by: Bronko Wilkersen
This past Sunday, the Minnesota vikings lost their first game of the season. Given that their previous opponents were of questionable quality, this may be cause for some alarm among the Viking faithful. My view, however, is somewhat different.
In the first place, the Vikings were playing the world champions on their own field. A win under these circumstances would be exceptional for any team. Secondly, the lost in a sand lot free for all that could have gone either way. The fourth quarter was one of the most exciting quarters of football I've seen in more decades of football watching than I care to admit.
But most importantly, I think the Vikings have a solid team in every phase of the game.
Most important is their new quarterback, veteran of a couple of retirements, Brett Favre. Now, there are a couple of side issues here that I think important. I get tired of superstars "retiring" and then "coming out of retirement." Even for superstars like Michael Jordan and Favre, take heed of Emily Post's advice: "having risen to leave, LEAVE." But when Brett announced he was considering "coming out of retirement," my least favorite sports commentator said "what a shock." Only time I've agreed with Mr. Halstrom.
But Favre is different. He still plays the game with all the energy of a sand lot player. Remember the downfield block he made earlier in the season? the national announcers said that he would be talked to by the Vikings staff and not do it again. They were wrong on at least one count. So Favre is still having fun out there, and plays the game with a vim and vigor seldom seen in the NFL. In fact, I've known NFL players and have been very close to the playing field in the early days of the Vikings(remember that the left field fence was the back of one of the endzones in the old Met? I used to sit in the first row behind that fence). If these players were having fun, you could have fooled me. Professional football is brutal, hard, battering, bruising and stressful. Most player's careers are just a few years They just can't take anymore. Stand by the tunnel when a team takes the field and see if you think these people are about to have fun. But Favre seems to do it. That makes him almost unique, out of retirement.
Moving on, Adrian Peterson is obviously a superstar. I don't think the Vikings have ever had a running back of his caliber.
One thing that has always concerned me about the Vikings is their line play, both offense and defense. Even in the days of the Purple People Eaters, their defensive line was so ferocious that they actually won ballgames by themselves. But there was an easy way to beat them that apparently nobody except Hank Stram, the dapper coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, saw. Simple. Don't throw passes. The year the Vikings made it to their first super bowl(against the Chiefs), I watched a televised game between Kansas City and someone else in which the Chiefs won and did not throw a single pass. I thought to myself at the time, "that's how to beat the Vikings." Sure enough, it came to pass.
From that point on, the Vikings pass rush began to detereorate until in the 90's it was non-existent. For a couple of decades it was poor, and I ceased being a Viking fan, because the defensive philosophy was one that couldn't work. That is, rush the passer on every play regardless. The Williams boys have plugged this gap in the vikings defense.
From the start, the Vikings offensive line has been spotty. There is, I think, a maxim: give an NFL quarterback enough time and he will complete a pass to somebody, probably in an inconvenient place on the filed for the defense. Thus the anemic Vikings pass rush of the past and their inability to protect the quarterback is a double loser. But now they're able to protect Favre while limiting the opponents quarterback's time, so I think they're solid on both sides of the ball.
There have been some injuries, particularly in the defensive secondary, but that happens to everybody.
So take heart, Vikings fans: you might have a good second half of the season ahead of you.