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Road to playoffs open ...but beware the swoon (11/11/2009)
By John Edstrom

Well fans, after the pratfalls suffered by the Bears and Packers this last week while the Vikes lounged on the sidelines, the tendency to gloat is almost counterweighed by a sense of anticlimax – is that all there is for the Northern Division this year? Of course, this is the emotional reaction that terrifies coaches, and gets them fired if not detected early and thoroughly eradicated with terpentine and ammonia.

It is just the sort of attitude that could get the Vikes defeated this Sunday, even though facing the lowly Lions at home. Based on what we’ve seen so far, the Purple could go to the Super Bowl. Or they could stub their toe against Detroit and end their season in a swoon. There is more than a little precedent for that, and the NFL is so heavily weighted in favor of offense that a team with suspect defense, like the Vikes, could catch a few bad breaks and stumble on the way home. If the Vikings defense continues to collapse in the second half, it will soon become evident that Brett Favre is not made of miracles and may already have used up this season’s allotment.

What we must hope for is that Antoine Winfield will make a healthy return and once again anchor a defense that will stop the run, hold down big plays, and not panic when the other guys go kamikaze, facing a big deficit in the second half. Lately we have been seeing a lot of missed tackles, not only by defensive backs, but linebackers as well. Then, pass coverage breaks down, panic sets in, and no lead is safe – the worst of all worlds for the fan. It is perhaps not realistic to hope that one player can stand between us and all of this misery, but I would repeat my contention that Winfield is the keystone of this defense, more valuable than Jared Allen or any other player you can name.

The play of Minnesota’s safeties has been subject to many lapses in tackling and pass coverage, no tough call for even the casual observer. I don’t think the Vikes can get to the Super Bowl if these two do not pick up their game noticeably. All else is in place, but the Purple will never get by Drew Brees and the Saints, no matter at home or away, with the kind of pass defense they are playing currently. 


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