EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –
Boone said “What went wrong?” is a question he simply can’t escape.
“I’ll dwell on it until April,” Boone told Twin Cities media members on Monday. “There will be teams in the playoffs that we beat, and there are teams that we could have beat and should have beat, but ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ gets you nothing in this league.”
Boone, who signed as a free agent with the Vikings last spring, said he continues to mentally review game film over and over, looking for the smallest things he could have done differently.
“There’s things I want to take back, things I wish I could do better,” Boone said. “It was a good year but not good enough. I think everybody wants to have something back.”
It’s the narrow losses that gnaw at him the most.
One play that specifically plagues Boone is a block at Washington on Nov. 13, a game the Vikings ended up losing by six points after being held scoreless in the second half. At one point, quarterback
“I blocked the linebacker, but I saw the corner traveling with [Thielen], and I just think that maybe if I would have dove and got in his way, Thielen would have scored for sure,” Boone recalled. “Things like that. It’s a cruel, cruel business, but it will just sit there forever.
“[Hall of Fame defensive end] Howie Long told me a long time ago, ‘This is a brief existence, but it’s a tortured existence,’ ” Boone added. “It will just keep you up all night thinking, ‘What if I would have done this?’ … The tiniest things will drive you nuts.”
Boone isn’t the only one in Minnesota’s locker room perpetually pressing “replay.”
Robison realizes that even one more win along the way could have improved their final 8-8 record and possibly made the difference between playoffs or no playoffs.
“We went over the scenarios in our head,” Robison said, who noted both narrow losses to the division-rival Lions in addition to the Washington matchup.
Like Boone wishes he could take back the missed block, Minnesota’s defense would love to redo the final 23 seconds of regulation time against Detroit on Nov. 6 in which they allowed the Lions to drive down the field to kick a game-tying field goal and send the contest into overtime.
“There’s a couple games where we really didn’t play how we should have played,” Smith said. “We didn’t do the things [we’re known for]. We didn’t create turnovers, we didn’t play our ‘everybody do your job’ type of defense, and that created the bad plays, giving up big plays.”
Smith has analyzed his performance during the midseason slump and said it’s possible that players actually tried too hard.
“You’re trying to do everything so right that you stop playing normal football – you get too anxious or something like that,” Smith said. “That’s something that, personally, I fall into. You kind of have to monitor yourself and calm down and play how you’re coached.”
A decline in Vikings performance could be credited to a number of things, including a vicious injury bug that attacked Minnesota throughout the season.
While the offensive line was arguably hit the hardest, fielding eight different starting combinations throughout the year, Boone said it’s not an excuse.
“If you’re out there, you’re expected to play 100 percent and get the job done,” Boone said. “[But] I’m proud of the effort everybody gave. Nobody ever slacked out there. They gave it all they had, and that’s something to be proud of.”
Boone has regrets about the 2016 season, but donning purple isn’t one of them.
“This is my team,” he said. “I wouldn’t ever second-guess my decision to come here.”
Added Boone: “You look back and you think, ‘[Gosh], we had so much talent, and we had so much going into this season.”
The Vikings have entered the offseason, but their inner critics haven’t. According to Boone, there’s only one appropriate response:
“Learn from it, get better and come back ready to roll.”