January 25, 2010
The Minnesota Vikings lost the NFC championship game because of turnovers, particularly Brett Favre's(notes) horrid interception in the waning seconds of regulation. But pragmatism has no place in playing the blame game after your favorite team's loss. So, to you, Vikings fans, consider the following things you can carp about following the loss to the New Orleans Saints.
1. Late-fourth-quarter-Brett-Favre turning into 2003 Brett Favre: He hadn't really done it all season. But then on third-and-15 in the last few seconds of the game, with his team on the cusp of getting into field-goal range, Favre rolls out right, passes up an easy eight-yard scramble and fires a ball across his body to a covered Sidney Rice(notes) and the ball was picked by Tracy Porter(notes). It was a play we've all seen a dozen times. Favre trying to dangerously play the hero. He had held back for much of the season, not throwing the ball into quadruple coverage or with his left hand while getting sacked by an entire defensive line. He has grown up, finally. But then: the interception, same as it was in his last NFC championship game with the Packers and in so many tight spots before. But, hey, at least Tom Jackson thinks he's aces. ("He's not afraid to throw a pick. That's the thing I admire most about him," Jackson said on "SportsCenter." I share the same sentiments about Adrian Peterson and his fumbling. Because he's not afraid to fumble, I admire him. As do teams he's playing against.)
2. Fumbles: Speaking of fumbles, what were the Vikings' gloves made of Sunday, glycerine? Hold on to the ball guys. Worst of all, every bouncing ball seemed to go right into the arms of a New Orleans Saints player.
3. Overtime rules: They'll get no sympathy from me on this one because I happen to like the NFL's overtime rules. But it's true (and I'm sure Peter King will rant about it in Monday Morning Quarterback) that the Saints got the ball first in overtime and never gave it back. Conversely it's also true that Minnesota bailed out New Orleans on a third-and-five with a pass interference and then allowed a fourth-down conversion. Translation: The Vikes had plenty of chances to get the ball back.
3. Refs: The officials didn't lose the game for Minnesota, but it's fun to blame them and I'm sure plenty of Vikes fans will, particularly with three calls in overtime. An awful pass interference penalty extended the Saints' game-winning drive (the ball was uncatchable and the PI itself was questionable, at best) and there were two iffy spots given to New Orleans that led to first downs. One was on a crucial spot on a fourth-down dive by Pierre Thomas(notes) The Saints' running back leaped over the pile, stuck the ball past the first-down line, but seemed to lose control of the ball at impact and ended up well before the first-down line.
On one hand forward progress is forward progress, so Thomas clearly got past the first-down line. But the first-down line isn't like the plane of the endzone. Things can happen after Thomas' ball gets to the marker and, in this case, it jostled back in his hands.
There was no way referee Pete Morelli could overturn the call, there wasn't the necessary indisputable visual evidence to do so. But had the ball been spotted a few paces back, he probably wouldn't have been able to overturn it either. It was the definition of a judgment call. And, like on so many other plays on Sunday night, the Vikings didn't quite get the break.
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