The Minnesota Vikings were one of the most surprising teams in the National Football League this season, but it should have come as a surprise to absolutely no one outside the state of Minnesota that their season came to an end Saturday night at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.
What was surprising was how it happened.
After injuring his elbow in the win last week over Green Bay that elevated the Vikings to the playoffs, Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder was a late scratch, leaving Joe Webb, who had thrown a grand total of zero passes this year, as the starter under center for the Vikings.
Predictably, that didn't go so well, and as fans of the Vikings' lament their 24-10 loss and the end of the 2012 season, many will no doubt cling to the belief that if Ponder had been able to play things would have been different.
If that helps alleviate the pain of this defeat, then have at it, but don't kid yourself, folks.
Granted, Webb was mostly awful, completing only a third of his passes while turning the ball over twice. And that's if you count a meaningless 50-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins that only happened because the Packers' defense was lulled into a coma by Webb's terribility.
If that wasn't a word before, then it became one after that performance.
However, even if Ponder had been able to make the start, the odds of the outcome of this game being any different were slim to none.
Last week's victory in Minnesota was the product of catching lightning in a bottle. Take 199 yards from the greatest running back in the National Football League, toss in one of the best games of Ponder's career, mix in a bit of luck and it still took a last-second field goal for the Vikings to squeeze out a three-point win that got them into the playoffs.
This week, outside (where the Vikings went 0-5 this year) against a Green Bay team smarting after last week's loss cost them the NFC's No. 2 seed and a bye week, there was next to no chance that the NFL's worst passing attack was going to be able to pull a second consecutive rabbit out of its hat.
The Minnesota Vikings had a great year. After winning three games last season, they won 10 this year. Adrian Peterson topped 2,000 yards and came this close to breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record.
However, that ride was going to end this week, regardless of who was at quarterback.
The clock has struck midnight, and it's time for Cinderella to go home.