The Vikings' opponents for next year are set, but it's time to look at all the repercussions from Sunday's big win in the season finale. It provided entertainment and assessments to shape the future.
Some random thoughts from Sunday's game:
For those forward thinkers who are looking to get Vikings season tickets next year, here is the Vikings' 2013 schedule: At home, they will play the Packers, Bears, Lions, Eagles, Redskins, Panthers and Browns. They will also play the Steelers, but that game will be played in London and deemed a home game for the Vikings. On the road (swallow hard), the Vikings will play the Packers, Bears, Lions, Cowboys, Giants, Ravens, Bengals and Seahawks. In a word: ouch!
Asked if more teammates should get married if the success rate has been similar to his close friend Christian Ponder, Kyle Rudolph said, "Yeah … just not me."
Everson Griffen made a push to finish second on the Vikings in sacks, notching three to finish the season with eight. He lost out, however, as Brian Robison came back to record a sack that was critical to the outcome of the game, as it was the strip/sack that caused the game's only turnover.
From the "You Didn't See Nothin'" Department comes this: Midway through the third quarter Sunday, Adrian Peterson was ruled to have fumbled – a call later reversed – but Packers cornerback Sam Shields recovered the ball and went out of bounds on the Vikings sideline. As offensive tackle Phil Loadholt came to the bench, he saw Shields holding the ball on his sideline. He slapped the ball out of his hand. A flag flew. After the game, Loadholt said he learned a lesson he didn't think was part of the rule book.
"I knocked the ball out of the dude's hand, but I didn't know that was a personal foul," Loadholt said. "I guess it is if you knock the ball out of his hand. I learned a lesson from that. I was glad we were able to overcome it and score a touchdown, but I definitely learned a lesson. Don't touch the ball."
Sunday's game may result in the NFL's rules committee to tighten up the rules on challenge flag etiquette. Mike Carey's explanation of the exact same play that cost the Detroit Lions a legitimate turnover didn't cut muster from the moment he started explaining. Packers coach Mike McCarthy started throwing his challenge flag before Carey finished announcing that the rule on the field was a fumble and a Vikings recovery, which, as coaches are slowly learning, merits an automatic replay and can't be challenged. Jim Schwartz was penalized and it cost his team a game. McCarthy was given a break that should be better explained than it was because it's hard to imagine a coach in fit of anger didn't throw his flag until an official in the booth buzzed for a replay to be initiated.
The teams that had the first three picks when the draft started in April are all in the playoffs.
The Vikings deeply impacted three teams in their four-game run to close out the regular season. Their win over Chicago was what gave them the tie-breaker edge needed to keep the Bears out of the playoffs despite a 10-6 record. When the Vikings went to Houston, the Texans had the chance to be the No. 1 seed in the AFC and force the Road to New Orleans to go through the Texans. Instead, Houston will play Sunday and has almost no chance of playing at home after that. Green Bay could have locked down a bye and, if they had to play San Francisco again, it wouldn't be in the warmth of the second weekend in September, it would be on the second weekend in January. The Vikings shattered all of those.
Discussions with a Minneapolis cop assigned to the Metrodome revealed several arrests were made Sunday dealing with counterfeit tickets being sold outside the stadium. The MPD had an undercover unit looking to buy tickets outside the stadium and, when they spotted suspicious tickets, people were taken down. More people were detained at the gates trying to get in with counterfeit tickets – many of whom were duped outside the stadium. Ah, democracy! A note to the kids out there: Never do business that starts with, "Psst. Hey, buddy."
Here's hoping years from now, Peterson doesn't sit back in a rocking chair and say, "Nine yards. Just nine yards." Who cares what the record book says, had the Vikings unleashed Peterson when he wanted be unmuzzled early in the season, he would have gained 2,300 yards.
The wild card weekend will be interesting for those searching for story angles. The twice-in-a-week Vikings-Packers matchup will be an easy get for the Favre connection. The Washington vs. Washington matchup of the Seahawks and Redskins is too easy. The rematch of the Bengals and Texans in Houston from last year's playoffs will sell itself. As will the old Colts heading to Baltimore and pulling the scab off that wound. All in all, not a bad set of matchups.
There was a lot of speculation that Sunday would be a career-defining day for Ponder – for better or worse. Had he stunk out the joint, there would have been a groundswell of sentiment to go in another direction. As electric as Peterson was, Ponder played as big a role in winning the game as anyone. His pass to Jarius Wright was as perfect a pass that could be thrown and a pair of critical passes to Michael Jenkins won the game.
How does one best describe the look of Antoine Winfield's right hand? The Elephant Man meets an allergic bee sting victim. It ain't pretty … unless you consider pretty scary to be pretty.
I get the feeling that Vikings fans are going to view Blair Walsh in 2013 like Lions fans viewed Jason Hanson in 1993.
The crowd at the Metrodome chanted "MVP" several times for Peterson Sunday, a chant that didn't go unheard by A.D. In many ways, it may be part of the Peterson mystique if he doesn't get it. It might just motivate him to greater heights.