Two words: “well in”.
The better team won. Actually, let me rephrase that: the team that deserved to win, won. The team that wanted it more, won. The team that came out in the fourth quarter playing to win, not playing not to lose, won. The team that did play not to lose, that abandoned its formula for success, that lost faith in its Pro Bowl quarterback at a strange yet critical jucture, that committed a host of unbelievable mental errors, that featured a defence more easily penetrable than Paris Hilton–that team lost. And that team is mine.
Yet we so easily could have won: were it not for an incredibly stupid holding penalty I would very likely not be writing this letter. Or would I be? What I don’t get is this. In the first half, Daunte Culpepper was killing your team: 7/9 passing for 190 yards, three touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Yet even with our quarterback throwing a perfect game, our defence couldn’t hold serve. Think about that for a second. Our quarterback was throwing a perfect game and it still wasn’t good enough. Then, in the second half, with the game on the line and Culpepper just itching to lead Minnesota to a win, what happened? The coaches took the ball out of his hands. And then we imploded. Five yard false start penalty. An inexcusable offensive holding call that negated a fifteen yard gain for a first down. From 1st-and-10 inside Green Bay territory to 1st-and-25 deep inside the Vikings’ own half in five short seconds, followed by…
- A sweep (no gain)
- An incompletion (no gain)
- A short pass to Jermaine Wiggins
- A punt
Let me see if I understand this. You’ve got a quarterback who’s flirting with perfection, three of the most dangerous receivers in the NFC and a halfback (Wiggins) whose YAC numbers must be nearing some kind of NFL record…and you run the football?? I’m no expert here, but I think we needed 8.3 yards per play to convert–and since our offence was averaging 8.4 yards a play, that should have been a realistic goal. Yet we ran the football on first down; the rest was inevitable. It was at this point that Cameron and I turned to each other and said, “Ballgame.”
On the other side of the field, meanwhile, was one Brett Favre. Let it be known that I don’t hate Brett Favre; rather, it’s the Brett Favre Media Phenomenon I despise. (It reached new, disgusting levels today with that Brett Favre 4ever schlock before the pregame.) Whether you can appreciate my disdain or not is irrelevant; what matters is that tonight, your quarterback took the game “by the scruff of the neck” (to borrow your own well-worn phrase)–and, moreover, had a coach with enough confidence to let him do so. This was not, by any means, a Brett Favre masterpiece–witness his interception toss to Chris Claiborne–and yet Mike Sherman still had enough faith in him to lead his team to victory. Whereas Tice & Co. played not to lose, Sherman let Brett Favre play to win–and honestly, if you’ve got the football with ninety seconds left, two timeouts to burn and Brett Favre at the helm, I’d say your chances of doing so are pretty damn good.
Naturally, our defence sucked–even when they were returning interceptions for touchdowns. Naturally, Donald Driver and Javon Walker had monster stat lines. Naturally, it had to come down to a stupid Ryan Longwell field goal. In the end, however, Green Bay won because of Brett Favre, a coach who has faith in his team’s ability to win and an opposition that keeps finding creative new ways to shoot itself in the foot. In the end, I think the game was best summed up in a two-sentence post from Minniman on the Kansas Viking Message Board:
“They played not to lose on both sides of the ball. They needed to play to win the game.”
Your team played to win. Moreover, when the game was on the line, your coach put the ball into your best player’s hand and said, “Go get ’em.” Ours did not–and it is for that reason that you’re the NFC North champions once again. Congratulations.
A Vikings Fan in Resignation