Well fans, this was another of those games when you had kissed the season goodbye, gone off to the bathroom or refrigerator, and come back to find that the Vikes had won, with statistics that weren't too bad. Football is more a game of chance than we generally acknowledge. Let the Lions receivers hang on to a few balls, or their QB not miss several open receivers, and the Vikes ‘04 season is over. Instead, the Purple is in the thick of it, and probably not a bad bet for the playoffs. They beat the Lions with 22 points this week in a sluggish outing for the offense, (at least initially), and the return of Randy Moss next week, if he is truly back up to speed, should be worth about seven additional points.
Defense is another matter. TV commentator Bill Maas, of whom I have never been that great a fan, did a fine job elucidating the woes of Vikings linebackers in policing their gaps; it is hard to find words to denounce that group harshly enough, especially E.J. Henderson. Yet, in the second half, that all turned around, Henderson's performance foremost. Certainly, Joey Harrington and his receivers were not quite the challenge presented by Peyton Manning or Brett Favre, but it was wonderful to see the Purple defense stop anybody that cold. Who knows what might happen next week against Jacksonville? The Purple is truly a schizoid outfit, and it is always reasonable to hope that young players who are good athletes will improve with experience, particularly after an inspirational come-from-behind victory. It appears that Spencer Johnson is a big improvement over the strangely unproductive Hovan at right defensive tackle and, who knows, the linebacking situation may be stabilizing.
It is hard to know just how bad or good this team is, or its personnel; there has been such an odd combination of bad breaks, wierd officiating, and tight collar play this season -- who, for instance, would ever predict that Chris Liwienski would flinch three times in one game, in the most crucial situations? You would like to see them play one game when they weren't penalized or guilty of some huge mistake on the opening kickoff, and then got off to a fast start on offense.
Who knows? Maybe next week against the Jags. In any case, the Vikes will have to play better from start to finish, or their season will be over soon. A stinko loss next Sunday will be nearly as effective an end to their season as a defeat by the Lions last Sunday. This season is still hanging by a thread.