Well fans, when the familiar yellow hanky fluttered against the Vikes after the opening kickoff, I thought, here we go again. How wrong I was. If I were the sort of person who offers up prayers in hopes of altering the course of football games, Sunday would have been a yes answer in every detail. What a perfect maraschino cherry to garnish this dreadful cow flop of a season, magically transforming it into rich, rich chocolate!
If the Vikes proceed onward to Philadelphia and do nothing more than fall headlong and have their bowels gush out, I don't even care. Sunday was enough. It is all I would dare to ask for. It erases all -- well, most -- of this season's pain and makes it once again possible to look forward to next year.
However, I did have a particularly bad moment when Morten Andersen fell on his rump and missed that field goal. (You read it here first. It was actually a bad hold. The ball had tipped over sideways before Andersen's toe ever got there.) At that point I was sure that the Vikes were destined to lose the game, once again, on a last second three-pointer. Wrong fate.
Instead, the defense stiffened and the offense, after sputtering once again, roared back to life and ran out the clock, burying the last half of the fourth quarter. Had the Vikes played defense this well all season, they could have gone 12-4 or better.
Now, we can dare to believe that something wonderful has happened and the Vikes might even slip past the T.O.less Eagles, although anyone leaning very hard on that slender reed of hope is likely to fall down and break his elbow. Longtime fans will remember, however, the playoff run the Purple mounted in one of the Jerry Burns years when, after a fairly undistinguished season, they soundly whipped good Saints and 49ers teams and came within a dropped Darrin Nelson pass down on the goal line from proceeding on to the Super Bowl.
Stranger things have happened to this franchise, for instance, Randy Moss. And what's all this carping about his little prank? He didn't actually get his pants down, did he? I call that progress, in a slow but steady process of maturation.
A victory for the Purple next Sunday will probably key on picking up the blitz better than the Vikes have been doing these past few weeks. They have not handled pressure well, and losing Moe Williams won't help. Without Owens, the Eagles haven't been scoring a lot of points, but their defense is playing great. Culpepper is going to need time to throw, plus the threat of a running game, in order to put up enough points to win.
And of course, the Purple will have to avoid shooting itself in the foot, a much more difficult task for these guys.