It started with the ballerina slippers.
First, Brett Favre was slip sliding away. Then it was Adrian Peterson doing his best Chevy Chase stumble and fall impersonation. And a camera shot on the sidelines showed Favre changing his ballet shoes for ones with a better grip.
But the better grip ones didn’t help. If anything, it got worse.
The Panthers just pounded the ballerinas in every phase of the game.
They battered the Vikings offensive line and held Adrian Peterson in check on every play that mattered. They harried the Vikings pass blockers so much that left tackle Bryant McKinnie had to be benched. His replacement, Artis Hicks, apparently didn’t want his tutu to get smudged, either. Julius Peppers, playing in front of a national audience on a one-year contract, had Brett Favre on speed dial the entire evening.
Peppers played like a ferocious, well,...panther.
The Vikings soft ballet was evident in all four quarters of the game. To wit: Ryan Longwell missed an easy field goal early after Darius Reynaud had run a punt back to the Carolina 26-yard line and then failed to advance the ball...much.
Ben Leber missed an easy fumble recovery after doing a horizontal pirouette that would have given the Vikings the ball on the Panther 11-yard line.
Jonathan Stewart blew past the Vikings' defensive line for 109 yards. He just ran at will to the outside, crumpling the Viking front seven with second and third efforts for every extra inch.
The Panthers offensive line protected a quarterback named Matt Moore well enough that by the fourth quarter his command of the field was impressive as he hit receivers with confident precision passing.
Antoine Winfield tripped over his ballet slippers and got torched by Steve Smith for a touchdown on a third and 26. (Face it, when your defense gives up a touchdown on a third and 26, the coverage is softer than 11 little Nutcrackers doing the fondu.) Madieu Williams was late on the coverage.
Sidney Rice got popped in Carolina territory and coughed up the ball. This is known to happen when a soft player gets pummelled by a fierce player. The ball was out before Rice could do his little plie.
Percy Harvin, the Vikings explosive rookie, was essentially a non-factor in the game. He might as well have been out on the field performing the port de bras.
The port de bras is the term used in ballet where the little ballerinas gently extend their arms over their heads so that their fingers gracefully touch. You have seen this in your life.
Don`t ask me how I know this.
If a few weeks ago, when the Minnesota Vikings were 10-1, we had said they would being playing Carolina on the night of Dec. 20, and Carolina would be without their starting quarterback and their best offensive player, DeAngelo Williams, would you not have been licking your chops?
Yes, you would.
But that was then and this is now, as the saying goes. And now the Minnesota Vikings are in trouble. In two consecutive road games, they have been outmuscled and physically manhandled off the field.
Never mind talking about Brett Favre in December. He was on the receiving end of Mr. Peppers's text messages last night, and the one tough guy the Vikings had out there.
Ballet slippers for everyone else.