lead, but tossed the ball a bit too high to Chester Taylor. Unable to hold on, the ball slipped through Taylor’s hands right into a Pittsburgh defender, who returned it for another Steeler touchdown, sealing the fate of the Vikings.

Although now with a blemished record, the Vikings hung with a very solid team at a hostile location. Remove a few questionable play-calls and a fluke interception, and Minnesota is still one of the best teams in the league.

That said, there are certainly some things the Vikings need to improve. While the conservative play-calling at critical times in the game probably won’t cease, Minnesota would be doing themselves much good by working on both late-game pass defense and offensive tackling.

Next week, providing they are able to keep Aaron Rodgers upright, the Green Bay Packers will have a much easier time exploiting the absence of Winfield in the secondary. Benny Sapp, Karl Paymah, and Asher Allen all need to be at the top of their games.

Despite the great performance put up by the Vikings on Sunday against the Steelers, some improvement will be needed in order to maintain their leg-up on the rest of the NFC North.

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