It's an old adage that defense wins championships, and the Denver Broncos proved the statement's truth in their 24-10 Super Bowl win over Carolina Sunday night.
Broncos linebacker Von Miller recorded five tackles, two forced fumbles and 2.5 sacks in the contest to take home Super Bowl MVP honors.
As Viking Update's John Holler reminded, Minnesota has a dynamic defense as well, and while the Vikings didn't get to the Super Bowl this year, their 11-5 record and NFC North division title reflected their ability to hold opponents' scoring at bay.
*The Vikings success in 2015 was a testament to what an improved defense can do for a team in the modern era. The Vikings offense was centered [on] a running game that was augmented by passing, not the other way around. Yet, when all was said and done, they finished 11-5 and finally wrestled away the NFC North championship from the Packers. *
Holler pointed out that, in 16 of their 17 games, the Vikings limited their opponents to two or fewer touchdowns. Talent at all three levels of the defense – defensive end Everson Griffen, linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith – represented Minnesota at the 2016 Pro Bowl, and the unit looks to continue developing under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
Denver showed that an oppressive defense can make up for an offense that consistently struggled to points on the board. Given the high-octane nature of the new NFL, strong offenses can take teams a long way. But, when it comes right down to it, defenses still win championships and the Vikings have a lot of pieces already in place to pick up where the Broncos left off and make a run for the title that has eluded them for more than 50 years.
*Star Tribune *writers share Super Bowl memories
In honor of the Super Bowl celebrating its 50th anniversary, former and current writers for* the Star Tribune* reminisced about past Super Bowls and shared specific memories.
Longtime columnist Sid Hartman, a close friend of former Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant, recalled moments from several different Super Bowls, including Super Bowl XI, in which the Vikings lost to Oakland.
The night before the game, I roomed with Grant at the hotel. Bud ate about three gallons of ice cream that night. Bud liked ice cream. I knew Al Davis, the Oakland owner, real[ly] well from when he worked for Sid Gillman. I was the only media guy who could watch the Vikings practice, and Davis was bugging me for a scouting report. I told him, and I don't know why I said it, that the Vikings think they can block a punt.
The Raiders had the great punter, Ray Guy, who had never had a punt blocked. Sure enough, Fred McNeill blocked a punt and the Vikings got the ball at the Oakland 3-yard line early in the game. But Brent McClanahan fumbled the ball away, and Oakland just dominated after that.
Former writer Jim Klobuchar also remembered covering the Vikings Super Bowl matchup with Oakland.
Klobuchar said Vikings fans upheld their "Minnesota Nice" reputation even after a fourth loss at the big dance, and they continued to welcome the team home in droves.
They met the Vikings on their return from the loss to Oakland in impressive numbers. Grant thanked them for their loyalty and paused to answer a few questions. Somebody asked him why the team seemed to have so much trouble in the Super Bowl.
Grant weighed this reasonable question and, being Bud the pragmatist as always, answered: "Sometimes the other guys are better."
Most fans, being fans, found this answer candid but unacceptable.
Vikings owners looking ahead to 2016
Vikings owner and President Mark Wilf spoke at a press conference in the Super Bowl 50 media center Friday. According to Mark Craig of The Star Tribune, Wilf's message was one of positivity and motivation, looking ahead to the 2016 season rather than dwelling on the outcome of the Vikings-Seahawks Wild Card matchup. Wilf said the following:
"[Tough losses are] very hard to take, but I think time heals things and the NFL is a 365 treadmill. We already went to the Senior Bowl. We're right back working. We met with Coach [Mike] Zimmer and [General Manager] Rick [Spielman]. We had some conversations this week and are already starting to plan for this coming year. So we're on to the next year."
Wilf echoed the sentiments of several Vikings players at the end of the season, saying the team will use the bitter taste of a loss as motivation to continue developing. He also said that the Vikings success in 2015 was undeniable.
"The fact of the matter is, sure, we would have liked to have kept going. We feel we have a strong team here. But we had a lot of great steps this year. We won the division. It's a tough division, a lot of tough teams. Beating the Packers in that last game and winning the division and having the confidence of how we played in that playoff game, I think that's going to bode well for the future for all young players to have that kind of experience."