GREEN BAY, WI—The Green Bay Packers addressed questions concerning the current status, future plans, and whereabouts of recently retired quarterback Brett Favre by announcing Monday that they had sent him to the country to live on a beautiful farm with a very nice family.
"We know you loved Brett Favre, but he wasn't happy here. He couldn't stay here," Packers general manager Ted Thompson told hundreds of quiet but tear-streaked Packer fans assembled at the televised Lambeau Field press conference. "And he loved you, too — he loved you very much indeed — but he needed to go someplace where he could run and jump and throw his favorite football around. And he couldn't do that here anymore."
"So we took Brett out behind the Don Hutson practice facility last night, and we . . . Coach McCarthy and I, we . . . We gave him one last hug, and we said goodbye to him, and Brett went away forever," Thompson said, his voice breaking several times. "Those loud banging noises you heard were probably the truck backfiring. He went to the farm in a truck, you know."
The Vikings were expected to roll into the Meadowlands yesterday and be the token punching bags for the New York Giants, with almost no pundit expecting the game to be even close to competitive. It didn't quite work out that way:
There are 16 teams in the NFC. At 5-6, the Vikings' record is better than only five of them.
That's one way to look at the hometown heroes.
Then, of course, there is owner Zygi Wilf's line of thinking:
"Back in the hunt, big time!" Wilf exclaimed as he nearly sprinted off the field Sunday at Giants Stadium.
Yes, the Vikings were talking playoffs for the first time in three years after a charmed 41-17 victory over the New York Giants. Wilf, the lifelong Giants fan, was euphoric after watching his new team return three interceptions for touchdowns. Even normally conservative coach Brad Childress said the Vikings have shifted from a "footnote" to "significant" in the standings after winning three of four games. Players dished out (mostly) good-natured ribbing toward media members who gave them little chance to beat one of the NFC's top teams.
As for poor Eli Manning, it nearly resulted in him being benched:
Two years and two weeks after throwing four interceptions during a close loss at home to the Vikings, the Giants' fourth-year quarterback played even worse in a humiliating home defeat. Not only did he again throw four interceptions, but the maligned Manning became the first NFL quarterback in 23 years to have three picks returned for touchdowns in the same game.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin contemplated benching Manning in favor of backup Anthony Wright, but only briefly.
Of course, one game does not make a lot of difference to the season Minnesota has been having: they're still only mathematically alive for playoff contention, and will pretty much have to win out the remaining games to have a chance at a wildcard berth.
Chris Lempesis doesn't see much cause for hope for the Purple in this game:
Wait, are you telling me there are OTHER National Football League games this week other than Pats vs. Colts? No . . . really? Aw man, I thought I was going to get a week off. Oh well, let's talk Vikings/Chargers, shall we?
On the surface, this looks like a match-up of two teams heading in completely different directions. San Diego (4-3, tied for first in the AFC West, although it's technically in second as a result of its week four loss to division-leading Kansas City) is pistol-hot coming into Sunday's contest at the Dome. The Chargers have won three games in a row, all in decisive fashion — outscoring league titans Denver, Oakland and Houston by a combined 104-27 margin — and are starting to look like the team most "experts" thought they'd be before the start of the season (Norv Turner's coaching be damned). The Vikings? Well, is it really worth re-hashing how things have gone so far for the Purple and Gold in 2007? Methinks not.
On top of the revolving quarterback situation, both of the starting wide receivers are out (Williamson is on personal leave for a death in the family, and Wade is injured and probably won't be able to play). The run defence is still pretty good, but the pass defence is God's gift to mediocre quarterbacks: everyone has a career day lighting up the Vikings' pass defenders.
The only bright light for Minnesota is Adrian Peterson, and even he is not going to be the best running back on the field in this game: LaDainian Tomlinson is a guaranteed first-ballot hall of famer.
Still, there's always hope:
[. . .] the formula is simple: constantly stop Tomlinson early, force Rivers to throw more times than he’d prefer (I'm still not sure Rivers is a great quarterback if he has to throw 30 or 35 times a game) and hope you can maybe pressure him into making a mistake or two . . . or three . . . or, really, four or five if this Minnesota team hopes to have a shot at a win.
Okay, maybe not.
Update, several hours later: Uh, oops, but in a good way:
I'm kinda at a loss for words. I'm just glad I was able to see this game . . . true, it would have been awesome to see it in-person, but anyone who was able to watch it should consider themselves very lucky. These displays of sheer dominance don't happen too often.
What else can be said? Adrian’s a rookie. He just ran for 296 yards. I don't know how anyone could possibly doubt that he'll be one of the all-time greats.
For the Vikings, this game should be their blueprint for the rest of the season. Run Adrian often, while mixing in Chester Taylor for a change of pace. Pass just enough to loosen the pressure on Adrian.
The defense was also spectacular. They constantly frustrated a great running back in Tomlinson, and they ruthlessly pressured Rivers (Frazier's blitzes were quite effective, and the defensive ends had their best game of the year). And we held the dangerous Antonio Gates to 10 yards. All things considered, it was an excellent performance from the Vikes D.
Amazing, and (as usual), I didn't get to see any of it:
He rumbled around right end, paused to set up his blocks, and sprinted 46 yards up the sideline for Minnesota's game-clinching touchdown.
This rookie doesn't make many mistakes. He simply sets a lot of records.
Racing to the NFL's single-game rushing record of 296 yards at the midpoint of his first pro season, Peterson carried the Vikings to a 35-17 victory over the Chargers on Sunday.
He didn't realize the significance of his performance until his benign 3-yard carry took the clock under 60 seconds and sent him past Jamal Lewis' 295-yard performance against Cleveland in 2003 for the best game a running back has ever had in this league.
"Oh, no. I was out playing ball," Peterson said. "I wasn't thinking about the record at all."
There are more for him to ponder.
-- On 30 carries, Peterson topped 200 yards rushing for the second time in one season, a feat no other rookie has accomplished.
-- Peterson scored two of his three touchdowns and gained 253 yards in the second half, helping the Vikings rally from a 14-7 deficit. They trailed at the half after Antonio Cromartie plucked a missed field goal out of the air and returned it 109 yards for a touchdown, the longest play in NFL history.
-- Peterson reached 1,036 yards rushing this season, a pace that would smash Eric Dickerson's rookie record of 1,808 yards set in 1983. Dickerson's all-time record of 2,105 yards in 1984 is also in reach.
Scoop Jackson sets his phasers on praise:
Minnesota Vikings rookie Peterson rushed for 224 yards. Two-hundred twenty-four yards. A rookie. In the NFL. Against a Chicago Bears defense (albeit not 100 percent or fully staffed) that carried the team to the Super Bowl nine months ago. And that's not including the 53-yard Devin Hester impersonation Peterson pulled off on a kickoff return that gave his team the field position it needed to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired.
[. . .]
My eyes have seen the glory.
And apparently, I wasn't alone. Keith Olbermann had the same moment, saying, "If we had to show you all of the Adrian Peterson highlights we'd be here until Thursday."
"He's the best player to come into this league since LaDainian Tomlinson," Daryl Johnston said during the broadcast on Fox. "At the beginning we said he was special . . . and he's making the Bear fans go home early."
"He's a very special player," Darrell Bevell, Vikings offensive coordinator said, having had his share of "moments" since the day training camp opened. "He's got special talent. He has that great combination of physicalness but yet speed to take it the distance, and I think he showed all that today."
They've seen the glory too.
If he wasn't real, I'd think he was Xbox'd. One hundred three yards in his first game as a pro . . . off the bench. One hundred fifty yards against the Chiefs in Week 3. In Week 4 against the Packers — 112 yards (on only 12 carries and 108 of those yards came in the first half before the coach stopped giving him the ball in the second half). The third highest total yards by one person (361) in a game in NFL history Sunday.
Rookie running back Adrian Peterson set the record for the best rushing performance by a Viking in yesterday's squeaker over the Chicago Bears:
After the greatest single-game rushing performance by a Viking, Adrian Peterson recounted Sunday how the offense set a goal of rushing for 225 yards as a team. "We executed that goal," he said.
The rookie was being very humble. Peterson came within a yard of matching that figure by himself, rushing for 224 yards on 20 carries and scoring on runs of 67, 73 and 35 yards in the Vikings' 34-31 victory over the Bears.
His rushing total broke Chuck Foreman's record of 200 yards on Oct. 24, 1976, at Philadelphia. It also is the most rushing yards given up in Bears history.
Another game I didn't get to see, although I was alternating between elation and depression as the scoreboard updates showed first a strong second half by the Vikes, and then an equally strong recovery by the Bears. When I saw the Bears tie it up at 31 inside the last two minutes, I figured that the Vikes would self-destruct and give the game away in overtime. It was a huge relief when the next update showed the game had ended in regulation with a Vikings field goal.
Another game I didn't get to watch yesterday . . . and another game I apparently benefitted from not watching:
Looking at the bigger picture, I've completely lost any confidence in Chilly's offensive coaching. First, I've gotta discuss the clock management.
In both halves, the clock management was nothing short of an embarrassment. The Vikings had the ball with 1:07 to go in the second quarter, and they let 30 SECONDS run off the clock after a running play. They had plenty of time to get into field goal range, but they blew it. I couldn't believe what I was seeing . . . it was absolutely incompetent clock management.
Then, in the fourth quarter, the Vikings got the ball back with 1:45 remaining. No timeouts. We threw a three-yard pass and a five-yard pass. To the middle of the field. You can't make it up. Wasted tons of time. Again, clueless clock management.
The word "aggressive" isn't in Chilly's vocabulary. This conservative, "dink and dunk" offense is a joke. How about this: Let's throw the ball down field, let's use some play action, let's do SOMETHING to make this offense less predictable.
Of course, in the game I did get to see (at least part of), watching the Patriots try to do a Joe Thiesmann to J.P. Losman was ugly, ugly, ugly. If the Patriots' Vince Wilfork isn't fined by the league for that hit, it's clearly going to be open season on quarterbacks this season.
Update, 27 September: Vince Wilfork has been fined $12500.
At first, I regretted our local Fox affiliate's choice of games to broadcast . . . after all who really cares about what the Cowboys do in Miami? After reading this account, maybe I got the best of the available choices after all:
The Vikings (1-1) had plenty of chances to start 2-0 for the second straight year, but lost many of the opportunities as Tarvaris Jackson tied a team record with four interceptions.
"I didn't play very well. I threw four away," Jackson said. "The defense kept us in the game."
Both teams had shots to win at the end of regulation.
Hanson pushed a 48-yard field goal try to the left with 45 seconds remaining after making 18 straight field goals dating to Nov. 19, 2006.
The miss gave Minnesota another chance, but Ryan Longwell bounced a 52-yard attempt off the left upright with 2 seconds left — wasting a chance to follow up a 24-3 win over Atlanta.
"We had an opportunity to win this game at the end, but we didn't take advantage," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "I was looking to see some consistency from Game 1 to Game 2.
"Unfortunately, we took a step back in terms of 12 penalties that we had. That's not acceptable."
The fans have been asking for this for a while, and the management has finally changed something . . . they'll now play Led Zeppelin's "The Immigrant Song" when they're introducing the players . . . I'm guessing it won't look much like this, however.
To my amazement, I got to watch most of this game (pre-season TV coverage is very hit-and-miss). It was an odd game, although the Jets certainly have lots of talent, it didn't really show either team's offensive capabilities. New York QB Pennington must have wished he'd stayed in bed: throwing two picks run back for Viking touchdowns would have to count as a bad day in anyone's books. Minnesota's starting QB didn't do too much: because of the turnovers, he barely saw the ball and only managed 2 completions on 4 attempts for 27 yards.
Adrian Peterson certainly had a good outing: 70 yards on 8 runs, with his first NFL touchdown. If he can do that on a regular basis, then Minnesota's rushing attack will be excellent this year (Chester Taylor is very good, but he wore down toward the end of last season as the feature back). Two high-calibre running backs (plus Mewelde Moore as 3rd down back) equals a very good running game indeed.
The Vikings defence looked pretty good, although there were some breakdowns in run defending, and the Jets running game looked better than I believe it really is: nobody was making those kind of gains up the middle last season against the Vikings. And, as the starters were being replaced by backups and third-stringers, the dreaded open-field arm tackle became the most common mistake by Viking defenders. Lots of opportunities were wasted because the first man to the ball tried to arm-tackle . . . and missed.
Former Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper has signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Raiders:
Culpepper, 30, worked out in the afternoon before a gathering of Raiders scouts and coaches in a private workout. Oakland coach Lane Kiffin announced the signing shortly after the team completed practice.
"We had to see him run around, scramble and do different things because his arm didn't go away," Kiffin said. "We weren't really worried about that. We had to make sure everything else was good."
Culpepper began 2006 as Miami's starter but had trouble with his mobility and was sacked 21 times in the first four games. The Dolphins shut him down so he could continue rehabbing and eventually placed him on injured reserve. When they acquired Trent Green in a trade with Kansas City this offseason, Culpepper became expendable.
I've always liked Culpepper, and I'm glad he's back to playing, although you'd have to say that Oakland isn't exactly a QB-friendly team. The past few seasons, the only QBs they've been friendly with are the opposing ones. On the positive side, Culpepper should be healthy now and has a season to show that he's still got the skills that made him so effective for the Vikings before the knee injury.
In the run-up to training camp, the various sports publications are doing their usual pre-season guesses about how the teams will do in the coming season. Also as usual, the final results bear very little resemblance to the predictions (but that's why they play the games). Anthony, at Vikings War Cry finds that the usual suspects have indeed been rounded up:
Peter King and Dr. Z seem to hate the Vikings. Dr. Z absolutely refuses to take the Vikings in his weekly picks . . . if we played Florida Atlantic University, he'd go with the Owls.
Last time I checked, the Vikings still have the number one rush defense in the NFL, they still have a (mostly) talented offensive line, and they've put together a dangerous running back tandem.
Am I seeing the world through purple sunglasses? Maybe. But I'm sorry . . . the Vikes aren't a three win team, Peter King.
In other NFL rankings news, Football Outsiders ranked the Vikings 32nd in the league at quarterback.
There are plenty of reasons for even purple-dyed fans to feel that this season isn't going to see the Vikings winning the Superbowl: a starting QB who only has two regular-season games on his resumé, a completely no-name receiving corps, and several players coming back from injury on both offensive and defensive squads. They're not inducing migraine headaches in opposing coaches.
That being said, a good running back combination with a league-best run defence should win some games . . . but the opposing teams are going to be throwing the ball a heck of a lot. Nine wins would be a good season for this squad, based on what we know now . . . but we're still a long way from the opening kickoff.
Former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper's career may not be over — the Jacksonville Jaguars are expressing some interest:
"Any time you have a quarterback the caliber of Daunte Culpepper, any time you can add a guy to your roster of that caliber, as an organization it's smart to look into that," Leftwich said. "Especially with me having one year left on my contract, that's not a bad business move if you were to look at it from that point. I have no problems with it, no problems whatsoever."
Culpepper, acquired by Miami before the 2006 season, had his best NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings and coach Mike Tice — now an assistant head coach in Jacksonville under Jack Del Rio.
Of course, that interest may not extend to giving Miami a trade offer . . . and Culpepper's contract is still with the Dolphins.
I certainly hope that Culpepper both gets his release from Miami and finds a good team to join . . . he's a very talented player, but may still need some recovery time from that extremely serious knee injury which finished off his Vikings career.
The last glimmers of the Vikings' playoff hopes faded away Thursday night at misty Lambeau Field, where two teams tripped over each other for most of three hours before officials had no choice but to declare someone the victor.
Kevin Seifert, "Winter blunder-land", Star Tribune, 2006-12-22
After yesterday's mistake-fest (proving that it is possible to lose a game when the opposing quarterback manages a 1.3 passer rating), Jim Souhan asks some pointed questions:
NFL coaches and quarterbacks, we hear, receive too much credit after victories and too much blame after losses.
Baloney. As the Vikings' season froze like a tongue to a flagpole on Sunday at frigid Soldier Field, the culprits were the Bear Market Brads.
Because Brad Johnson threw away the biggest game of the year, Brad Childress is facing the most important decision of his career.
Johnson tossed four interceptions in the Vikings' 23-13 loss to Chicago, leaving Childress with no choice but to send in Brooks Bollinger.
[. . .]
This week, Childress will pick between the flailing Johnson, the ailing Bollinger (who injured his left shoulder) and the unveiling of Jackson.
The Chiller had better choose wisely, or he'll turn an already-seething locker room into the set of "Mutiny on the Bounty."
Apparently, it wasn't all bad: the running game was excellent, gaining 192 yards on 35 carries (although Chester Taylor was injured late). The Vikings owned the game clock, keeping the ball for over 39 minutes. The defence had three interceptions (among five turnovers by the Bears). Chicago managed just over 100 yards of total offence. But the Bears still won by 10 points.
The fans were already against Brad Johnson after the last few losses, but they'll be throwing beer cups and towels at him if he's still starting the next home game. Bollinger was injured in this game, and may not be fit for next week's game against Detroit. Tarvaris Jackson has admitted that he doesn't really feel ready to start yet. It almost makes me suspect that there'll be a surprise QB signing this week . . . after all, Johnson's 10.3 passer rating wouldn't frighten too many teams.
After yesterday's comedy of errors (see Miami 24, Minnesota 20 for more details), you'd have to be sporting a middle name like "Pollyanna" to think that the Vikings are still going to be able to make the playoffs. For crying out loud, they went 0-3 during the cream-puff portion of their schedule!
Exactly on time, the cries are now being heard to start Tarvaris Jackson as quarterback:
Now that it's going to take a 5-1 record the rest of the way to make the playoffs, you might as well pack it in. Bench Brad Johnson.
He gave us a great season last year, but he's been awful this year. Brad isn't getting rid of the ball as quickly as he needs to, he's throwing interceptions, he's making poor decisions . . . there's no reason to keep playing him.
If the Vikings had any shot at the playoffs, then Brad would have to keep starting. As bad as he's been, he gives the Vikings a better chance to win than Brooks Bollinger does. And you don't want to start Tarvaris in must-win games.
But it's over at this point, so there's absolutely no reason not to start Tarvaris. If he's 100% healthy, and has a good handle on the offense, Childress would be making a major mistake by not starting him.
I share Anthony's doubts about Brooks Bollinger, but I don't think that benching Brad is the best way to get Tarvaris some game experience. Unless he's showing a lot more mastery of the position than most first-year quarterbacks do, he's not ready to start yet. I think you'd do better treating it like the pre-season: let him handle a few series every game from this point onwards.
This week's sports report can at least start on a high note: Victor's team won a very hard-fought indoor soccer match 5-4, with Victor scoring one goal. That was all the good news for the teams I support. The other results were less good: both Middlesbrough and Minnesota went down in games yesterday (oddly enough, I saw almost exactly half of each game).
Middlesbrough, playing at Manchester City, had a very sloppy first half (the half I did get to see), with far too many missed passes and what appeared to be an almost Italian national team level of injury (every five minutes, there seemed to be another Boro player down on the turf). Boro were handing out corner kicks like Halloween candies, and eventually City made them pay the price, going up 1-0 directly from a corner. The BBC match report is here.
Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, the Vikings were stinking up the Metrodome. I got home to find them down 10-0 near the end of the first half. Minnesota has the best rushing defence in the league right now, so you'd expect that teams would try to throw on them instead. Apparently that strategy never occurred to the Vikings coaching staff . . . because Patriot QB Tom Brady's relentless passing seemed to take them completely by surprise.
While the Vikings defence was being schooled in passing, the Vikings offence was doing everything they could to keep the ball in Brady's hands: Brad Johnson threw a season high three picks, and backup QB Brooks Bollinger added another. Bollinger had a tough entry to the game . . . he was sacked on three consecutive snaps, losing 20 yards.
About the only bright spot in the entire game for the Vikings was Mewelde Moore. He returned a punt 71 yards for Minnesota's only touchdown, and did some excellent work in the second half, including four receptions for 91 yards and one nice long run that was nullified by a penalty back at the line of scrimmage. The rest of the grim reading (unless you're a Patriots fan) is here.
As usual, yesterday's game wasn't available in my area — instead, I got to watch the Seahawks have their way with the hapless Giants . . . I turned off the TV when Seattle had a 42-point lead. An ugly game, unless you're a Seahawk fan.
The Vikings had a narrow lead over the Bears for most of the game, but were unable to pull back ahead after Chicago scored a touchdown inside the last two minutes. The Star Tribune show a team that doesn't quite rank with the top teams in the league, at least in the way they cope with adversity:
If teams are best judged by their reaction to adversity, the Vikings have some work to do before they can ascend to the NFL's elite.
On the one hand, Richardson provided a necessary emotional pickup. Center Matt Birk stood tall as well, taking the blame for a fumbled exchange between quarterback Brad Johnson and running back Chester Taylor in the fourth quarter. [. . .]
On the other hand, several players inexplicably took time from their postgame routine to complain about a full-page photo of Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher in Sunday morning's Star Tribune. Although the accompanying story chronicled the Vikings' progress on defense — and, most important, had nothing to do with the outcome of the game — some Vikings took offense that Urlacher was the visual emphasis.
Even Childress fell victim to the pettiness, spending only 2 minutes and 11 seconds in his postgame news conference. Scheduling confusion left many reporters unaware that he had entered the Vikings' interview room; Childress answered only three questions and ended the session as reporters were still arriving — leaving many of the game's key issues unaddressed by the purported singular voice of the franchise.
It's been a good run so far for the new coach and rebuilding team: beating two teams who were widely touted as playoff-bound before the season started, and playing as well as they did against the Bears is nothing to be ashamed of . . . but Childress needs to be more supportive of the local media, or he'll get the same sort of ride that former coach Mike Tice did last year: every flaw will be examined under the microscope, and every positive will be explained away as a fluke. Childress is probably too thin-skinned to suffer that for the next 14 weeks of the regular season, and he will, if he doesn't make more effort to keep the local media on-side now.
The game, as usual, wasn't broadcast in my area, and the Buffalo station carrying the Buffalo-Miami game seemed to have a tough time keeping track of the stats . . . as the first score updates were rolling, the Carolina-Minnesota game was marked "Later". By the time the second set of updates came rolling past, it was already into the second quarter. Then back to the first quarter, then 3-0 Minnesota, then on to something like a believable sequence of scores. The Vikes were down at the half, but only by 4.
The Buffalo-Miami game ended earlier than the Minnesota-Carolina game, so I didn't get to find out the final score until a few minutes ago. Here is the Pioneer Press report:
The Minnesota Vikings wanted a seasoned, reliable kicker when they signed Ryan Longwell away from rival Green Bay this spring. Who knew he could play quarterback, too?
Longwell's 16-yard touchdown pass to Richard Owens on a fake kick tied the game in the fourth quarter, and his third field goal of the day — from 19 yards with 7:25 left in overtime — gave the Vikings a 16-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
The defense provided plenty of big plays for Minnesota (2-0), which struggled to move the ball until the end. Brad Johnson threw a falling-down, 30-yard pass to Troy Williamson, who caught it one-handed, and Chester Taylor ripped off a 33-yard run on the final drive.
Taylor carried 24 times for 113 yards, and Williamson had six catches for 102 yards, all after halftime.
I did manage to watch most of the game, in spite of multiple time conflicts, but I didn't get a chance to put any of my thoughts into a post. And now I don't need to, because Vikings War Cry pulls out the most significant change from previous years' teams:
Vikings fans will know exactly what I'm talking about here: in a critical game-deciding situation, you always expect the Vikings to come out on the losing end.
So that's what made last night’s victory over Washington so shocking . . . since when do the Vikings win games like that? A game that went down to the last seconds, on the road, against a quality team? C'mon, the Vikings very, very rarely turn out well in those situations.
But last night was the exception, and the Vikes pulled out a clutch win. Last week, I said the keys to the game were the d-line's ability to stop the run, the pressure that the Vikes put on Brunell, and Chester Taylor. The d-line was above average, but I can't say they decided the game. Chester was decent, but I hoped for a little more. And Brunell? Not a whole lot of pressure there. So, I was wrong about those keys.
The real keys to the win were Brad Johnson, the offensive line, and more Brad Johnson. Culpepper who?
I'm still sad to see Daunte in a Dolphins uniform, but aside from that I have to agree with Anthony's summary: the game was a pleasant change from other Viking teams who would have blown it in the last five minutes on the road.
There were few surprises among the 22 players the Vikings cut in yesterday's league-wide reduction to 53 players:
In addition to veteran quarterbacks Mike McMahon and J.T. O'Sullivan, the Vikings released 19 more players, including guard Chris Liwienski and safety Willie Offord, and traded guard Adam Goldberg to St. Louis.
The Vikings also officially announced the signing of wide receiver Todd Pinkston, who agreed to terms Friday on a one-year contract, and placed cornerback Dovonte Edwards on season-ending injured reserve.
Edwards, the team's third cornerback and No. 1 nickel back, broke his right arm in Thursday night's 10-10 tie at Dallas and was expected to miss six weeks.
Among the other players released were Dustin Fox (3rd round draft pick in the 2005 draft), Rod Davis (LB), Richard Angulo (TE), Ryan Hoag (WR), Kevin Kasper (WR), Tony Beckham (CB), and Adimchinobe Echemandu (RB).
The Vikings are reported to be scouring the lists of players released by other teams for cornerbacks, running backs, and linebackers. The depth at wide receiver was improved by Friday's signing of Todd Pinkston (who played under coach Brad Childress at Philadelphia).
In what can only be seen as a vote of non-confidence in their current veteran backup QB, the Vikings traded defensive lineman C.J. Mosely to the Jets for quarterback Brooks Bollinger:
Content with starter Brad Johnson and rookie Tarvaris Jackson, the Vikings, who are believed to have included a seventh-round pick in the transaction, were uncomfortable heading into the season with Mike McMahon as their emergency veteran on the roster. Jackson has been the second-team quarterback for most of the preseason, while McMahon struggled mightily after signing a two-year, $2 million contract in the offseason that included a $400,000 signing bonus.
McMahon was on the sideline for Thursday's game, while Mosley flew to the New York area to take his physical. McMahon's agent, Brian Mackler, declined comment Thursday evening.
After the game, Childress would not comment when asked if McMahon's future with the club was in jeopardy.
Except for reasons of personal loyalty (Childress coached McMahon at Philadelphia), McMahon has no right to still be on the roster after the terrible performances he's had in preseason games. He's racked up the underwhelming stats of four completions in 16 attempts, no TDs, one interception, and a 23.7 passer rating. That'd spell doom for a drafted rookie QB, never mind a supposedly veteran backup.
The master plan clearly revolved around Brad Johnson staying healthy for this year, with McMahon ready to step in in an emergency, while Tarvaris Jackson was groomed for next year (or the year after, if Johnson's aging body didn't break down on him). The only problem with this plan was that McMahon clearly failed to establish himself as the number two, allowing Jackson to play himself into the number two, and even fourth-string QB J.T. O'Sullivan outplayed McMahon.
Patrick Reusse posted this picture with a request for captions:
How about "Experts have been called in to help the Vikings to avoid stinking up the field again this year . . ."
Koren Robinson, arrested earlier this week on several charges including drunk driving, is likely to be suspended for a year by the NFL. Patrick Reusse makes light of the situation:
Robinson saw the same sight in the mirror of his BMW, thought of Childress' mustache quivering in anger over a missed curfew, and continued through St. Peter, along a winding, leafy portion of Hwy. 169, into Mankato and onward to the Minnesota State campus.
This was a ringing endorsement of the discipline Childress has brought to the job in eight months for two reasons:
• One, here was a veteran player with experience in criminal court choosing to gamble with a felony fleeing charge over being late for Brad's curfew.
• Two, Robinson's official .09 blood alcohol reading made him easily the least drunk among the dozens of Vikings arrested on similar charges in the past quarter-century.
Shucks, at .09, Robinson would have been recruited by teammates to be the chauffeur along the 494 Strip during the Tommy Kramer Era.
Try as we might, no observation on the perpetual thirstiness of large numbers of Vikings will ever top that of Max McGee, the former Packers' radio analyst, when he saw Kramer twitching on the turf after taking a hit.
McGee, the owner of a 494 drinking establishment, said: "Gosh, I hope Kramer's OK. He's my best customer."
Under the circumstances, it'll almost certainly be a one-year suspension from the NFL, and Brad Childress would almost certainly release Robinson from the team. Robinson is another of a long list of players who have superlative skill on the football field, but insurmountable personal problems off the field.
Just when you think the new regime in Minnesota will be totally unlike the old one, you get this:
Vikings wide receiver Koren Robinson is in the Nicollet County jail in southern Minnesota, and he is accused of a long list of crimes starting with driving drunk, the county sheriff said.
Along with drunken driving, Robinson is accused of fleeing police, reckless driving, speeding and driving without a valid license, said Sheriff Dave Lange.
It'll be interesting watching how the new coach handles this little issue with his top wide receiver. Conventional wisdom says that a new coach has to be a tough disciplinarian, so (if the charges stick) Robinson is in for a long season in the dog house.
The rather oddly named site Kissing Suzy Kolber offers their pre-season review of the Vikings:
The Vikings roster is slightly more recognizable than the guy with the headset. Brad Johnson is expected to anchor the offense (seriously?) even though he's making slightly less money than Ed Hochuli. Once again the running game will be compromised of a menagerie of hopefuls (like Chester Taylor) and glorified third down backs (like Mewelde Moore). I'm willing to wager that the team will be on it's hands and knees (Get away from me, Fred Smoot) begging Onterrio Smith to come back (according to reports he was last seen being fired from a Winnipeg area Chippendales establishment for concealing a foreign instrument).
Nasty. Funny. But the best line of all was in the comments to this post:
Hochuli should be making more than Brad Johnson. He's got a stronger arm and more mobility in the pocket.
The final chapter (I hope) of the infamous Love Boat case has finally closed: Fred Smoot and Bryant McKinnie have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges:
Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot and left tackle Bryant McKinnie pleaded guilty Friday to misdemeanor charges stemming from the team's raucous boat party last October.
Each agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and perform 48 hours of community service.
Smoot and McKinnie pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and being a public nuisance on a watercraft. The second charge will be removed from their records if they stay out of trouble for a year.
I don't know about anyone else, but I'm really hoping that the only time the Vikings are in the news is on game day this season!
As I mentioned, I'm not familiar with college football, so the draft isn't the big feature of the off-season for me, but I'm probably almost alone in that. The reaction of Minnesota Vikings fans?
"i'm so upset with the first 3 picks,i can't take it."
"Welcome to the Childress era. And you guys shit on Tice and called him stupid. See where that got us?"
"Well, after day 1, I would give them no better than a C-. I am hanging my head in shame looking at what we ended up getting for Moss and Culpepper. What a disgrace."
"C at best...The QB they took in round two SI said was a practice squad player at best? What are the Vikings thinking????
You'd have to say that the fans are almost never happy with the draft picks the team makes. I was surprised that the team didn't move up in the first round to attempt to get their "quarterback of the future" from one of the top three (Leinart, Young, and Cutler), but they did select a QB at the end of the second round. The Vikings selected the following players in the draft:
Greenway was one of the more commonly projected picks for the Vikings in the first round. And linebacker is a position that needs to be upgraded from last season.
Griffin is able to play both cornerback and safety, which is a good thing as the Vikings lost Corey Chavous and Brian Williams to free agency this year.
Cook was considered a bit of a "reach" by most commentators, although if Matt Birk's health doesn't improve this season, having another backup center will be a good insurance policy.
The Vikings traded their two third-round picks to Pittsburgh to select Jackson, but the concensus seemed to be that he'd still have been on the board by the time the second of their third-round selections came up. He is considered a "project", and will probably not contribute until next year at the earliest.
Edwards may be another project player, as he was not thought to be particularly motivated during his time at Purdue. Pro Football Weekly's draft book said: "Plays soft. Scouts do not like his motor, production or personality."
Blue's stock slipped from being a third- or fourth-round projection due to a poor showing at the combine (according to reports at the Star Tribune). He may be converted to linebacker eventually, but is expected to be a special team player for the near future.
As soon as the formal draft was over, the Vikings got extremely busy in signing free agents (college players who were draft-eligible, but who were not drafted), signing seventeen players.
The professional sports writers were somewhat less condemnatory:
Within the next few weeks, draft choices will be scrutinized much more objectively. On draft day, the most negative thing anyone says about a selection is that "he has potential," while early picks "will fit right in." The latter rounds are filled with "steals."
Plus, there's always some talking head on TV who insists that the 197th overall pick was high on his board.
The truth is that if top pick Chad Greenway quickly becomes a starting linebacker, and one other draftee makes an impact, it will have been a terrific draft for the Vikings. If your team can get two players, you should turn a cartwheel.
I don't follow college football, so I don't have particularly strong opinions on the players to be drafted this weekend. Minnesota has the 17th draft pick in the first round, which is far enough down the list that the player they pick will almost certainly not be one of the names that have been up in lights on the sports pages lately. Vikings War Cry has a few thoughts on the team's needs and some players who might be best suited to fit those needs.
Gregg Easterbrook (now back at ESPN.com) offers the Vikings the following draft day advice:
17. Minnesota Vikings: Anna Nicole Smith, respectable stripper
The Love Boat might have been a PR fiasco for the Vikings, but there's no getting around that Minnesota was 1-3 before the team spent an evening with some lap dancers and 8-4 after. At Smith's Web site, she describes herself as an "international model." After providing a 97-word bio, Smith declares, "I don't feel like writing any more."
The Vikings released Onterrio Smith on Wednesday, ending the running back's tumultuous three-year run with the team.
The Pioneer Press reported in Wednesday's editions that Smith had been notified by the NFL that he would not be reinstated from a one-year suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. The Vikings did not cite a reason for releasing Smith.
"We've decided to terminate Onterrio Smith's contract ahead of this weekend's college draft," coach Brad Childress said in a statement. "We wish him well in his future endeavors."
Even if Mike Tice had still been the Vikings coach, it was unlikely that Smith would have been given another chance, but with Childress in charge, there was no possibility that Smith would return to the team. The Star Tribune article implied that the NFL's lack of hurry in re-instating Smith's eligibility may have been a factor in Minnesota's decision, but I think that's not the case: after putting up with Terrell Owens' antics in Philadelphia, Childress is going to be Mr. Zero Tolerance in his new job.
Former Minnesota Viking quarterback Daunte Culpepper has been cleared of charges in the Lake Minnetonka boating incident from last season, reports Associated Press:
A judge ruled there wasn't probable cause to determine a crime was committed by Culpepper, one of four Minnesota Vikings accused of misdemeanor lewd conduct during the cruise last fall on a suburban lake. Culpepper has since been traded to the Miami Dolphins.
Hennepin County Judge Kevin Burke denied a motion to dismiss charges against running back Moe Williams. His trial is scheduled for April 18.
The other two players charged, cornerback Fred Smoot and tackle Bryant McKinnie, weren't part of Tuesday's ruling. Their next hearings are Thursday.
Culpepper's attorney, Earl Gray, said, "I'm happy about it. I'm sure Culpepper is, and his family. It vindicates him from being involved in any sexual misconduct on the boat."
In the wake of yet another fiasco, someone at Winter Park seems to have woken up to the team's need for a long-term plan for replacing Daunte Culpepper. (I still can't quite believe I'm writing that.) Brad Johnson is a very good quarterback, but he's also ancient in NFL terms. He may have another year or two in him, but he's not going to be able to play at that level indefinitely. Look at the number of teams who had to depend on second- or even third-string QBs at some point last season. Minnesota doesn't have a proven backup in place, and isn't drafting high enough to pick one of the top-rated college players at that position.
One of the Minnesota newspapers is reporting that the team has been talking to the Atlanta Falcons about a possible trade for Matt Schaub:
The Vikings spent part of Monday discussing a possible trade for Atlanta backup quarterback Matt Schaub, two people with knowledge of the situation said. The talks were casual and did not lead to formal negotiations, the sources said, but the interaction confirms the Vikings' desire to add depth to the position, either through a trade or in this month's draft.
Discussions could resume as the April 29-30 draft approaches, but as of Monday no further talks were planned.
Schaub, 24, has spent two seasons backing up Michael Vick. He has drawn rave reviews in extensive preseason appearances as well as two career starts and 22 career games, and he is entering the final year of his contract. More than a half-dozen teams reportedly have inquired about him, believing he is ready to be an NFL starter, but the Falcons have appeared unwilling to part with the valuable reserve.
Matt Schaub may not be the answer, but it's a bit comforting to think that the team is at least starting to address the question of who'll be running the team's offence if Brad Johnson gets injured.
Viking Update is reporting that Daunte Culpepper has been traded to an as-yet-undisclosed team:
As with any good info, confirmation is needed. Daunte himself did that for us. At his personal website, daunteculpepper.com, if you hit it, you will get the dish. All you'll see is "Version 2 — Coming Soon."
That says enough. All those No. 84 jerseys your friends and family aren't wearing, add No. 11 to the pile. It shouldn't have been this way. But it is.
As soon as we have specifics, we'll pass it along. But, Version 2 — as it is going to be called — better step up. Pepp got his wish. The Vikings have a trade partner. What he does with it from here is his legacy — for better or worse.
For the record, I'm very disappointed, but not terribly surprised. The new owner seemed like a pretty straight-shooting kind of guy, but you apparently have to listen to what he says very carefully. His new head coach clearly wasn't interested in having Culpepper as the starting QB, and now has his wish. Brad Johnson is not the long-term answer, so I can only hope that the trade is for a quarterback with some pretty good medium-range prospects (that is, not Jon Kitna or Tim Rattay).
Update: Tom Powers looked at it this way:
Apparently, Culpepper was convinced the Vikings wanted him back in 2006. According to Culpepper, Wilf convinced him of that by telling him the Vikings were not trying to move him. And Culpepper, surprisingly naive for somebody who has been in the business for so long, believed him.
As it turns out, Culpepper was being offered around so openly and to so many teams that I thought the Triangle of Authority was going to put him on eBay. Oddly, Wilf isn't even one of the angles on the triangle. He would make a fourth, which technically makes it, say, a Square of Solidarity. [. . .]
In any event, the Vikings' Circle of Trust collapsed when it came to Culpepper, who clearly was furious to find out he nearly was booked as an on-sale item on the Home Shopping Network. So on Wednesday, he asked out of Minnesota.
Does Culpepper deserve to have his contract renegotiated? No. Does he deserve to have his job guaranteed? No. Does he deserve to be lied to? Nobody deserves that.
So, in spite of the Wilf reputation, not much has changed in the Vikings organization. They're still the gang that couldn't shoot straight.
Mike Tice, former Minnesota Vikings head coach, has been taken on to Jack Del Rio's staff as assistant Head Coach:
Del Rio said Tice will work on the offensive side of the ball.
"Over the last 10 years, Mike has been a major contributor to some very productive offenses," Del Rio said in a statement. "Mike brings toughness, experience and passion. He will certainly be a tremendous asset to me and our offensive staff as we continue our pursuit of a championship."
Tice was 33-34 after four seasons in Minnesota, and his final year was an embarrassing one. He was fined $100,000 by the league for scalping his Super Bowl tickets, and the team was involved in a scandalous boat party that resulted in charges against four players.
He was fired Jan. 1 after the Vikings finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
I'm glad to see that Mike Tice is still employable in the NFL: I don't believe that most of the problems the team had during his tenure were completely his fault (the cheapest SOB in professional sports as team owner was a much bigger factor).
New Vikings coach Brad Childress has started his tenure by clearing out almost all the surviving coaching staff from the Tice era:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-year-old defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin emerged as the Vikings' top choice for defensive coordinator Sunday as new head coach Brad Childress fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and at least eight other assistants from former coach Mike Tice's staff.
Childress indicated Friday at his introductory news conference that he would meet with the team's current assistants when he returned from Philadelphia on Wednesday. But on Sunday he fired much of the staff by phone.
"I guess they just wanted to go in a different direction," Cottrell said Sunday night.
Other coaches known to have been let go were Wes Chandler (receivers), Dean Dalton (running backs), Mark Ellis (assistant strength and conditioning), Rich Olson (quarterbacks), Jim Panagos (assistant defensive line and special teams), Kevin Ross (assistant secondary), John Tice (tight ends, assistant offensive line) and Rusty Tillman (special teams).
The Minnesota Vikings have hired Philadelphia's offensive co-ordinator, Brad Childress, as their new head coach. This is from the official notice:
The Minnesota Vikings have named Brad Childress the seventh head coach in franchise history. Childress comes to the Vikings following seven seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, including the past four seasons as offensive coordinator.
"Coach Childress has the combination of integrity, experience and competitive spirit that were important in our search for a new Vikings coach," said Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. "Being a key part of the winning program in Philadelphia and his respect throughout the NFL made Brad the best choice to lead the franchise into the future."
Childress has eight seasons of NFL coaching experience (1985-Indianapolis, 1999-2005 Philadelphia) and 28 seasons of pro and college coaching under his belt. His first stint on the sidelines came in 1978 at the University of Illinois.
To no great surprise, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf informed head coach Mike Tice that his contract would not be renewed yesterday, immediately after the Vikings beat the Bears:
After insisting that he wanted to know his fate "sooner than later," Tice was told by owner Zygi Wilf after the Vikings' 34-10 victory Sunday over the Chicago Bears that his contract would not be renewed.
Tice and his staff were puzzled by ownership's sudden decision to announce his dismissal less than an hour after the Vikings won their 2005 season finale at the Metrodome to finish 9-7. Tice had expected to learn his fate at a meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. today with Wilf and team President Mark Wilf.
"I didn't get a chance to savor the victory for very long, I'll tell you that," Tice said. "But I've been the one saying sooner than later, so I guess he took that as, `As soon as possible,' ASAP."
The bizarre New Year's Day was in character for the Vikings of 2005, whose off-the-field exploits grabbed national attention.
I'm sorry to see Tice go, but in no way is this a surprise: the new owners probably already had a plan for a new head coach, regardless of how well or how poorly Tice did this season. They took over the ownership too close to the start of the regular season to completely revamp the coaching staff (although in hindsight, that's less obvious than it seemed at the time).
I doubt that anyone will give Tice a shot at a head coaching position in the near future, but he should still be employed in the league next season.
A scathing article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press sums up the game rather well:
It was a tough day for coach Mike Tice, who watched his players make mistake after mistake. How do you feel, Mike?
What a long and tedious afternoon at the Metrodome. Not only were the Vikings displaying an alarming absence of brain cells, but referee Ed Hochuli and his crew also couldn't get anything right.
They called penalties that weren't there and missed some that were. They couldn't even spot the ball properly. And they huddled and chatted as if they were members of the Red Hat Society having noon tea.
For most in attendance Sunday, happiness was the Metrodome in your rear view mirror.
Both teams came in with the same record, and approximately the same chance of making it to the playoffs. The Vikings failed to accomplish any of their goals, letting the Steelers get ahead early and use their running game to bleed time off the clock. The Vikings also managed to draw 13 penalties, including one on the quarterback for offensive nodding:
Even Brad Johnson, so smart with the football for the past six weeks, was making dumb decisions, forcing passes instead of throwing them away.
He also was flagged for head-bobbing at the line.
"I've never had that called," Johnson said. "I've never seen that call made."
Vikings marketing crew take note: A Brad Johnson bobblehead promotion seems like a natural for the final home game.
Kevin Seifert gets to the heart of the legal tangle in the Vikings' ongoing "Love Boat" scandal:
Imagine this scenario. It's not as far-fetched as you might think.
Player A (we'll call him Donnie) believes he is falsely accused of a crime that allegedly occurred in the presence of some 30 teammates. Donnie plans to fight the charges, in open court if necessary, and appears set against a plea bargain that would make the issue disappear and avoid a jail sentence.
How does Donnie prove his case? By subpoenaing witnesses — his teammates — to testify as to his (in)action during the incident in question. Such a request would create a heavy burden. First, those teammates would have to acknowledge their own presence at the incident. And if Donnie believes his identity was mistaken, he would need the true offender to admit guilt in order to exonerate himself.
A few months later, the whole bunch would be sharing dormitory rooms in training camp. Go team!
The other shoe dropped for the Minnesota Vikings last night: four Vikings players were charged with various counts, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
On Thursday, after the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office had spent more than 300 hours investigating, authorities filed misdemeanor charges against quarterback Daunte Culpepper and three other players alleging lewd or indecent conduct in connection with the party on Lake Minnetonka Oct. 6.
The other players charged were tackle Bryant McKinnie, running back Moe Williams and cornerback Fred Smoot, who helped organize the annual party put on by first-year players for the team's veterans.
The details make it sound like an orgy at the Playboy Mansion rather than a public boat cruise:
The complaints gave this account of the allegations:
- Culpepper got a lap dance from an unidentified, naked female in the bar area of a boat and that he placed his hands on the naked buttocks of the dancer.
- Williams, in an area near the boat's downstairs bathrooms, received a lap dance from a bare-breasted dancer and touched her breasts.
- Smoot was accused of using a sex toy on two women in the presence of numerous guests.
- Witnesses reported that they saw McKinnie "pick up a naked woman, place her on the bar in the lounge area, and commence to perform oral sex on the woman." At a different time in the evening, the witnesses said they saw "Mr. McKinnie along with three other unidentified males receiving oral sex from four women while the men were seated in deck chairs on the boat."
Another non-flashy, but effective, game for Minnesota, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
The Vikings' defense forced six turnovers and held Steven Jackson to 67 yards rushing in their sixth straight victory, 27-13 over St. Louis.
With the Bears (9-4) losing at Pittsburgh, the Vikings (8-5) pulled within one game of the division lead in a season that appeared lost after a 2-5 start.
For a team that has given up an average of 47 points and 456 yards in three straight losses to the Rams, Sunday's game also served as a statement that this Minnesota defense is no longer the turnstile it once was.
Brian Williams led the way with two interceptions as the Vikings confused and battered rookie quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was 26-of-44 for 235 yards and five interceptions for the fading Rams (5-8).
That end-of-season meeting between Chicago and Minnesota might just mean something after all: who gets to advance to the play-offs out of the sad-sack NFC North.
Another Vikings game not available in our area (I got to see Miami come back from a 21-0 deficit to beat Buffalo 24-23). Here is the Star Tribune report:
Minnesota's mess is becoming a distant memory. Detroit's is getting worse.
Brad Johnson threw two touchdowns, Michael Bennett scored twice and the Vikings held on to beat the Lions 21-16 Sunday.
Minnesota (7-5) has won five straight, salvaging their season after a bad start and the now infamous boat party.
Detroit (4-8) has lost five of six and didn't seem to be sparked by Dick Jauron in his debut as interim coach.
Detroit's management turmoil overshadowed Minnesota's early-season issues:
The loudest cheers at Ford Field came when a fan held a "Fire Millen'' sign behind Minnesota's bench in the third quarter.
Security scurried to take the sign away and more messages like it, but "Fire Mil-len!'' chants could not be stopped. One fan amused the crowd and made it roar as he ran from section to section, dodging security, holding up an anti-Millen sign.
The Lions are an NFL-worst 20-56 since team president Matt Millen took over the franchise in 2001.
An undistinguished first half, except the brilliant interception returned for a touchdown by Dovonte Edwards. The second half was all Vikings, with Mewelde Moore doing a great job of bouncing his runs to the outside (especially to the left). Here is the first report from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Minnesota kicker Paul Edinger kicked a 27-yard field goal with three seconds left in the game to beat the Green Bay Packers 20-17 Monday night.
Earlier in the game, Minnesota's Ciatrick Fason scored on a 1-yard run, rallying the Vikings to a 14-14 tie with the Green Bay Packers after three quarter on Monday night.
Fason's touchdown capped a 13-play, 88-yard drive that included two penalties on the Packers, including an illegal contact flag on third-and-6 on the Green Bay 12 and a pass interference penalty in the end zone two plays later. It was Minnesota's first offensive touchdown in nearly nine quarters.
Update, 22 November: "This one may be the worst because No. 1, it was Minnesota; No. 2, it was at home; and No. 3, it was Minnesota again," said Green Bay defensive end Aaron Kampman.
Another game I couldn't watch, as it wasn't being broadcast in my area . . . and the Vikings pull off an NFL-first: an interception return for a touchdown, a kick return for a touchdown, and a punt return for a touchdown in the same game. Incidentally, they also beat the very respectable New York Giants in the process, 24-21.
Details in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
The Minnesota Vikings simply could not move the ball, so they got creative — becoming the first team in NFL history to get touchdown returns on a punt, a kickoff and an interception.
Then quarterback Brad Johnson finally put together a drive, setting up Paul Edinger's 48-yard field goal with 10 seconds remaining in Minnesota's improbable 24-21 win Sunday over the New York Giants.
Safety Darren Sharper had three interceptions for the Vikings (4-5), including one he returned for a 92-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. His third came in the end zone with 3:48 left in the game and the Giants trailing 21-13.
The win is timely, as the NFC North is the weakest division in football right now, so a 4-5 record is good for second place. They didn't gain on the division leaders, the Chicago Bears, who beat the San Francisco 49ers this afternoon.
Well, it's definite: Daunte Culpepper is out for the rest of this season, with serious knee damage:
Daunte Culpepper's season is officially over, and when he will return remains uncertain.
Vikings coach Mike Tice said Monday at his afternoon news conference that the veteran quarterback has damage to a number of different areas in his right knee, including the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament. Culpepper underwent a magnetic resonance imaging test Monday morning.
Tice said, "Not only has the road not been friendly to us this year or the last number of years, but we lost our quarterback for the season yesterday. He had significant injury to his knee, to a number of different areas.
"We'll have to wait a couple of weeks for the swelling to go down and get prepared for surgery in the next few weeks," Tice said. "It's discouraging to us based on everything that has transpired to this point in the season. This is just another hurdle we have to overcome as a football team."
Tice added, "He has a long rehab ahead of him, but we don't expect this to be career-ending. We expect this to be a set back for him."
According to a report in the Pioneer Press, the best case is that he's out for six weeks:
Barta declined further comment on Culpepper's injury, citing a need to receive the MRI results.
But Dr. Bill Roberts said Culpepper's season is most likely over. He did not attend the game, nor did he see initial test reports. But Roberts based his assessment on Culpepper struggling to put pressure on his right leg and indications from team officials that Culpepper had serious swelling.
"Anything that bleeds a lot in the knee is usually a very serious injury," said Roberts, the past president of the American College of Sports Medicine and the medical director of the Twin Cities Marathon. "Everybody is different. But some people can't get up and walk after they tear their ACL, and other people can keep trying to play some more before realizing they can't.
"It would surprise me if it wasn't a season-ending injury."
If there is fast swelling, Roberts said a person usually has one of a handful of injuries: a torn ACL, multiple ligament damage, a torn meniscus, a patellar dislocation or a fracture of a tibia plateau.
"All of these are tough injuries to work through," Roberts said. "The absolute best-case scenario is there is a lot of swelling, and he could be out at least six weeks."
If today's MRI tests confirm the worst, Mike Tice will absolutely be looking for a new job as of January. No matter what, the team depended on Daunte Culpepper for much more than just heaving the ball downfield. He is the franchise. Even if he's "only" out for six weeks, Minnesota will be looking at a top-5 draft pick next season.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper may have suffered a season-ending injury at the end of the first quarter of today's loss to Carolina. From a press report (without a direct link, unfortunately):
"The quarterback doesn't appear to be in good shape,'' [Vikings head coach Mike] Tice said. "I'm not a doctor, but the initial tests are not good. It doesn't appear that it's going to be anything that we as Vikings will want to hear.
"Things happen that are devastating. This certainly, if it's as serious as it appears, is devastating to our football team.''
Culpepper ran for an 18-yard gain on the final play of the first quarter when he was hit by multiple defenders. Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble came in from the side and tackled Culpepper's leg and he immediately grabbed his knee.
Culpepper was helped off the field and taken to a cart for the ride into the locker room. The team initially said he sprained his knee.
He was on crutches with a heavy brace around his knee after the game and said he wouldn't know anything until after undergoing an MRI on Monday.
"I'm not talking about anything,'' Culpepper said. "We don't know the extent of the damage right now. I really can't talk about it until we do the MRIs and find out.'' [. . .]
"When Daunte went out, they lost their leader,'' Carolina defensive end Mike Rucker said. "He's the head of that dragon and when he's not there, it takes the air right out of them.''
Brad Johnson, the backup QB, is a fine player (he won a Superbowl with Tampa Bay), but he plays a different sort of game than Culpepper, so the immediate effect of Culpepper's injury will be to take some plays away (specifically the longer passes and the designed QB draws).
At this point, it's only too easy to imagine the team giving up on the season and playing only for the 1st draft pick in the 2006 spring draft. I certainly hope this isn't what happens.
In the wake (sorry!) of the Lake Minnetonka boat cruise fiasco, the new owner of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi Wilf, has promised a new code of conduct for all players and team employees. Tom Powers offers a quick-and-dirty summary:
The new code of conduct, complete with an amended dress code, will be presented to Vikings players any day now. Supposedly, it will be very specific.
Rule 216-B: "When on a boat and approached by a naked woman, retreat to the poop deck and attempt to contact the Coast Guard."
No doubt a lot of deep thought has gone into this. But it seems like overkill. Proper company policy could be printed on small index cards.
Official code of conduct: "Don't be an idiot."
Official dress code: "Keep clothes on in public."
The Vikings came in from a bye week, hoping to win in Chicago, which would both improve team morale and keep their playoff hopes alive. Instead, they lost to the Bears, 28-3. The Pioneer Press says:
While the Minnesota Vikings' season continued to spiral out of control, the Chicago Bears might have saved theirs on Sunday.
Brian Urlacher had two sacks to lead the Bears to a 28-3 victory over a Vikings team reeling after allegations of drunkenness and sexual misbehavior on a charter cruise last week.
The team is suffering terribly in the scoring category . . . having only once scored more than 14 points in any game this season. For a team that used to be described as "high octane" offensively, this is worse than just a slight drop-off in efficiency. This is the statistical cliff they've already fallen off.
Once again, I am probably better off in that the game wasn't shown in my area . . . it was depressing enough just watching the score. A comment on the Vikings newsgroup calls the rest of the season the "last voyage of the Ticetanic". That's starting to sound like an accurate description.
Jon passed along a link to Free Will with yet more on the Vikings' latest PR idiocies:
OK, a couple things here for any Vikings who might be reading:
1) If you're going to do things like this on or in a rented vehicle or facility, you should check to see if it's going to be a problem. Before you sign anything.
2) Your wives are your own problems, but the decisions you make in the privacy of your hotel rooms take on a whole new significance when you make them on a boat in front of a whole crew, especially when you are national celebrities in an industry that expects you to, in theory, be some kind of role model and, worse yet, try to involve and/or threaten the crew. It's 2005, and people will hear about it.
Update: Don Banks gets in a few digs at SI Online:
t's only a guess, but after the news that 17 Minnesota Vikings were aboard two charter boats on which sex parties allegedly were held on Oct. 6, I'm assuming no more United Way spots for the Vikings for the time being.
Just when you thought it couldn't get any more embarrassing for the team that gave us Onterrio Smith and "The Original Whizzinator'' and the Mike Tice Super Bowl-ticket-scalping affair, the Vikings may have hit a new high for lows.
I've heard of team bonding excursions, but never one in which almost one-third of the roster potentially had to post bond. But then, these are the Vikings, and they are adept at making the wrong kind of news off the field. In August, Minnesota All-Pro defensive tackle Kevin Williams was charged with domestic assault against his wife. (He has pled not guilty to the fifth-degree misdemeanor charge and has a mid-Oct. court date). In September, Vikings offensive linemen Bryant McKinnie and rookie guard Marcus Johnson were arrested in connection with a late-night fight at a Twin Cities-area gas station. (Both have pleaded not guilty to disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process; preliminary hearings are scheduled for Nov. 4)
Even if the current allegations of prostitution and lewd behavior on Lake Minnetonka don't result in indictments, the controversy-plagued Vikings might still see their bid for a new stadium derailed by the avalanche of bad publicity. How's that for bottom-line impact?
The whole stadium deal is a non-issue for me: I don't live in Minnesota, so my taxes won't be affected one way or the other, but I'm against pro sports teams getting taxpayers to build stadiums for them. That aside, I do have to agree that the Vikings are going out of their way to make it difficult for stadium backers to shake down the state legislature for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Just as the fans are absorbing the reality that the team isn't anywhere near as good as the pre-season billing had them believing, we now learn that the players are just as bad off the field:
The names of 17 Minnesota Vikings who were identified as being aboard two charter boats last week where sex parties allegedly took place have been given to Vikings officials in a controversy that has put the team's bid for a new stadium and its standing among fans and community leaders in jeopardy.
At least six crew members who allege they were confronted with out-of-control Vikings players on the boats met Wednesday with Hennepin County Sheriff's detectives who are investigating allegations of prostitution and lewd behavior.
I managed not to whine about this past weekend's blowout by the Atlanta Falcons, but just barely. This was a team that many experts were expecting to go deep into the playoffs, and a few were talking Superbowl appearance (which would be the first time the Vikings had gone that far since Superbowl XI in 1977). After a 1-3 start, and a wide range of problems, they're lucky to be playing in the weakest division in football: the NFC North.
Vikings War Cry has some thoughts:
For those looking to hang someone in effigy for Sunday’s debacle, don't blame Daunte Culpepper. You can't fault a guy that gets sacked 9 times in a game even if he did throw 2 interceptions and lost a fumble. The Falcons took advantage of a very weak and inexperienced offensive line causing a tremendous amount of pressure on the QB. Culpepper has now been sacked 16 times in the last 2 games. Now he knows how David Carr must feel down in Houston. To make matters worse, he’s complaining of bursitis on the knee and even back-up QB Brad Johnson is praying that Culpepper is healthy enough to play against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 16th.
Is Daunte a bad QB? Absolutely not. Were it not for Peyton Manning's record breaking performance last year, Culpepper would have been the League MVP. Think Culpepper misses Randy Moss? Probably, but I bet he misses Pro Bowl Center Matt Birk more. Corey Withrow looks like a human turnstile, missing blocking assignments and incapable of picking up blitzes. And if you think he's bad, rookie right guard Marcus Johnson is worse. He looks like a Matador at a bull fight . . . Ole!
It's a long season, but unless the O-line starts performing better, we'll be down to our third-string quarterback by November.
Minnesota finally managed to put together something like the offensive power they had last season, beating the New Orleans Saints 33-16:
Daunte Culpepper had a 155.4 passer rating and three touchdowns in the first half on his way to a 24-0 lead, ending the game with a 140.0 rating on 21 of 29 passing with no interceptions.
Culpepper’s early success — he threw a touchdown on his first pass of the game — allowed the Vikings to stick with their running attack for the first time this year as well. Mewelde Moore rushed 23 times for 101 yards, and Culpepper added to the running game with 36 yards on eight rushes.
The game couldn’t have started much better for the Vikings. After a short opening kickoff to the 15-yard line, Richard Owens forced a fumble on replacement kick returner Aaron Stecker, and Antoine Winfield recovered. Only 13 seconds into the game and on the first offensive play, Culpepper hit Travis Taylor on a slant-and-post that barely allowed him to get both feet in bounds for a game-opening 24-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Vikings lead.
Again, this game wasn't televised in my area, so all I got to see was the odd highlight at the half-time of the game I did watch. The good news was the vastly improved performance of Culpepper, who managed a 3 TD 0 INT game, despite being sacked seven times. The return of Mewelde Moore as the starting halfback provided the first 100 yard rushing performance of the season. The bad news is that the win was over perhaps the weakest opponent the Vikings will face this season . . . the 16-road-games Saints.
Still, as they often say, a win is a win, regardless of who the opponents were — they still count for the final standings at the end of the regular season.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune has more on the ugly game at Cinncinnati yesterday:
Indeed, the Vikings offensive line made progress Sunday after a disastrous outing against Tampa Bay. But Bennett fumbled on two of the Vikings' first four possessions, later voicing his displeasure after Tice benched him for the second half. Culpepper continued to look out of sorts, forcing bad passes on four interceptions and having a high pass bounce off the hands of receiver Nate Burleson on the other.
And after a respectable outing against the Buccaneers, the Vikings defense gave up 504 yards and 26 first downs to the Bengals. Free safety Darren Sharper suffered what might be a serious left knee injury, and frighteningly, the score could have been worse. The Bengals committed a team-record 17 penalties, wiping out one touchdown and two Culpepper fumbles deep in Vikings territory.
This season was supposed to be different; the Vikings were finally being seen as legitimate challengers to go to the Superbowl this season, and most of the pre-season prognostications had them winning the NFC North by a decisive margin.
"This was maybe one of the worst losses that I've ever experienced," said Sharper, who likely will undergo an MRI test today. "They just went up and down on us. We couldn't do anything. They beat us soundly. They just gave us a good old-fashioned butt whipping."
Both Sharper and cornerback Fred Smoot voiced the frustration of a team stunned by its position-by-position inability to function when the season began.
"If you want," Sharper said, "I'll stop sugarcoating things. We need to get better. The team, everybody in this organization. I can't really put my finger on what's going on. It's nothing I can put my finger on and then say, boom, if we correct this, we'll get on a winning streak. It's not like that. It's way deeper than that."
There's so much that needs fixing right now: the offensive line apparently played better, but the running game stank. Culpepper set a career worst mark for interceptions (he's almost matched his total for all of last season after only two games). The defense has reverted to its normal, pathetic self, allowing over 500 yards to the Bengals. It's not pretty at all.
It was a good thing I didn't get to see this game, because the initial report is ugly:
Coming off a career-best season, Culpepper looked more like a rookie than a three-time Pro Bowler. He threw his third interception to Derrick Brooks, on the final, desperation drive and finished 22-for-33 for 233 yards.
Minnesota's only TD came from new free safety Darren Sharper on an 88-yard interception return in the first quarter.
Tight end Jermaine Wiggins had two touchdown receptions called back by penalties in the second half. In the first half, the Vikings had three turnovers and two three-and-outs.
At least Minnesota's special teams were working: Rookie Chris Kluwe boomed four punts for an average of 54 yards, and new kicker Paul Edinger nailed field goals of 53 and 22 yards.
I still think the Vikings will have a good season without Randy Moss, but clearly lots of things need to be fixed in the next week or two. There's just no hope for even a pass-happy offense when they can only gain 26 yards on the ground — and the QB accounts for 12 of them!
It sounds like Culpepper is having a very bad start: three interceptions and two fumbles. I expect the anti-Daunte faction is already hollering for Brad Johnson to replace him for next week's game.
The game was also a yellow-hankie-fest, with Tampa Bay drawing 13 penalties and Minnesota penalized 9 times. About as bad as a pre-season game, actually.
Hit and Run examines yesterday's news about former Viking Randy Moss and his not-very-surprising admission that he smokes marijuana:
It's fun to watch the stunned reax to Oakland Raiders wide receiver Randy Moss declaring that he has smoked pot in the past, and perhaps in the present, but without "abusing it." NFL officials, not to mention the sanctimonious scribes who shill for them, define all use as abuse. Yet the league only bothers to test players for pot during training camp, a tacit don't ask-don't tell policy for the in-season months and most of the off-season.
Moss obviously violated the don't tell part of this little pact, which for PR purposes maintains the fiction that the healthy, wealthy young men of the NFL differ significantly from their non-football playing peers in their recreational habits. Plus there is the little problem of Moss personifying a high-achieving occasional pot smoker who has yet to hit skid-row or otherwise help the terrorists win.
Accordingly, expect the hammer to drop on Moss, ASAP.
I've always had an ambivalent view of Moss: he's such an amazingly good athlete, and such a sad excuse for a normal human being. The man is arguably the best receiver in football today, and certainly one of the best of all time, but I'm afraid he has one of the worst attitudes going (although Terrell Owens is probably going to eclipse Moss in this regard).
While I'm sorry to see his stats meander over to Oakland, I think the Vikings are better off as a team without him.
An interesting view of Minnesota's head coach, Mike Tice from Sporting News:
He has been gone, what, 24 years from Central Islip, N.Y., right in the middle of Long Island, and you'd never know it. Talks like he still lives there, you know what I mean? He hasn't forgotten his roots; he's damn proud of them. Tell me what other NFL coach would describe himself like this: "I am a big, tall, deep-voiced, loud, arrogant New Yorker who thinks he is right all the time. That rubs some people the wrong way. I don't mean anything by it. But I am opinionated."
Toss in gutsy, too. This being a family publication, I can't be more anatomically specific, but you get my drift. I mean, he has no contract after this season, which gives him the security of a mosquito at a Raid demonstration. Even close friends concede the Vikings need to go deep into the playoffs for him to be retained. He knows that, too, yet he gets rid of Moss. What's more, he does it even though he is about to gain a new owner, which doesn't make for the swiftest first impression, even if the new big man, Zygi Wilf, is an East Coast guy.
But what the heck. You might as well give it your best shot surrounded by guys who buy into your rules and play hard all the time, not just when it suits them, and respect authority and understand loyalty. I mean, Moss never got it. Tice believes in this loyalty thing big-time — go ask anyone in Central Islip about loyalty — and he starts right off as coach by declaring the "Randy Ratio," which really is a love offering to Moss, only the jerk never understands. He rewards Tice by various displays of stupidity, whether it's a run-in with a meter maid or mock mooning Packers fans or leaving the final regular-season game last January before it's finished and, dumbest of all, responding to a question about Tice's future by saying, "I don't know if coach Tice is the coach for this team, and I don't know if he isn't."
Talk about sticking a knife into someone who actually likes you and stands up for you and even to this very minute won't bad-mouth you because that's the honorable thing to do. If Moss had his way, Tice and Daunte Culpepper would be ex-Vikings and his own loud mouth and mercurial personality would be in Minnesota, where his teammates still would be disgusted with both his churlish behavior and his special set of rules.
Ah, finally . . . football is almost back. Of course, there's only a tiny chance of any non-Buffalo games being telecast in the Toronto area, but one can sometimes luck out.
At the Metrodome last night for the first pre-season game, the Moss-less Minnesota Vikings beat the Kansas City Chiefs 27-16. Here are the game reports from the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
It's the first pre-season game, so the starting lines for both teams were only in for the first couple of series, allowing coaches to evaluate their second- and third-string players. Pre-season is a young player's best chance of impressing the coaches and improving their chances of securing a roster spot (teams cut down from the 80+ players on the roster now to just 53 to start the regular season).
Overall, the retooled Vikings defence showed some improvements over the last few years, keeping the Chiefs out of the end zone on the first drive of the game (previous versions of the Vikings D too often gave up touchdowns and rarely forced punts). Special teams were shaky to start, although running back Mewelde Moore did get 43 yards on a kickoff return (he had a strong game all around, with 69 yards and a TD playing with the second string offence). Incumbent punter Darren Bennett had a bad punt in the first half, which may allow challenger Travis Dorsch a chance to take his job.
Perhaps the best news of the night was that there were no reported injuries. That's always the trade-off of playing pre-season games: it's great experience for younger players, but increases the risk of injuries because the players are only part-way through training camp.
I haven't written much about the Minnesota Vikings lately, but there's been plenty of reason: it's been the quietest part of the off-season since the end of the minicamps. Training camp will open tomorrow, and KFAN will have the same sort of blanket coverage they put on for the minicamps.
The latest word, as of today, was that only three of their draft picks remained to be signed: receiver Troy Williamson, defensive end Erasmus James, and safety Dustin Fox. James and Fox are expected to sign their contract offers by the end of the week, but Williamson may not be as eager to come to camp.
The NFL disciplined Vikings head coach Mike Tice and two of his assistants in the Superbowl ticket scalping case. Tice has been fined $100,000 and Dean Dalton (running backs) and Rusty Tillman (special teams) were each fined $10,000 for their part in the racket.
In other NFL news, Patriots owner Robert Kraft says that he did give his Superbowl ring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was not stolen or mistakenly borrowed as implied in earlier accounts.
The long awaited sale of the Minnesota Vikings finally got unanimous league approval yesterday. New owner Zygmunt Wilf was introduced by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
Immediate advice to the new owner was proffered by St. Paul Pioneer Press correspondant Bob Sansevere:
Zygmunt Wilf can learn from Red McCombs.
Every day, the Vikings' new owner should ask himself, "What would Red do?" Then do the opposite.
Wilf might even want to get a wristband imprinted with W.W.R.D. and put a slash through the initials to remind him the Red way is the wrong way.
McCombs' tenure as the Vikings' owner does not include many warm and fuzzy memories for fans, players or coaches.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune had this to say:
Zygi Wilf was so buoyant Wednesday that, in his first moments as the Vikings owner, he instantly praised Minnesota's weather.
He said he likes the state's climate so much he's ready to roll up his sleeves for an open-air stadium, with public funding as "part of the formula."
"Praised Minnesota's weather"? Has he ever been to Minnesota?
Of course, I've never been there either, so maybe it's not as bad as every Minnesotan I've ever talked to has claimed. Perhaps the mosquitos are not the size of Apache attack helicopters (and better armed), and the temperate does not alternate between absolute zero and 211 degrees Fahrenheit.
A report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press says that Onterrio Smith, Minnesota's rushing leader last season, has failed a drug test and will be suspended for this year:
Minnesota Vikings running back Onterrio Smith has been informed by the NFL that he faces a yearlong suspension for a third violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.
A person familiar with the situation confirmed that action Thursday, hours after Vikings head coach Mike Tice announced that Smith would be excused from the remainder of the team's offseason program.
The same person told the Pioneer Press that Smith's latest violation has nothing to do with an incident at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on April 21, when the third-year running back was stopped with a device — "The Original Whizzinator" — designed to circumvent drug tests.
The specific nature of Smith's violation could not be confirmed. ESPN.com, citing two unidentified Vikings employees, reported that he had missed a league-administered drug test, which under NFL policy is equivalent to a positive test.
This is probably Smith's final chance blown. Regardless of what I think about the logic of the league's anti-drug stance, Smith has given up on an NFL career through either stupidity or, er, well, just stupidity, I guess.
If Smith had managed to stay clean, play well for the Vikings this season, and otherwise be a model player, he'd have been looking at a nice multi-million dollar contract for next year. Now, he'll be lucky to be signed to the roster at all.
Captain Ed tosses the floundering Vikings an anchor:
Just when I think I've seen everything that the Minnesota Vikings can do to look stupid — from taking a knee in a championship game and thereby neutralizing the league's most potent offense, to a star athlete walking off the field before a game had been decided, to a coach that ran his own Super Bowl ticket-scalping syndicate that exploited Vikings players for his own profit — this morning's news reminds me that true stupidity plumbs its own new depths every day. The Vikings' leading rusher ran afoul of airport security three weeks ago with a kit to beat NFL drug tests featuring some interesting prosthetics [. . .]
I'd love to refute all of this, but I'd have to spend some time inventing convenient factoids and clothing my argument in layers and layers of deceptive and irrelevant commentary. . . because he's pretty much right. I'm a long-time Vikings fan, but I have to admit that they seem to have more talent at screwing up otherwise ordinary activities than any other professional sports franchise.
Hat tip to the no-longer-blogging Jon.
The Minnesota Vikings appeared to have an over-abundance of running backs coming out of the draft last month. On the roster were Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith, Mewelde Moore, Moe Williams, and fourth-round draft choice Ciatrick Fason. Bennett and Smith each consider themselves the starter, with Moore as the dark horse.
The numbers just got a bit murkier as Smith has been caught carrying a drug test masking kit — something to allow him to fool the drug tests that the NFL mandates for randomly selected players on a monthly basis.
Smith had already served a four-game suspension for marijuana use at the beginning of last season (during which Moore ran for the only two 100-yard games the Vikings had that year). If the league decides to pay attention to this little matter, Smith is out for a year. The team would pretty much have to cut him and move on.
Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse imagines the situation:
He did tell airport security that he was taking the device to his cousin. Which leaves me with a large question: How close would you have to be to a cousin to agree to place his Whizzinator in your carry-on bag and take it through airport security?
Even conceding that some families are very, very close, I'm having a tough time fathoming the conversation:
Cuz: Hey, Big O, that you? Could you hook me up with a giant favor? I remembered my iPod, my BlackBerry, most of the important stuff for this trip, but there's this one thing I left in the condo.
Onterrio: You're my favorite cousin, Cuz. What do you need?
Cuz: Only going to take you five minutes, O. Key's under the mat. Walk into the bedroom, bottom drawer in the big chest. Just grab the funny-looking thing that's in there, maybe wrap a towel around it, and bring it with you on the flight.
Onterrio: You got it, Cuz. Anything else?
Cuz: There's six or seven vials of white powder in the drawer, too. Bring those, but don't get the wrong idea. No one wants to be snorting that stuff.
Yes, this could have been the exact conversation that led one of our football heroes to be carrying a device for making phony urine through airport security.
Until a couple of days ago, the two top candidates for number one in the draft were Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith. Smith got the call from San Francisco, but Rodgers dropped in the draft. Here is his analysis of the draft as it rolled past him (according to "The Loop"):
1. San Francisco, Alex Smith, QB, Utah.
I thought I was going No. 1 until a few days ago, when I heard the 49ers were going in a different direction. That's OK. Alex and I are both very talented, and I look forward to our first matchup.
2. Miami, Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn.
I figured the Dolphins would pass on me, since their biggest need was for a dope-free running back. South Florida's humidity would have created hair issues for me anyway.
3. Cleveland, Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan.
Edwards is the kind of playmaking receiver every team needs. If I had him to throw to at Cal, then Alex Smith would still be stuck here, enjoying the veggie tray in the green room.
[. . .]
9. Washington, Carlos Rogers, DB, Auburn.
Gee . . . apparently now I'm not even good enough for Daniel Snyder. How sad is that?
10. Detroit, Mike Williams, WR, USC.
The Lions like Jeff Garcia and Joey Harrington? To paraphrase Terrell Owens, if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, then you better draft Aaron Rodgers!
11. Dallas, DeMarcus Ware, DE, Troy.
By my count, my net worth has dropped about $20 million today. Not only that, but now Paris Hilton is refusing to take my calls.
The poor bastard dropped all the way down to Green Bay at the number 24 slot. Green Bay certainly got a great value for their pick, but you have to feel sorry for Rodgers.
Minnesota surprised most of the commentators by passing on wide receiver Mike Williams to take Troy Williamson (South Carolina) instead. The explanation on several Vikings fan sites is speed: Williamson is much faster than Williams, and therefore would be a better fit with the Vikings' vertical passing attack. As I mentioned in my last draft posting, I don't follow college ball, so I have to take what I read in the various mock drafts as my primary source of information on the drafted athletes.
With their second first-round pick, the Vikings took defensive end Erasmus James of Wisconsin. This is to address another need on the team: insufficient pressure on the quarterback from the DE position. James certainly seems to have the requisite qualities to perform well in the NFL, and he is reportedly completely recovered from a hip injury which cost him the entire 2003 season.
In the second round, Minnesota selected offensive lineman Marcus Johnson, who can play any position on the line except centre. Drafting Johnson implies that the team is no longer interested in re-signing David Dixon, which I think is a mistake: Dixon may not be an every-down player, but he's certainly got another year of football left.
By the time we get to the third round, I no longer have any name recognition left, so this is straight from the newswires. The third-round choice was Dustin Fox, a defensive back from Ohio State. This appears to be a pick for depth: the Vikings backfield is as good as it has been for over a decade after some great recruiting efforts during the free agency period. I expect Fox to contribute on special teams this year, but not to join the starting line-up (except in case of injury to a current starter).
The Vikings have four picks remaining in tomorrow's wrap-up of the college draft, barring trades with other teams.
I don't follow college football, so everything I know about the athletes entering this weekend's draft is based on what I've read in the last couple of weeks. (Quick translation: I know nothing.)
The Minnesota Vikings have two first-round picks — their own pick at number 18 and the pick they received from Oakland as part of the Randy Moss trade at number 7. This draft is widely viewed as "weak", meaning that there's a big quality drop-off after the first "x" number of picks (the "x" is usually the draft pick before the writer's local team is picking). It is unusual in that there hasn't been a concensus top pick emerge from the pack.
There are mock drafts galore out there (I won't even try to link to 'em, as they're all in flux at this point anyway), and here are some of the most common names appearing: Alex Smith (QB), Ronnie Brown (RB), Aaron Rodgers (QB), Braylon Edwards (WR), Carnell Williams (RB), Antrel Rolle (CB), Mike Williams (WR), Cedric Benson (RB), Adam Jones (CB), and Derrick Johnson (LB). These are the top ten, according to the Scout Network's mock draft as of 8:00 this morning. If the drafting teams agree with Scout's analysis, the San Francisco 49ers would take Smith as the first pick, while the Vikings would draft Mike Williams as their replacement for Randy Moss.
The Vikings have done a very creditable job of managing their off-season strategy, signing several good players during the free agency period to bolster the team on the defensive side of the ball. The Vikings have had a bottom-of-the-league defense for several years which has more than counterbalanced their top-of-the-league offense (see their post-season record for proof of this).
Minnesota has maintained a draft philosophy of taking the best player available — by their ranking, not the popular press rankings — rather than drafting to fill immediate needs. This makes a good deal of sense, as rookie players often flounder for their first season or two before becoming solid contributors to a team (running backs are about the only position for which this does not seem to be generally true).
The Vikings have fewer holes to fill this time around, but even the best-balanced team has needs to address. There probably isn't a replacement for Randy Moss in this draft: selecting a wide receiver with their first pick would saddle that player with the fans' too-high expectations. Several writers are calling for Minnesota to take a running back with the number 7 pick, even though that's already an area of strength for the team (Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith, Mewelde Moore, and Moe Williams). When I first heard this, I thought it unlikely, but it actually does make some sense; the 2005 Vikings will have to depend on their running attack more than in any year since Robert Smith retired, and none of the current backs have established themselves as the man. Drafting a marquee running back allows the Vikes to trade Bennett or Smith for either more draft picks or improved picks.
The team still needs to address a few more defensive positions (outside linebacker, defensive end, and safety), but those are not critical needs — but if Shawn Merriman or Derrick Johnson was still on the board as Minnesota's second first-round pick comes up, I'd expect them to grab one of those two linebackers.
A big area of concern for the Vikings has been the kicking game. They haven't had a dependable punter or place-kicker with sufficient range and accuracy for several seasons. After trolling the retirement homes (Gary Anderson, Morten Andersen) over the last few years, they still don't have anyone on the roster who they can depend on. Drafting kickers is even more of a crapshoot than quarterbacks: it's often said that kickers need to bounce around for up to five years before settling down and becoming as dependable as they need to be.
The rumour de jour has Miami trading their #2 pick to Minnesota for their #7 and #18 picks. I rather hope not, but if the Vikings think that their best bet is to grab the higher pick (Braylon Edwards, perhaps?), they must be pretty certain about it. The swap would certainly be a good thing for Miami who need to stock up just about every position on the field right now.
Charles Robinson contemplates the underlying reasons for both the Randy Moss trade and the Vikings' bipolar win-loss records in the past two years:
On a team that had an offense burning rocket fuel, an emotionally comatose defense was dangling along for the ride. By the end of the season, the Vikings would give up 395 points (26th in the NFL) and backpedal into the playoffs as the worst defensive team, at least statistically, in the postseason. It should sound familiar. Had Minnesota not been knocked out of the playoffs on the final play of the 2003 regular season, it would have earned the same title of Worst Playoff Defense.
There's a pattern in there — start 2003 and 2004 a collective 11-1 on the strength of the offense, then finish a collective 6-14 on the failures of the defense.
At the end of both the 2003 and 2004 seasons, it was hard to remember that the Vikings were at the very top of the league for the first six weeks in both years. Memories are remarkably short in the NFL: it's not just cornerbacks who need to forget the immediate past.
Realizing the lack of defensive leadership was no small revelation, but it came at a tremendous price. In 2004, Minnesota's defensive shortcomings wasted quite possibly the third-best statistical performance by a quarterback in the history of the league. Beyond Dan Marino in 1984 and Peyton Manning last season, you would be hard pressed to find a year better than Daunte Culpepper's in 2004: 41 total touchdowns against 11 interceptions, 5,123 total yards (4,717 passing, 406 rushing) and a 69-percent completion rate.
Complement those numbers with a solid defense and the Vikings might have been measuring their place in history with Roman numerals rather than watching the Eagles do it in their place. It's a hard lesson to learn, but one that apparently has been taken to heart.
Note the boldface above. In spite of that, as late as the final game of the regular season, knuckleheaded fans were still baying for Culpepper to be benched and Gus Frerotte started in his place. Football fans can be incredibly dense.
Within the division, though, few signings have been more important than the Vikings' nabbing of cornerback Fred Smoot and Sharper — two players who will make Minnesota's defense grow exponentially in aggression. Paired with cornerback Antoine Winfield, Smoot and Sharper give the Vikings something they've never had: the ability to play consistent man coverage, while piling defenders into the middle of the field and designing more blitz packages.
That's a scheme that should only enhance blossoming defensive ends Kevin Williams, Lance Johnstone and Kenechi Udeze. Add the acquisitions of nose tackle Pat Williams and linebackers Sam Cowart and Napoleon Harris, and Minnesota finally has some strong personalities to propel the team.
That has been perhaps the biggest surprise of the off-season so far: that someone finally got a big enough crowbar to open up Red McCombs' wallet and sign some good defensive players. Make no mistake: these guys aren't superstars . . . they're just far more capable as a group than anyone Minnesota has put on the defensive side of the ball since before John Randle left.
The Vikings are already targeting an impact replacement for Moss, eyeing USC's Mike Williams or Michigan's Braylon Edwards with the No. 7 pick in the draft (or a possible trade into the top four, if necessary). Minnesota also could stand pat and take one of the marquee running backs, then address the receiver position with the No. 18 overall pick. All are luxury scenarios now that Tice has addressed what he felt was the true virus – a lack of fortitude.
The draft is going to be more interesting than any for the past few years: the Vikings have plenty of options and enough money in hand to do some good things. I don't see them taking a running back — although both Onterrio Smith's and Michael Bennett's names keep coming up in trade rumours — I think Mewelde Moore is a good running back and might be "the guy" if he's given a chance (especially paired with Moe Williams as the third-down back).
I don't follow US college football, so I know nothing about the current draft prospects, but with the Vikings having two first-round picks, they should certainly be able to improve in even more areas. I just have nightmare flashbacks to the last time the Vikings had a second pick in the first round. The notorious Underwood fiasco. Shudder.
For the one or two fellow Viking fans, here is a summary of who's been signed, who's been tendered an offer, and who's been released so far this offseason. This is KFAN's analysis of the Vikings' free agency record.
The Vikings are managing to stay in the sports pages headlines lately, as Minnesota's head coach Mike Tice, has admitted that he did scalp some of his own Superbowl tickets, although he denies scalping any of his players' tickets.
The NFL will ultimately control the Tice case and possibly fine him as much as $100,000. It also could end his head-coaching career. Faced with these allegations, it is unlikely that another NFL owner would hire him as a head coach should he be relieved of his duties in Minnesota.
Still, Tice's biggest headache will be the IRS wanting to know for how long (and how many?) he's been receiving unreported income from scalped tickets. The league doesn't need this story mushrooming out of control because too many officials and coaches are involved in Super Bowl scalping.
Also, everyone should know that Randy Moss had nothing to do with squealing on Tice. It wasn't Moss.
That last statement was interesting, because I'd already wondered if Moss was the secret informant who started the whole investigation. It says that Czarnecki either knows who the informant is, or has extremely strong suspicions.
So far, the big news hasn't been too big for the Minnesota Vikings. Here's a quick summary of the Vikings' current free agent status:
Vikings Free Agents
|Morten Andersen, K||Unrestricted Free Agent||Rip van Andersen would like to play another season, perhaps because he's only a year or two away from getting his Social Security cheque.|
|Michael Bennett, RB||Under contract||Bennett's name is constantly popping up in trade rumours with teams like Miami, Arizona and Oakland.|
|Kelly Campbell, WR||Restricted Free Agent||Campbell's recent arrest in Georgia may cause teams to pass (even if he's not charged).|
|Chris Claiborne, LB||UFA, signed with St. Louis||When he was healthy, he was the best linebacker for the Vikes.|
|Jose Cortez, K||RFA||Vikings may re-sign him if they can't get one of the few higher quality kickers signed.|
|David Dixon, OG||UFA||Dixon would like to finish his career in Minnesota, but he'd be coming back as a reserve, not a starter on the offensive line.|
|Gus Frerotte, QB||UFA||Frerotte would like a starting job, but may return as Culpepper's backup if he can't find a team to give him a chance to start.|
|Chris Hovan, DT||UFA||He won't return to the Vikings. Dennis Green might bring him in to the Arizona organization.|
Update 11 March: Hovan is being fingered as the anonymous tipster who informed the league about Mike Tice's ticket scalping.
|Randy Moss, WR||Under contract. Traded to Oakland||Vikings receive LB Napoleon Harris and Oakland's 1st round and 7th round picks in the April draft.|
|Larry Ned, RB||UFA||Claimed off waivers by the Cardinals, then cut two days later.|
Update, March 6: Apparently, Ned was arrested in Phoenix on suspicion of stealing a laptop from a fellow passenger on a flight.
|Rhett Nelson, CB||UFA||Claimed off waivers by the Cardinals.|
|Keith Newman, LB||UFA||Provided good depth at outside linebacker as the season wore on: he'd like to return.|
|Willie Offord, S||RFA||Played well in relief of an injured Corey Chavous in the playoffs.|
|Brian Russell, S||RFA||The only restricted free agent to get more than a veteran minimum tender offer from the Vikings. Signing him would cost another team a first-round draft pick.|
|Jermaine Wiggins, TE||UFA|
Re-signed with Vikings
|Vikings want him back, but have not yet offered the right deal.|
Update 9 March: The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Wiggins has accepted a " five-year deal worth $7.3 million with a $1 million bonus".
|Brian Williams, CB||RFA||Update, 11 March: Now that Smoot has signed, Williams will become the nickelback, if he stays with the team.|
|Corey Withrow, C||UFA||Another player who'd like to start, but may return to the Vikings as a backup if he can't find a team to give him a starting role.|
Other Teams' Free Agents
|Pat Williams, DT||UFA, Buffalo||Signed multi-year deal with Minnesota. Will start at Nose Tackle beside Kevin Williams.|
|Antonio Pearce, LB||UFA||Accepted a deal with the New York Giants over the Vikings offer, which included deferring part of this compensation package to the summer (after the new owner of the team takes charge).|
|Plaxico Burress, WR||UFA, Pittsburgh||His agent has contacted Minnesota about a possible deal.|
Update, March 11: Burress is in the Twin Cities today, after a deal with the New York Giants fell through. He may still be asking for more money than the Vikings are willing to pay.
|Travis Taylor, WR||UFA, Baltimore||Another player whose agent has approached the Vikings.|
Update, March 6: Taylor is said to be comfortable with the idea of signing on as the #3 or #4 receiver.
|Freddie Jones, TE||UFA, Arizona||Will visit Minnesota on Monday|
Update 11 March: With Wiggins re-signing, Jones will probably not be offered a contract.
|Rod Gardner, WR||Under contract with Washington||His agent has permission from the Redskins to seek a trade for Gardner, and Minnesota is one of the teams he has contacted|
|Donovin Darius, S||Franchised by Jacksonville||Update, 8 March: Darius has taken the unprecedented step of contacting the Minneapolis Star-Tribune to practically beg for the Vikings to trade with Jacksonville to get him into a purple uniform. Darius has been the Jaguars' franchise player for three straight years.|
|Fred Smoot, CB||UFA, Washington|
Signed with Vikings
|Update, 8 March: The St. Paul Pioneer Press is announcing that the Vikings have come to terms with Smoot. No details were made public.|
Update 9 March: The Minneapolis Star Tribune confirms the original report and adds details of "a six-year contract worth $34 million with a $10.8 million bonus."
|Darren Sharper, S||UFA, Green Bay||Sharper is visiting Minnesota today (11 March), and may be willing to sign a cap-friendly deal to showcase himself for next year's free agent market, according to some sources.|
Former Vikings wide receiver Cris Carter writes:
I think both teams will benefit from this trade. The Raiders won't care about the things Moss sometimes does on the football field because he'll continue to put up Hall of Fame numbers. The Vikings' defense finally will get better after seven or eight years of being at the bottom of the league.
Carter, who was a mentor for Randy Moss in his first few seasons in the league, is well-placed to judge. The Vikings have had a very high-scoring offense since Moss was drafted, but their defense has been among the very worst in the league. They set the all-time scoring record, but never advanced beyond the NFC Championship game. Until their defenders can reliably stop other teams' drives, the Vikings are doomed to be also-rans.
Here's hoping that they're finally serious about improving that wretched defense.
Fox Sports is reporting that Randy Moss has been traded by Minnesota to the Oakland Raiders, for 1st and 7th round draft picks and linebacker Napoleon Harris. The original report was broken by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
I'm still not happy with trading Moss, if the report is confirmed, but if it is true, the report makes some sense: the Vikes desperately need help on defence, especially at linebacker, and this draft is supposed to be very deep in good quality defensive players. And, as I've said many times before, Moss is a punk: he'd fit in nicely in Silver and Black.
Would it be a good deal? I don't know: I haven't been following the Raiders, and Harris is little more than a name to me right now. Moss, for all the negatives he carries with him, is one of the best receivers ever to play in the NFL; you don't just replace him overnight.
Cris Collinsworth is quoted in the Pioneer Press article as saying:
"I don't think the deal makes sense from the football standpoint because of the impact he has had on this league. His presence alone changes defenses. If it's true, it's a statement of more of the off-the-field stuff and maybe they just want a little bit of a shakeup in who they want to be the leader of that team.
"It sounds like maybe they want to turn it all over to Daunte. What you don't know is how bad it was internally, how big an issue it had gotten to be with the off-the-field issues. My guess is this trade says it's a little bigger than what they previously acknowledged."
I'm not a big fan of Collinsworth's analysis, but he hits the nail on the head here: if Moss was worse than the Vikings acknowledged publicly, then they are probably right to get less than the maximum benefit from the trade in order to get him out of the organization. I don't know how true that is: it may be years before we find out just how much of a pain-in-the-ass Randy Moss has been to the Vikings organization. Or it might be on March 2nd, just after the trade is formally announced — that'd be consistent with Moss' modus operandi.
Yesterday Red McCombs, the owner of the Minnesota Vikings, announced a tentative sale of the club to Reggie Fowler, for $625 million. The deal won't be permanent until the league approves it, ideally at their late-March gathering in Hawaii. If Fowler's bid is approved, he will become the first black owner of an NFL franchise. It will take two-thirds of the existing owners to approve the sale.
Minnesota businessman Glen Taylor, owner of the NBA's Timberwolves, was also preparing a bid for the Vikings if Fowler's bid was not accepted by McCombs.
McCombs bought the franchise for $246 million in 1998, giving him a huge profit over the intervening years if the sale is approved. During that time, the Vikings have appeared in the playoffs four times and twice played in the NFC Championship game. Every home game was sold out during that run.
McCombs found the local politicians unwilling to bribe him with a new stadium to replace the 22-year-old Humphrey Metrodome (where the Vikings have a lease until 2011), and frequently hinted that he was looking to move the team to a more lucrative city (Los Angeles was the usual suspect, lacking its own NFL team). Fowler will find the local electorate similarly difficult to please in this way: unlike a lot of other cities, Minneapolis has not yet knuckled under to the pressure of building a public facility for private profit.
In his official biography, distributed Monday by his Twin Cities public relations firm, Reggie Fowler declared that he played in the Little League World Series, implied that he earned a business administration and finance degree from the University of Wyoming and said that he played for the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL and the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.
According to officials with all of the sports organizations and official records at the NFL, CFL and University of Wyoming, none of those claims is exactly true.
I guess it's a good thing for him that his credentials don't matter anywhere near as much as his money does . . . and would the NFL dare to take any of these issues seriously? I rather doubt it, if his finances are sound.
Scott Linehan, Minnesota's offensive co-ordinator for the past three seasons has accepted an offer to join the Miami Dolphins staff at the same position. Here's how Jim Souhan envisages the change:
Linehan [. . .] might continue to develop and flourish in the NFL. But he has just left [Vikings QB Daunte] Culpepper for A.J. Feeley, has just left an open-minded boss for new Dolphins coach Nick Saban, who makes Apocalypse Now's Colonel Kurtz look like SpongeBob SquarePants.
Picture the Dolphins' first offensive meeting:
Linehan: So, who's our quarterback?
Saban: I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream. That's my nightmare.
Linehan: A.J. it is.
As I've mentioned before, I'm a long-time Vikings fan. Today's divisional match-up between the Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles is going to be an emotional game: either triumphal, if the Vikes play like they did last week against Green Bay, or depressing, if they play like they did too often during the regular season.
The last time the two teams played was early in the season at Philly, where the Vikings dominated the stats, but lost the game. Philadelphia's leading receiver, Terrell Owens, is out with an ankle injury, and the Eagles haven't played a serious game for nearly a month. This gives the Vikings a better chance, but they're still 8 point underdogs going into Philadelphia this afternoon.
I'm hoping for a Viking win, but I don't expect one: the team has been too inconsistent to expect two great games back-to-back. But I'd love to be wrong about this.
Update: Final score 27-14 Eagles. Culpepper did what he could, but he threw two interceptions (one was not his fault, the other clearly was), passed for one TD and ran in another, but the rest of the team didn't put in the same kind of performance they did against the Packers last weekend. The star of the game was Eagles' Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who did huge damage to the Vikings gameplan and blew up multiple plays.
While the Eagles didn't play a fantastic game, they certainly displayed more consistency than the up-then-down Vikings, and benefitted from the Minnesota mistakes (pass interference penalties totalling 78 yards, blown playcalls on trick plays, and some unlucky breaks). Philadelphia will now host the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game next Sunday.
As predicted earlier, Randy Moss, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver and agent provocateur, has been handed a $10,000 fine by the NFL for taunting the Green Bay fans near the end of last weekend's wildcard playoff game.
Moss reacted with the same suave, sophisticated arguments we've all come to expect from him:
"Ain't nothing but 10 grand," he said as he stood at the door of his automatically started, warming truck in sub-zero temperatures late Thursday afternoon. "What's 10 grand to me?"
Moss added that next time he might shake something other than his derriere.
Clearly the money isn't going to be missed in Randy's bank account: he made $5.75 million for just the regular season games this year. Unfortunately, a more meaningful penalty — a suspension — would hurt the team far more than it would hurt Moss: Minnesota struggled badly when Moss was injured for several games in the latter part of the season.
As Moss left the team's Eden Prairie training facility, a reporter asked him if he had already sent the check.
"When you're rich, you don't write checks," he said. "Straight cash, homey."
Classy, Randy. Very classy. Exactly what we've come to expect from you off the field.
Damian Penny remarks on the remarkable Randy Moss:
Million dollar hands and a ten cent brain
If the NFL were a high school, Terrell Owens would be the class clown, while Randy Moss would be the overgrown, sweaty lout who laughs uproariously at his lewd comments to the girls.
(I have to admit, when Moss "mooned" the crowd after scoring a TD yesterday, I did laugh — not in a "that's funny" manner, but in a "can you believe this guy?" manner.)
As many people have pointed out, Randy Moss may be the best wide receiver in football. As even more people have pointed out, he has all the emotional maturity of a ten-year-old. Yesterday's stunt (pretending to drop his pants, mooning the audience at Lambeau Field, then rubbing his buttocks against the goal post) should merit a hefty fine from the league — and if the league doesn't do it, then Vikings owner Red McCombs and coach Mike Tice certainly should.
Moss is immature, as so many professional athletes are at the beginning of their brief, lucrative careers. Moss isn't a rookie: he's been playing for several years — he has no excuse for this kind of juvenile idiocy. And, worse, he genuinely believes that he needs no excuse.
I wrote a few days ago:
My long and distinguished history as the worst prognosticator will be on full display here:
- NFC Wildcard: Seattle over St. Louis. The Rams have won both regular-season meetings, but Seattle isn't as bad as that record might indicate. They'll win, but not big.
Well, I'm zero for one so far: St. Louis beat Seattle 27-20, making them the first 8-8 team in league history to win a playoff game. I'd be more thrilled if a) I liked the Rams, and b) I hadn't picked Seattle to win this one.
- AFC Wildcard: San Diego over NY Jets. It seems weird to see the Chargers in the playoffs. It'll seem even weirder to see them in the divisional round.
Zero for two, now. The Jets kept it close enough to go into overtime, then the Chargers missed a field goal but the Jets kicker was more accurate. Final score 20-17 Jets.
- AFC Wildcard: Indianapolis over Denver. Peyton Manning at home? Big points, no joy for the Broncos.
Aha! Justified in my preconceived notions! Indy 49, Denver 24. Indy advances to face the fearsome Patriots in their home stadium (and pray for unseasonably warm weather to allow Peyton Manning to work his alchemy with the football).
- NFC Wildcard: Minnesota over Green Bay. The Pack won both regular-season meetings, but by a total of 6 points, both last-minute scores. They have the advantage of playing at Lambeau, but the Vikings have a lot to prove.
The Vikings ran up a 17-0 lead about seven minutes into the game. The Pack closed the gap to 7, but never went ahead. Final score: 31-17 for the visiting Vikings. The Vikings are the second 8-8 team in league history to win a playoff game, and the third visiting team to upset the favoured home team this weekend. Minnesota now go on to revisit Philly, where they lost an ugly game earlier in the season.
My long and distinguished history as the worst prognosticator will be on full display here:
The two top seeds in each conference, the Eagles and Falcons in the NFC and the Steelers and the Patriots in the AFC benefit from having the weekend off while the wildcard teams fight it out.
The conference championships will be:
An all-Pennsylvania Superbowl this year. I'll have to say it'll be the Steelers this time around. Philly just doesn't have enough firepower to knock out the Steelers, but the reverse isn't true.
I didn't get to see anything other than a couple of highlights, but Minnesota lost today at Washington, 21-18, but still managed to squeak into the playoffs after a Carolina loss to New Orleans. I sure hope that they fix a few of the problems they've had on both sides of the ball before the first wild-card games kick-off!
Well, it looks as though Vikings coach Mike Tice won't be getting that contract renewal at the end of the year after all. This game was a carbon-copy of the last time the Packers and Vikings met: same score, same last-minute field goal to clinch it for the Pack. The Vikings defense looked as sad as usual: only Chris Claiborne's interception return for a TD kept this game close in the second half. Minnesota's offense looked unstoppable before the half, unstartable after.
The winners take the NFC North divisional title, while the losers still have to qualify for a wild-card spot in the NFC playoffs. To be fair, I don't expect either team to advance far in the playoffs: both teams lack strength in the defense to have a real chance to win it all.
Update 28 December: Apparently, Red McCombs did give Tice the one-year extension to his coaching contract (details here). I'm surprised, but somewhat relieved: the team didn't need yet another year of upheaval in the coaching ranks.
The Vikings and the Green Bay Packers have a scheduled game on December 24th this year. December 24th is also considered by some to have some religious significance. In Wisconsin, the weaker affiliation is bowing to the stronger one:
GREEN BAY, Wis. — St. Bernard Catholic Church, several miles from Lambeau Field, has adjusted its Christmas Eve Day Mass schedule as the Green Bay Packers are scheduled to play at 2 p.m. that afternoon.
It eliminated its two 4 p.m. Masses and added a second Mass at 6 p.m.
The parish staff went back and forth in discussing its options, said Ginny Gigot, it's business administrator.
"This was not a unanimous decision,'' the pastor, the Rev. David Pleier, said in church bulletin item on the move. "Comments ranged from, 'You mean to say you're putting football ahead of the birth of Christ?' to 'What if we have a Mass and nobody comes? Would that be an honor to the newborn Savior?'
I may not be a Packer fan (thank goodness), but you have to respect a devotion that even trumps mere religious observances!
The Minnesota Vikings finally found someone they could beat, as the hapless Detroit Lions went up to Minneapolis for today's game. Even then, the Vikings couldn't just establish a lead and put the Lions away — that'd be too easy. They had to spot 'em a lead from the opening kickoff . . . Detroit's Eddie Drummond ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, putting the Lions ahead with less than 30 seconds run off the clock.
The score went all the way to 19-7 before the Vikings finally got their game under some form of control, eventually coming back in the fourth quarter to win 22-19. Certainly not a pretty game (I only got to see highlights, or in the early going, lowlights), but a win is what the Vikings had to have, and a win is what they ended up with.
I'm always a bit worried when the sporting press starts paying any extra attention to the Vikings, especially this early in the season. Last year's terrible let-down of a 6-0 start turning into failure to make the playoffs is warning enough. Articles like this one may start the hubris-nemesis machine working all over again. . .
But hey, I'm enjoying it while I can!
Minnesota's 38-31 win over the New Orleans Saints was powered by their fourth-string running back, Mewelde Moore. (Bennett has been out with knee problems since the pre-season, Smith is on suspension for 4 games, and Williams is just coming back from a leg injury.) For a fourth-string rookie, the kid sure can play football: 15 carries for 109 yards, 7 catches for 78 yards, plus 3 kick returns for 51 yards. Except for his horrible passer rating (0 for 1), he'd be the entire offense for some teams this year!
Of course, Daunte Culpepper didn't do too much himself: only 26 of 37 pass completions for 425 yards, with 5 TDs and 2 interceptions (twice as many picks as he threw in the other four games combined). One of those interceptions was caused by Randy Moss pulling up injured deep on his route: I certainly hope it's not too serious! The Vikings offense is pretty impressive even without Moss, but if he's seriously hurt, it will definitely force the Vikings to change their game plans.
Neither team fielded much of a defense, and Minnesota's special teams were doing a good job until they mis-read the Saints fake punt which gave the Saints a renewed lease on life.
Still, a win is a win in this league, so I won't complain too much.
Again, thanks to the gods of the television schedule, I didn't get to watch the Vikings-Texans game, I got to see a few highlights here and there. And then I got to watch the scoreboard in horror as a 21-7 score changed steadily to 28-28 OT. The individual stats sounded good (Culpepper with 5 TD passes, Moss and Robinson each with a pair of receiving TDs, rookie Moore with nearly 200 all-purpose yards), but clearly the Texans were being kept alive somehow.
This Star Tribune report is the first Minnesota report I've seen:
There is a time for laughter, a time for love and a time to hook up the defibrillator. The Vikings were on life support Sunday, sucking wind in the Texas swampland as they followed every patented step toward one of their epic collapses. And then, and then ....
For the first time in the Mike Tice Era, there was an "And then...." The Vikings pulled themselves up from the Reliant Stadium floor, shook off the numbing effects of a jarring fourth-quarter breakdown and perhaps turned a corner in their three-year rebuilding process. Their 34-28 overtime victory against Houston helped them retain a share of the NFC North lead and might have marked a new capacity to function amid high adversity as well.
Still, an ugly win is still a win, and the Vikes stay in a tie with Detroit (Detroit????) for first in the NFC North. Small mercies, and all of that. . .
Another game I didn't get to see (thanks CRTC!). Chicago visited the Metrodome yesterday for a particularly sloppy and penalty-plagued performance for both teams. Here are a couple of reports from the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Tom Powers, of the Pioneer Press wrote:
The Vikings were about as crisp as a slice of white bread floating in a bathtub. The Bears were even soggier. And the officials appeared to be in need of CPR.
"We can do a lot better," said cornerback Antoine Winfield.
They better, or their season could take an ugly turn. Illegal formations, illegal shifts. . . . Are these fellows using their playbooks for doorstops? Perhaps they should thumb through them once in a while to find out just where they should be standing on any given play.
Give them credit for winning. They nearly beat themselves. But in the end, they overcame their own errors.
Kevin Seifert of the Star Tribune wrote:
With great pain and considerable pride, the Vikings picked up the pieces Sunday afternoon. And the pieces? They were scattered. Strewn about the Metrodome field like a Viking ship splintered by an unfortunate collision with an iceberg.
By the time the Vikings sealed a 27-22 victory against Chicago, they were on their third middle linebacker. They were using their second center, their third right tackle and every ounce of medieval magic available to ensure they finished the game with 22 healthy players. When Kevin Williams sacked Chicago quarterback Jonathan Quinn on the Bears' final play, a veritable all-star team stood in street clothes on the Vikings sideline.
So after a messy game that featured 25 penalties, one brawl and another statistically impressive performance by their offense, the Vikings were torn between celebrating their second victory of the season and fretting about what another round of injuries will mean for their run to Super Bowl XXXIX.
There was an old joke about an Irish newspaper's Social Page reporting on parties with the line "Among the injured were . . .". This NFL season, sportswriters are having to do the same thing for football game reports. Among the Viking injured this time were centre Matt Birk and linebackers Chris Claiborne and E.J. Henderson, while the Bears lost their starting quarterback, Rex Grossman.
Next week is a bye for the Vikings, so I probably won't be bothering you with football trivia until the following week. Lucky you!
Patrick Reusse summarizes the conversation around the watercoolers in Minneapolis on Tuesday morning:
There was an overcast sky to mark Minnesota's first gloomy Monday of the autumn of 2004, except for a small matter: This gloomy Monday arrived on Tuesday.
The sulking and whining you find around the office and on the job site following a Vikings loss was delayed by 24 hours this week, since the beloved Purple was making its return to "Monday Night Football" after a two-season absence.
Beyond that change in their weekly schedule, the result could not have been more spectacular for the masses of Minnesotans who live to complain about the injustices and inadequacies that accompany a Vikings defeat.
It was an ugly game, unless you're an Eagles fan. And the injuries just keep on coming: Rosenthal is gone for the season, as is Kleinsasser. That makes it seven players on IR so far this season, and we're only two games in!
The Minnesota Vikings did themselves no favours in last night's game. Between stupid penalties and, er, more stupid penalties, the game was out of reach by early in the second half. Daunte Culpepper had a schizophrenic game: high efficiency passing, but the fumbles came back to haunt him, including a morale-crushing fumble inside the Eagles' 1-yard line. Another touchdown run was nullified by a holding penalty on centre Matt Birk.
It was only the second game of the season, but the Vikings are already suffering from injury problems. Starting cornerback Ken Irvin was lost for the season before kickoff last week. Starting running back Michael Bennett is nursing a knee injury, and starting tight end Jim Kleinsasser may need season-ending knee surgery for a partially torn ACL. Third-down running back Moe Williams was also held out of last night's game with an ankle injury. Early in the game, right offensive tackle Mike Rosenthal had to be carted off the field and his backup Adam Haayer was bullied by Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse for the rest of the night.
Because the Eagle defensive line was getting so much pressure on Culpepper, the Vikings had almost no chances for deep balls to Moss or Campbell. The primary receiver was the backup tight end Jermaine Wiggins, with 8 receptions for 65 yards, before he left with a hand injury in the third quarter.
The worst non-call of the night was on the touchdown catch by Terrell Owens, whose knee went down inside the 2 yard line, but who never seemed to get control of the ball before he fell out of bounds. Vikings coach Mike Tice should have challenged the call (he clearly would have won the challenge), but did not attempt to do so before the Eagles converted.
The Minnesota Vikings have signed former pro wrestler Brock Lesnar to a contract. Lesnar, who hasn't played football at any level since high school, walked away from a multi-million dollar contract with WWE to sign a rookie agreement with the Vikings that would pay him the league minimum of $230,000 (if he makes the team). The most likely scenario is for Lesnar to go through training camp and fail to make the final roster, but to be signed to the eight-man training squad (for $73,000).
If Lesnar is serious, this could be a great opportunity for him, but the lingering concern is that it's just a publicity stunt. The Vikings had to cut a free agent player from their roster in order to sign Lesnar: if it is just a stunt, the victim of the piece is Ben Nauman, a local Minnesota rookie from Rochester.
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