I suppose I should have expected the Saints to win. After all, Brett Favre has never lost an NFC Championship to a team that did not go on to win the Super Bowl. 1995 Dallas Cowboys, 2007 New York Giants, and now, the 2009 New Orleans Saints.
So what are some of the first things I took away from this game? Well, one, Peyton Manning really did not impose his will on this Saints defense. Despite getting relatively little pressure and even less hits, and no bone-jarring, nasty hits, Manning seemed to flinch under heavy blitzing. Despite the steady pockets built for him, he seemed skittish, and he continually audibled out into running plays when he read blitz, or, got rid of the ball early.
The pass that was picked off and returned for a touchdown by Tracy Porter in the fourth quarter looked like something Brett Favre would do, and the connections between it and Favre's interception to Porter don't end there. Both passes were bread and butter elements of the offenses. Favre throwing into the middle of the field against his body, regardless of how much the commentators talk about, "Oh, you just don't do that," Favre does do that, and he's made a career out of being the only guy in the sport who can do that on a regular basis. I feel it was the right decision, but a badly thrown pass. Had it been floated up more, Sidney Rice would have had an open shot at that and expect him to come away with it. Then you have Manning trying to throw the quick pass underneath to the outside.
So, since Manning and Favre come up a lot when talking about the best quarterbacks, who had the better performance against the Saints? Their teams performances really matched up nicely; both secondaries were beaten up, and both teams only got one sack and a couple of additional hits on Brees. In addition, like the Vikings, the Colts also dominated the Saints defense in terms of overall yardage and still lost due to turnovers.
That right there is precisely why I don't think the Vikings defense is very good, even if they have the tight yardage numbers. Meaningless. Defenses that doesn't make the big plays don't win games for you, period, and the Vikings defense is among the worst in the league at making big plays. Thank Brad Childress's defensive personnel decisions.
Back to Favre and Manning. Favre, playing on a sprained ankle, drove the Vikings down to the Saints 10-yard line only to have Bernard Berrian fumble a pass. Then he drove them again to set up Adrian Peterson's game tying 1 1/2-yard touchdown run. Then he completed two crucial third-down passes to move them to within field goal range before throwing the final pick. Brett Favre outplayed Peyton Manning versus the Saints considering what he had going for him.
So, now I'm automatically thinking 2010 Draft picks. Mainly my mind is on the Minnesota Vikings, but I have a few other thoughts sitting around in my head on various teams.
What the Vikings should want to do first is get rid of Bryant McKinnie. The guy is a slacker and an embarrassment to the team. He's a career underachiever and he's past his prime for an offensive lineman. The Vikings need a new left tackle to move forward, and a new right guard for that matter, because Anthony Herrera had an awful season and they need to start phasing him out and be ready to move on by 2011.
Because I think Mike Johnson is the best guard in the draft, I think it's important to make manoeuvring around to get him. My basic thoughts would be to trade a fifth-round draft pick to the Chicago Bears to switch second-round picks with them and get Johnson early with it.
In the third round, I'm looking at choices for left tackle; I think that there are several options out there that will still available and would be steals. Some possible future stars to compliment Johnson on the line in the future, ranking in order of first choice to third choice:
1. Adam Ulatoski, OT 6'8", 296-lbs., Texas
2. Ciron Black, 6'4", 327-lbs., LSU
3. Sam Young, 6'7" 314-lbs., Norte Dame
I have a feeling Ulatoski is the one who could really be an all-star pass blocker and signing him would signal a long-term transition to a more passing-oriented West Coast offense. Childress has to make this decision, I feel. Because teams have figured out Adrian Peterson, defenses know how to shut him down, and in order to stop them from devoting the resources to do that every time Childress needs to step forward with a balanced passing attack that will open up the run and keep defenses off balance.
Ciron Black is a strong, physical guy who is very tough and extremely dependable. He doesn't get hurt, and, all in all, he would be a great, physical run blocker but he really struggled pass blocking at times at LSU. Though he is ranked second, I think he would be a bad decision on Childress's part—another Phil Loadholt.
Sam Young is another pass blocking guy, and not an especially good one at that. I would pick him up only if no one else was available, but he could develop into a Pro Bowl pass blocker if he got stronger and worked on his agility.
Having revamped the aging and poorly playing offensive line with two younger, more motivated, and likely more talented players, I return to the first pick. The Vikings staff has to be jumping for joy that Terrence Cody has blown all his hype and slid out of the first round in most projections while turning off most NFL teams. I'm exhilarated, personally. Whatever his weight, it doesn't matter, Cody is the real deal and he's the best big, mean, nasty nose tackle available in the NFL draft.
He's a future All-Pro DT, I've never been so sure of anything in my life. I just look at the fact that the guy can still move so fast and so agilely at his size. What to do with him is simple; you draft him, and then you make it clear that he's got to lean up and muscle up with a healthier diet. You put him in NFL Fat Camp and you lean him up about 40 or so pounds to 330. Then you start integrating him in with Pat Williams, (hopefully one last season), and Jimmy Kennedy beside Kevin Williams...oh I just get shudders thinking about the nightmare of a match up it would be.
Mark Richt said he didn't think anybody on the pro-level would able to single team him when he got adjusted. He is the best possible replacement for Pat Williams, maybe even better. And for a team whose defensive line is the defensive soul, the Vikings have to devote this first round draft pick to securing their strength for the next decade or so.
The Vikings need to re-sign Ray Edwards. No sense drafting another rookie DE when you've already got a solid guy who's getting better it seems to me and who has a shot at being a solid position player.
Release Chester Taylor; he's a great third-down and receiving back, but he's not worth the money. Move Percy Harvin to fill in that position. Vikings spent a first-round draft pick on Harvin, who failed to make much of a positive impact after the Arizona game in Week Twelve—now they should make him earn it. Keep him at slot when Peterson is in the backfield, and switch him over occasionally on third and first downs; with the main intent of giving Peterson more touches while calling fewer run plays.
Now then, here is the little pièce de résistance to building a Vikings Super Bowl team: picking up Terrell Owens off the free agent market. Owens is going to be available, and due to a bad season at Buffalo, his age, and his bad reputation, he'll be available at a steal of a price for what I think he can still do with a good quarterback. Owens also serves, conveniently, as a little syrup on top of the team the Vikings will be offering to convince Brett Favre that coming back another season is in his best interest. It makes him more confident he'll be able to make more plays, avoid more sacks, and pull in that elusive second Super Bowl.
Various other players struck me as fitting in with other teams. I also expect the Rams to begin turning around their franchise by drafting Ndamukong Suh. This guy has the ability to be a make a huge impact as a starter in just his first year and only get better from there. He's the sort of lineman you don't see available every year, just like Jake Long a few years back. The Rams defense has been atrocious, and Steve Spagnuolo is a defensive coach and he's going to want to start building up a new group to build his future around.
So, I think they draft Suh in the first to plug in and add a spark to their defense and they draft Tony Pike in the second to fill in their QB situation. Marc Bulger is delusional if he thinks the Rams are going to give him another season, he's had three mediocre ones in a row now. Pike is a good quarterback, and he has good physical traits. He's 6'6", has long arms, big hands, a quick release; I think he's a future star on the next level. What I noticed about him in the Florida game is how cool he is, and that might have been what got him noticed by NFL franchises.
Under constant pressure, his team getting dominated in every single regard, he stayed cool and collected to throw three touchdowns and at least help keep his team from being terribly embarrassed. He'll be a good future player for them.
Russell Okung seems to me to be the best pass blocking tackle available in the draft right now, so I feel like the Detroit Lions will draft him. They invested a lot of money and hope for the future in Matthew Stafford. Now they need to follow through with that trust and build a team around him with which he can win, and one of the first holes they need to fix is improving their offensive line to protect their investment.
The Bucs will draft Eric Berry, who's the next Ed Reed.
I'm most interested to see what Pete Carroll can do with his two draft picks. Knowing Carroll, he doesn't like to start rookie QBs whom he hasn't worked with before, so I think Matt Hasselbeck has a great chance of getting one more season. Because I get the feeling the Redskins are considering giving Jason Campbell one more chance, Carroll will get a chance to draft Sam Bradford sixth overall. I just suspect he will use Hasselbeck as a luxury in order to avoid throwing Bradford straight to the wolves and instead giving him a year to learn the offense and get adjusted to the different feel of the NFL.
Of course, he'll need new blood and fresh talent in the receiving corps if he wants to build a team for the future. Aaron Hernandez at tight end and Carroll's USC progeny Damien Williams are likely to be the two prime additions he makes this season.
As a fan of the Seahawks, I'm eager to see what Carroll does and how quickly he can turn the franchise around.
So, minutes after a historic New Orleans Super Bowl win, it's already time to start considering what will happen next season. Hopefully they'll be a lot of fun and games this draft season and I hope my perspectives are right. Much like a Presidential race, five minutes after the victory it is now time to start looking forward to next season.