Well fans, this team is just too hard to watch. I can never remember a year when there was so much greater a measure of dread than pleasure involved in following the Purple. Has there been more than one or two games that didn't go down to the wire? And did the Vikes come from behind to win a single game, or did they almost always either lose on the last play or nearly fritter away a big lead in the fourth quarter?
If you think about the game Sunday, they did just about what they had to do to win. They stopped the Packers early, and got out to an early lead. They were able to keep the Cheeseheads from running the ball, generated some pass rush, and maintained a balanced attack themselves.
It just seemed to get down to the little things. A holding penalty by Marcus Robinson took them out of scoring range on their first possession. An offsides allowed the Pack a first and five instead of second and long on their first scoring drive. Brian Williams misses the tackle to allow the long return just before the half.
Then, after getting close to scoring position at the end of the game, a motion penalty on Sean Burton and holding call on Matt Birk (on a run play which had already gone by him) put the Vikes at first and 25, gave the ball back to Favre, and there's your old ballgame.
The Vikes did most things well enough to win, but what they did best, as usual, was find a way to lose. The defense held up well against the run and covered the Pack wideouts down the field, but time after time when the game was on the line, when it was time to get off the field on third down, a Packer receiver would be running free and Favre would get him the ball. The one thing this team absolutely has to have is linebackers who can get back into pass coverage. The present crew is ordinarily bad, and panic-attacked under pressure.
Under pressure, the Vikes incurred stupid penalties, blew coverages, missed assignments and tackles, and choked away a game that they could have had in hand during the first half. It has become obvious that this defense does not believe it can hold a lead or stop the other guys when it counts and, sure enough, it can't. Then the offense sputters, and it becomes possible to lose to any other team in the league.
If the Vikes have a playoff berth cinched when they meet the "Skins nest Sunday, they will probably win. If the game is crucial, I expect them to lose, just as they do.
It appears Mike Tice will get his additional year, and probably should. He has built a potentially great team which has, after all, been struck especially hard by injuries, and is working with yet another new offensive coordinator. But if he can't figure out how to graft some kind of winning attitude onto it, some sort of belief in itself, the Purple will collapse again next year and we'll all go crazy.
But first we have to get through the playoffs.