Archive for the Cris Carter Category

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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Brett Favre Could Be The Key To a New Vikings Stadium In Minnesota

Hey ESPN, we know how you love all things Brett Favre. We know how you couldn’t get enough of his on-again-off-again “retirement” talk. Its good for ratings and fodder, so who could blame you. You’re only doing your jobs as the national sports hype machine.

And Brett Favre, we know how you crave the spotlight. We know how you can’t shake the itch to play, rather to just walk away when critics from all over the nation want to prove you wrong.

We assume there must not be a whole lot waiting for you in Kiln, Mississippi, after all, there is only so much land that can be plowed each year.

This, along with your fiercely competitive nature, one to which I cannot compare in recent memory concluded with the not-so-obvious confederation of you offering your services to your once No. 1 rival, the Minnesota Vikings who clearly wanted you when the Green Bay Packers did not.

Thank you for not only coming to the team, but also for giving it a shot no matter what the outcome. I know you’d have never forgave yourself if you didn’t try knowing you were that close to a deal only to back out on July 30 because you just couldn’t commit to the full season.

The Vikings, and even the most inept fans, knew they were but one manage-the-game Quarterback away from truly taking them to the next level and you obliged. The rest is history but one that can be special as I’ve outlined here.

But if you truly want to make your mark in Minnesota, as well as continue to soothe your ego that the media shamefully loves to exploit, have you considered being the face of an entire stadium drive?

Imagine this scenario: February 7, 2010 Minnesota just defeats ______ for their first NFL Championship in State history.

You will have done what sixteen men: Fran Tarkenton, Joe Knapp, Gary Cuozzo, Tommy Kramer, Wade Wison, Rich Gannon, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper, Tarvaris Jackson, and Gus Freotte have all failed to do in the Vikings 48 years in Minnesota.

Take a long look at that list. How many of them are Hall of Famers, like yourself? How many of them made Pro Bowls, like yourself. You want to know why year-in-and year-out the Vikings are always a sleeper pick to go far in the playoffs, it starts with their incredible consistency and opportunity provided at quarterback.

The list reads like a Who’s Who. By comparison, the Chicago Bears, have had thirty-five men line up under center, and even this less-than-impressive bunch was able to muster 1 NFL Championship (1963) and Super Bowl (1986) in the years since the Vikings joined the league in 1961.

You will be treated a like a Rock Star. You will be treated like a God (relatively speaking of course). But most of all, you will get the attention you crave ten-fold once again on sports biggest stage as the leader of one of the league’s most revered and consistent teams.

Your legacy once thought tampered, will be restored as you prove the naysayers wrong and add to your lone trophy case. The only question will be whether the Vikings would dare put you in their Ring of Honor in the Vikings Hall of Fame or whether you’d dare were purple in your induction ceremony in Canton whenever that comes.

But most of all, you’d have the unique opportunity to be the face of an entire stadium campign that has been in neutral since 1997 after years of failed legislative attempts and proposals. Talk about exposure. Talk about media attention!

Imagine going up the steps of the State Capitol in St. Paul and lobbying alongside owner Zygi Wilf, Vice President of Legal Affairs and Stadium Development Lester Bagley, Rob Brzezinski VP of Football Operations, or Steve LaCroix VP of Sales and Marketing among other officials, decked in purple, serving as lead cheerleader in the newest wave of stadium proposals in the aftermath of the media hype off the Super Bowl Win!

How long do you think it would take the legislators to react favorably knowing the passion the team brings to the state, not to mention national swagger with their history of less than colorful characters not seen on other Minnesota sports teams?

How long do you think it would take for even the most pessimistic legislator to give approval knowing you just delivered on a lifelong goal that had been eluding an entire four state fan base all of their legislative lives and careers?

How long do you think it would take for those legislators, beaming with state pride, many of whom are likely Vikings season ticket holders and fans themselves to get caught up in the moment and agree to the funding that had been so evasive in the past?

I’d say about a week or so. If given the opportunity, the Vikings better strike while the iron is hot and use Brett Favre to his full contractual advantage while they got him and while he still is a media darling.


The House that Brett Favre Built

That’s the power only you and your mega celebrity status could bring to a region that was forced to “hate” you for sixteen years while you were in America’s Dairyland. How ironic and fairytalk fitting would it be if you helped your once arch rival achive the goals that have eluded them the most?

Before the made-for-TV soap opera ends, you could be a new state icon, forever enshrined as one of their own. More ME-dia attention! More self-satisfying legacy! You can’t put a price on that and you can’t make this stuff up.

Regardless of how the Brett Favre fairy tale ends, I remain confident all along that worst case scenario, at the eleventh hour, the state legislature will get something done before the 2011 Metrodome Lease expires.

You see, people like the Twins. After the threat of contraction in 2001, many people got back on that bandwagon (winning helped too). Having a bad team was certainly better than having no team. People like the Wild.

In a state that pride’s itself as the “State of Hockey” despite having never won and titles at its highest level of competition offered (NHL) its high schools and colleges are loaded each year with the nation’s top prospects and athletes vying for the draft.

But people absolutely love the Vikings.

Like I stated, they give the team the most national exposure in the nation’s most popular sport.

They give them team the most press and swagger with their longest slate of success (36/48 seasons of .500 or better ball), and they give the state the most varying storylines from Ontario Smith’s embarrassing Whizzanator incident, to the Randy Moss years which, like former Governor Jesse Ventura, exposed Minnesotans to the more Rock Star atmosphere more suited for big city New York or bustling L.A. than the passive, laid back Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Finally the 2005 “Sex Boat” controversy brought maybe the most banter from jocks all over.

Losing the Vikings to a market like L.A. for example, would all but seal the fate of any legislator who happened to vote against what would ultimately be deemed-a-last resort, all-or-nothing,moving-vans-are-a-coming bill. They have to know this, and this is why I doubt we’ll ever see that day.

In an evolving state that somehow got a new stadium for the backpage boys, the Minnesota Twins, one that I never thought I’d live to see having grown up a fan of the team and their small market epitome if their ever was one, to the brand new, about-damn-time TCF Bank Stadium for the perennial bottom feeding Golden Gophers, the truly ironic fact remains that the state’s most popular and successful team is going to be the last one to receive its stadium they covet.

At an average of 8-6 each season based on their 385 wins and 316 regular season loses, there is perhaps no more consistent team never to win the sport’s ultimate prize than the Men of Norway, the Minnesota Vikings.

Perhaps the fact that at likely $1 billion or more for all the bells and whistles rumored, to the probable development of land at its final location, the final stadium in the trio will also be the most expensive and thus, the delay. But for now at least we have a two or three year stop gap in TCF Bank stadium.

After legislation is passed in spring of 2011 and by the time they break ground that fall, to when the first game is played sometime around September of 2015, Brett Favre and the Vikings should just be entering their seventh year of marriage together with him being the 45 year old guy lined up under center, since we all know he’s never really going to retire…..

Can you see any other logical ending?

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Minnesota Vikings 2009-10 Season Preview: Wide Reciever

The abundance of receivers in Minnesota is a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.

There are currently 10 receivers on the Minnesota Vikings roster, which means at least four will find themselves unemployed in the very near future.

Here is a list of the ten receivers vying for the same positions:

  • Bernard Berrian
  • Sidney Rice
  • Percy Harvin
  • Jaymar Johnson
  • Bobby Wade
  • Glenn Holt
  • Darius Reynaud
  • Vinny Perretta
  • Bobby Williams
  • Nick Moore

Ten players, five or six positions. I’m sure the pressure is feeling just as hot as the late-summer heat in Mankato, but I believe the first four of these players are locks to make the opening day roster. The other six are competing for, at most, two roster spots. Talk about competition.


Absolute, sure-fire locks to be on the field against Cleveland on Sept. 13

You can’t cut a man making multiple millions of dollars unless his name is Nick Punto. Bernard Berrian will be making nearly $14 million this season, and probably earning every penny. His team-leading 964 yards over 48 receptions provided the perfect deep threat for either Frerotte or Jackson last year.

Sidney Rice started just three games last year, but that was because he was incapable of remaining healthy for more than a few hours at a time. He has shown glimpses of brilliance in the past, however, and should enjoy a breakout season as a 23 year old with tons to lose yet the ability (and height) to prove himself.

First-round selection Percy Harvin has done nothing but impress so far this year. Considered by some as the best overall athlete on the team, Harvin has a running back’s open-field instincts to go with his elusiveness and great hands. While he didn’t play in a pro-style offense last year, Harvin appears to be doing just fine with Childress’ plays.

Should get in, will be shocked if he doesn’t

Jaymar Johnson, now that he has received the blessing of Cris Carter, is no longer a secret. With extreme speed, the reason Johnson was drafted in the sixth round was because of his small size and poor hands. Since last year, though, Johnson has apparently put on twenty pounds and Carter claims his hands are fine. I trust No. 80 to make receiver judgments, don’t you?


The favorites and contenders

The remaining six receivers currently on the roster are fighting for, at best, two spots. The favorites on this list are Bobby Wade and Darius Reynaud, both of whom were impressive last year. Wade, although not flashy by any means, was one of the most reliable options either Frerotte or Jackson had last year, while Reynaud made a few great kick returns.

With Harvin sliding into the slot position, Wade seems to be the odd man out this year. Gonzo, of the Daily Norseman, explains better:

The problem that Wade is going to run into this season is attempting to figure out where, exactly, he fits into the roster. His ideal spot is as a slot receiver, but Percy Harvin will almost certainly take a big part of that role away…He could also possibly fit in as a punt returner, but the Vikings appear to be grooming both Harvin and Jaymar Johnson to take on those responsibilities. He’s simply not big enough to line up full-time on the outside, and even if he was, Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice have those spots locked down.

Even though Wade lead the team in receptions last year, there is a possibility he may not find himself on a team come Sept 13. I have a hard time believing that the Vikings will go with Reynaud over Wade, and I am also struggling with the idea of Reynaud being cut, so I’m going to guess that they both make it on the final roster and that Childress rolls with six receivers for the 2009-10 campaign.

The remaining smorgasbord of receivers

Vinny Perretta, Bobby Williams, Nick Moore, and Glenn Holtremain. Holt was a fairly effective kick-returner for the Bengals last year, but was cut by them for a reason: he simply isn’t very good. If both Harvin and Reynaud are on the roster there will be no need for Holt. The rest were long-shots from the start but could possibly find themselves with a practice squad invitation.

In review, here are the six receivers who I think will make the September 13 roster when the Vikings open the season against the Browns, along with the role they will play:

  1. Bernard Berrian—Primary deep threat
  2. Sidney Rice—Second wide-out
  3. Percy Harvin—Slot receiver and part-time kick/punt-returner
  4. Jaymar Johnson—Fourth receiver
  5. Bobby Wade—Primary receiver off the bench
  6. Darius Reynaud—Primary punt/kick returner, seldom-used as a receiver