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December 21, 2009 - Per Peterson
Sunday night. Primetime on NBC. Road game. National TV. Linebacker carted off the field. So much to play for. Embarrassing loss. Talk about deja vu. The Vikings laid another nationally-televised egg Sunday, two weeks after squirting one out in Arizona. This isn’t the way to show the country that you’re an elite team in the NFL boys. Fact is, they’re not an elite team. They don’t have chinks in their armor, they have holes. Gaping ones. The running game has disappeared, Favre, gamer that he is, really looks old, Childress is reverting back to the days when a field goal post could outcoach him and the defense, which hasn’t been able to force hardly any turnovers all season, is proving it’s still not good enough to win games on days (make that nights) when the offense refuses to show up. A little less than two weeks ago, I told readers in this space to find the panic button on their remote control because they might just need it. And while the Vikings have already locked up a playoff spot, I think it’s appropriate to hit it. NOW! This team is not playing like a playoff team; they’re playing like a team that knows it’s in already — that’s not a mentality of an elite team. To be elite, you have to prove it on the field, physically, but you also have to have that winning attitude. I’m not talking about that swagger crap, shoot, every athlete has swagger — it’s called cockiness. I’m talking about mentally being focused on every game, every quarter, every down. The Vikings players don’t have it — one or two players might, but that obviously doesn’t cut it. The good news is, this has happened to other teams. Just last year, the Arizona Cardinals were playing like garbage down the stretch, losing four of their last five, getting blown out at home and on the road. Then they just about won the Super Bowl. Turnarounds like that do happen, but the Vikings need to figure out how to pull an Arizona. And, of course, they have to win these last two games. They’re only one more loss away from finding themselves tied with the Eagles for the No. 2 playoff spot. No team is playing better football now than Philly and it could sneak into that No. 2 spot this weekend if they’re not careful. Every team (maybe the Colts are the exception) has bad games, so there’s no reason to give up on a strong playoff run this year for the Vikings, but they need to fix things ASAP, and these last two regular-season games won’t be a stroll in the park. Winning at Chicago in December is never easy, and their finale comes against a team in the Giants that might have a playoff berth on the line as opposed to the one that has come in here before in the past with nothing to play for because they were so good. Childress, like his players, had a bad night Sunday. Not only was he outcoached, but he failed to pull the trigger on Favre and get him out of the game despite apparently wanting to. Bottom line is, he should’ve. I don’t care what it would’ve looked like to the fans, to the media, to his QB, Favre should’ve been horse collared out of the game. A mobile quarterback like Taravis Jackson would’ve come in handy against that nasty Carolina pass rush. Instead, Favre was a sitting duck. He looked like a post out there with the exception of that one play where he could’ve been sacked three times but got away. Jackson would have brought another dimension to that offense, an escapability feature that would have helped the offense stay on the field. Childress, like his team, choked. We know the Vikings will be in the playoffs this year, but the NFC North champions had better step it up. After all, their next game is a primetime, nationally-televised, night road game. Sound familiar?
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