A close friend of mine, who was unable to watch the vast majority of Sunday’s game against the Rams, called me shortly after the game had concluded. She asked how the game ended up and what I thought of the contest. My response: “It is what it was.” Without thinking too much about how I answered her question, we moved on to talk a few specifics before saying our goodbyes as I was getting ready to head out the door for a Sunday jog.
On that jog I thought a bit more about the game and where I was going to go with this week’s edition of “After the Dust Settles.” I kept coming back to the aforementioned assessment - “It is what it was.” Maybe we, as fans, had been spoiled through the first 4 weeks of the 2009 season. The level of challenge that this week’s opponent should have provided was about that of the first 2 weeks of the year when the Vikings faced Cleveland and Detroit - 2 games that were far closer than the final tally in St. Louis. The obvious difference was turnovers. While the Rams turned the ball over 4 times, our favorite squad held tight and had just 1. All told, the 38-10 victory over an inferior opponent was the exact result that this team should have been expected to put up.
As big of a game as the Monday night contest against the Packers was, the real guts of the schedule begins this week at home against Baltimore. The Ravens dropped their 2nd consecutive game of the season to the Bengals this past Sunday, so they are going to want a bounce-back result. They have to be among one of the bigger anomalies in the league over the course of the last few years in that they, as often as anyone, seem to win games they should lose and vice versa; yet, they have all the talent they need to give the Vikings all they can handle. At times they run the ball as well as any team in the league and Joe Flacco is a QB who matures with each passing week.
After the game against Baltimore, our favorite squad heads on the road for two weeks – at Pittsburgh and Green Bay - prior to its Week 9 bye. In thinking about the schedule thus far, our stiffest opponents (Green Bay and San Francisco) have had the challenge of traveling to Mall of America Field at the HHH Metrodome while the more modest foes (Cleveland, Detroit, and St. Louis) have been the road games. The Week 7 game against the Steelers puts that streak to a halt. While currently sitting at 2-2 following a 28-20 win over the Lions that was closer than it should have been, I still consider them to be among the best teams in the AFC. Across the border, the Packers play host to that same Detroit team the week before traveling to play the Browns. I’m rarely a betting man, but if forced to wager, I’d bet they enter that November 1 game sitting at 4-2 and prime for a matchup against their former signal-caller.
On Sunday we did not discover a great deal about our team that we didn’t know already - that this group is absolutely among the best in the NFC and will challenge for a spot to represent the conference at season’s end. Through 5 games, we have discovered that the squad the coaching staff and front office put together to make a strong run has lived up to its high expectations. At 5-0, most fans have to be in the same boat I am - happy to sit atop the standings in the NFC North, following a squad that is for the most part void of question marks, and excited to see if the Week 9 bye will be entered into with a period or an exclamation point.
Long-time followers of this column will know that my 2 favorite former Vikings of all-time are Nate Burleson and Brian Russell, so I would be remiss if I didn’t issue an “attaboy” to Burleson following a 2nd straight productive game for the Seahawks…speaking of my favorite Vikings players over the course of my tenure, recognition should be given to Randy Moss for what I believe was his 1st career INT against the Broncos on Sunday. It’s not that Bill Belichick is the only coach to use some offensive players in specialty situations (be it “hands units” on special teams or the continued use of Mike Vrabel in goal line situations regardless of whom he plays for), but I appreciate when head coaches recognize the talent of their players and find creative ways to use it…I am quite glad that I am not a fan of Buffalo or Cleveland - the 6-3 win by the Browns, despite only 2 completions by Derek Anderson, had to be among the toughest games to watch all year…My Game Ball goes to
Wow! What a game against the Packers on Monday; I’m glad to have said I saw it.
I don’t know for sure, but I’d guess I was among the oldest fans in attendance on Monday night. I’ve been a fan of the Vikings my entire life but my life started far before yours did - and long before any of the players as well.
This past summer I turned 88. I hadn’t been to a game since the 80’s at some point (forgive my memory, but I do recall it was a game led by Tommy Kramer in the earlier part of that decade). When my son found out
I must say it was a treat and will go down as one of my favorite memories in all the years of Vikings lore. Thank you to the team for giving me this great memory.
Twin Cities, MN
P.S…my daughter-in-law helped me write this e-mail, so thanks to her too!
Thank you for the e-mail, George. I’m glad that you were able to derive this kind of experience out of Monday’s game.
I can’t belabor the point any further: This week’s game against the Ravens gives us the best benchmark thus far how good this team is. I feel cautiously optimistic. As always, please feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via www.wearevikingsfans.com. Until next time, it’s been a pleasure…