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Purple must get back on track vs. Lions - Or its goodnight sweet ladies, goodnight, goodnight (11/17/2004)
By John Edstrom

Well fans, shortly after the start of the third quarter your faithful correspondent decided to abandon the Vikes/Packers game early in favor of a somewhat more punctual arrival at a dinner invitation. The post-mortem tape viewing could take place under more felicitous circumstances, that is to say post cocktail hour, when the special torture of watching this year's horrible sieve of a defense would be somewhat mitigated by the substance which makes everything better in the short run. Imagine, then, my surprise when our host, who had been sneaking off to the TV room under cover of replenishing drinks, informed me that the Vikes had come storming back, only to lose on the last play of the game for the second week in a row.

Is it a better team this year, for losing this string of games by closer margins to better teams than last season? So it would seem on paper, but you get the feeling that this defense is not confident it can stop any opponent at any time when it really has to, nor can the offense move the ball and score points except when it is out of the game. A habit of losing seems to be taking hold. The opposing QB is pressured, but just gets the ball off; a Purple defensive back has good coverage but doesn't adjust to the ball; a third down throw is short, but a usually sure tackler misses. The Vikes seem to be finding ways to lose.

Or are the breaks just going against them? Certainly, last Sunday, the officiating was atrocious and mostly went against the Vikes. The continuing misadventures on special teams, where neither punter nor kicker are playing at a high school level, and coverage teams continue to give up big returns when it hurts the most, put unbearable pressure on a defense that has shown brief glimmers of competence. Sunday's game might have been totally different if the usually reliable Brian Williams had moved to the ball instead of giving up the early third down TD on a play when he was in great position. The same could be said for the instances in which he and Antoine Winfield missed tackles to give up third down conversions. Will this kind of thing even out in the second half of the season, or is there just a black cloud hanging over the Purple?

It is certain that the Vikes will have to play better to get to the playoffs, because the Cheesehead resurgence is for real. That means first of all that their linebacking will have to get better quickly. It is a bad sign that a journeyman like Keith Newman continues to start, while the "reindeer," Dontarrious Thomas, is held off the field because he can't fathom the complexities of the NFL, and Raonall Smith continues to be sidelined by what was supposed to be a mild concussion -- sorry fans, I have a headache tonight. It did not appear, Sunday, that Chris Claiborne's return solved any problems, but that could change.

And, as the UW marching band asked, where you at, Randy Moss? It is hard to fault an offense that is scoring about 30 points a game, but it is obvious that the Vikes would both run and pass the ball better, hold it longer, and score more points with a healthy Moss in the lineup. It doesn't sound promising that he will be back next Sunday against the Lions, but that is a team with droopier drawers than the Purple, who should be easily dispatched by 30 points. If the Vikes lose to them it's four in a row and all of your worst nightmares come true; goodbye to another wasteland of a season, goodbye Mike Tice, goodnight sweet ladies, goodnight, goodnight. 


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