What Disturbed and Pleased Vikings Fans Last Night in the Windy City
I remembered when I opened a present at the holidays with my extended family around the tree, and I was so excited to see in the box this video game that I really wanted.
As the excitement of playing with my new game raced though my head, somebody burst my bubble and told me that I had opened the wrong gift.
How could the Vikings spot the Bears 16 points in the first half, come back to the tie game, and yet lose to the Bears?
The gift of home field advantage throughout the playoffs has been taken away and given to the New Orleans Saints.
How could the Vikings engineer two touchdown-scoring drives in the fourth quarter—with the last one coming on the second-to-last play in regulation—and yet lose to Chicago in overtime?
The present of a first-round bye and hosting a playoff game at home is now in the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles.
I remember seeing the Bears Mr. Clutch, Robbie Gould, miss a 45-yard field goal on the very first possession of overtime.
The Vikings had to have taken advantage of such a golden opportunity; could someone please check again?
Because I can’t believe the Vikings left Chicago empty-handed after Mr. Gould’s generous gift.
The Minnesota Vikings were undoubtedly left with a bitter taste in their mouths after last night’s game. Many fans were likely playing the “what if” game as they went to sleep.
What if the first extra point weren’t bobbled? The Vikings would have won by a point.
What if Bernard Berrian makes the catch over the middle? The Vikings would have at least scored a field goal.
What if the Jasper Brinkley pass interference call on Greg Olsen wasn’t made? The Bears would have only scored a field goal instead of a touchdown.
While the “what if” plays are enjoyable to grouse about, the Vikings didn’t lose last night’s game on those three plays. What was most disturbing to Vikings fans was:
1) The defense could not get any consistent pressure rushing just the four linemen. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on several occasions had what seemed like an eternity to survey the field and set his feet to throw before feeling any real pressure.
Yes, there was no Pat Williams commanding double-team attention, and the pressure hopefully will get better next week.
However, every once in a while it would be nice to see one of the Vikings' linemen bull-rush an opposing offensive lineman on their way to sacking the quarterback.
2) The Vikings are telegraphing their blitzes and they are getting burned.
The most obvious example last night was the first play in overtime, in which the Bears put themselves in field goal position with a 33-yard deep strike to Devin Aromashodu.
Some credit should be given to Cutler for gesturing at the line to get Minnesota to tip their hand. However, the Vikings are only going to see experienced quarterbacks in the playoffs, so they need to break themselves of this habit quickly.
3) Antoine Winfield is not playing like Antoine Winfield. His foot injury appears to still be bothering him.
When Winfield has to cover someone on a stop-and-go route, Winfield is not driving off of his plant foot to recover fast enough to get back into the route. When Winfield is in a jump-ball situation, he has no explosion out of his leap to break up a pass.
Cutler's 39-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Devin Aromashodu and the first deep pass in overtime were both thrown at Winfield, and there was clear separation on both plays.
4) The offensive line is losing the battle in the trenches. While Bryant McKinnie clearly has not been able to slow down the opposing team’s best pass rusher over the last several weeks, he is not the only problem.
When Favre is getting sacked, it is because several offensive linemen are getting beat, resulting in opposing players getting an opportunity to lay a hit on Favre. The silver lining in the dark cloud is that the offensive line played much better in the second half.
5) Special teams play on kick coverage is deteriorating. The Vikings' kick coverage has vastly improved from last season; however, the last few weeks has seen the kick coverage team revert back to its old ways. Are players overrunning the play? Is there no lane integrity? Are players on the kick coverage team a little too winded from picking up the slack in other areas, as a result of injuries to players such as E.J. Henderson?
The answer is that it is a little bit of all of the above.
Of course, not all of the news last night was bad for the Vikings. There were positives.
In the second half, the Vikings scored 30 points in less than ideal conditions, and almost every playmaker on the sideline contributed to the team’s success.
The Vikings are a dangerous team, because you can’t just focus on a handful of players.
Five players caught at least three passes: Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Adrian Peterson, Visanthe Shiancoe and Percy Harvin.
Four other players also caught at least one pass: Greg Lewis, Chester Taylor, Jimmy Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan.
The only eligible receiver who did not to catch a pass was fullback Naufahu Tahi. If Favre had had one more second before his pocket collapsed, Tahi might even have gotten on the board with a one-yard shovel pass.
Favre played well. Yes, he lost a fumble. Yes, he threw two passes in two tight windows that on second thought should not have been thrown.
However, Favre played like a Hall of Fame quarterback, throwing for 326 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His throws over the middle were tight spirals with zip. His throw to Sidney Rice in the back corner of the end zone was a beautiful touch pass.
After the Bears failed to score on their first possession in overtime, did any Viking fan really think that their team was not going to prevail?
If the Vikings defense can find a way to make a few more stops, and the offensive line can give Favre just enough time—Favre will find a way to win.
Maybe the gift that Vikings fans got last night was hope that their team can turn it around just in time to make a deep playoff run.
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