Basking in a Purple playoff berthIt’s not quite as good as a Super Bowl victory, but gee golly gosh, Minnesota’s 37-34 win over Green Bay sure feels good.
By: Casey Johnson, The Jamestown Sun
It’s not quite as good as a Super Bowl victory, but gee golly gosh, Minnesota’s 37-34 win over Green Bay sure feels good.
I’m sure there are lots of Packers fans that will have a good laugh about how pathetic it is to be this happy over a simple playoff berth. But you know what? I don’t really care. We, yes we (I’m too excited to be an impartial bystander), made the playoffs!
Good gracious, where to start?
Despite 10 costly penalties for 98 yards, several injuries in the secondary, tackling like clowns, continuously allowing long third down conversions, giving up 405 total yards of offense, and giving up points on six of Green Bay’s final seven possessions, Minnesota still somehow managed to beat Green Bay in a back and forth barnburner that helps to push memories of past week 17 misery to the back of our memory banks (cough, last second loss to Arizona in 2003 to miss the playoffs).
Thank goodness that Minnesota’s offense came to play. Quite impressively, the Vikings managed to score on 7 of their 10 possessions, and despite the defense’s disappointing showing, Minnesota’s offense had an answer for Green Bay time after time.
In a game in which his future starting job with the Vikings was likely on the line and just five weeks after costing Minnesota a win at Green Bay, Christian Ponder turned in the most complete game of his career. He silenced critics, like myself, for at least another week by going 16 of 28 passing for 234 yards, a startling three touchdowns, and perhaps most importantly, NO TURNOVERS. As it became apparent that Green Bay was going to score every time they got the ball, Ponder made several big plays to put points on the board and to keep the Vikings from trailing.
Ponder’s perfectly thrown 65-yard pass to Jarius Wright in the 4th quarter got the Vikings to Green Bay’s 14-yard line mere seconds after Green Bay had tied the game at 27. On that same drive, his miraculous, rolling left, back-footed touchdown throw to Michael Jenkins on third and goal about made me pass out from jubilation. Sure, it probably should have been intercepted. But it wasn’t, and because of that throw and remarkable catch (which redeemed Jenkins for his touchdown drop just plays earlier), the Vikings got seven more critical points on the board. Had Minnesota been forced to settle for a field goal, Green Bay would have taken the lead with their touchdown on the next possession, and Minnesota would have needed a touchdown, instead of a field goal, at the end of the game.
By the way, thanks Tramon Williams for smacking Jerome Simpson in the face to give Minnesota a new set of downs after a failed 3rd and goal play. Tramon, you weren’t even near the play, and those extra downs led to the Jenkins touchdown. For your generosity, I’ll send you a Christmas card next year.
As it turned out, Green Bay did score a touchdown on their next possession to tie the game at 34, and Minnesota got the ball back with 2:54 left in the game. After a couple of fruitless plays, the Vikings faced a 3rd and 11 from their own 27-yard line, and make no mistake, the game was on the line. But Ponder again answered the call, as he found Michael Jenkins for a 25-yard gain to save the game for the Vikings.
You may be asking yourself why I haven’t mentioned Adrian Peterson and his continued dominance over the Packers yet, but don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten about Adrian “The Alpha Male” and his 199-yard, two-touchdown day. After the Jenkins catch, Peterson took the next couple of handoffs and, while darting dangerously close to the NFL single season rushing record, got the Vikings into chip shot field goal range for Blair “The Mayor” Walsh, who continued to be clutch.
What more could a Vikings fan have asked for?
Our quarterback rose to the occasion like a Wright brother, our running back nearly broke the NFL single season rushing record while continuing to terrorize the Cheesehead defense like some sort of a Godzilla-sized rodent, our rookie kicker continued to be as cool as the other side of the pillow, and most importantly, our team earned a playoff berth just a year after going a brown bag over the head inspiring 3-13.
OK, there was obviously one way that it could have been better. If Adrian had somehow managed to find the end zone on his final run to win the game and break the single season rushing record in one heart-stopping, “is anyone here a doctor?” moment, that would have been a little better. And it certainly would have been a highlight-reel play for all of time. But hey, making the playoffs will have to suffice.
Let us not forget that, just four weeks ago, Minnesota was 6-6, and many Vikings fans were lamenting over the fact that the team had already won too many games and screwed up their draft position.
Anybody still wish that they would have just intentionally tanked this season to get a high draft choice?
As Minnesota has proven this season, the future is now. There is no time to rebuild in the NFL. To paraphrase Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, you don’t rebuild; you reload. And the Vikings were able to accomplish the first goal of their reloading process on Sunday by defeating Green Bay and earning, truly earning, a playoff spot.
Now, do I really think that Minnesota will go into Green Bay next Saturday and win a playoff game at Lambeau Field? Not really. Aaron Rodgers scares me worse than raccoons, bears, and a host of other wild beasts. The man has no problem torching the Vikings, and Sunday’s performance is a perfect example of that. He was an otherworldly 28 of 40 passing for 365 yards and 4 touchdowns. The man just has a swagger that says, “I’m the State Farm spokesman, and no man can stop me.” It is truly horrifying.
That being said, I hope that I’m wrong. Minnesota is on a roll right now. Since losing at Lambeau 5 weeks ago in a game that they should have won, Minnesota has won 4 straight games and is one of the hottest teams in the league. They just beat Green Bay, so it is certainly possible that they could pull the upset.
But no matter what happens next week, Vikings fans should just take a step back and revel in how good it feels to be a playoff team after last season’s debacle. Do you remember how absolutely demoralizing it felt to lose 9 games by 7 points or less? Remember losing double-digit halftime leads in each of the season’s first 3 games? Remember the atrocious play of “Chunky” Donovan McNabb? Remember how uncertain and sad we were after Adrian’s knee injury?
So if for just this week, let’s bask in the awesomeness of beating the Packers to make the playoffs.
Man, what a difference a year can make.
Casey Johnson is a frequent contributor to the Opinion Corner