Lurtsema's Reaction: Painful Memories

The way in which the Vikings lost a playoff-type game Sunday in Arizona reminded me very much of an infamous 1975 game. Now the Vikings are left to look toward 2004 with a few areas to analyze.

Ex-Vikings punter and current radio sideline reporter Greg Coleman was in the locker room immediately after the game, and his exact words were that he could "feel the pain" in the Vikings' players after they were bounced from the playoffs following an 18-17 loss in Arizona. Well, the pain the players felt at that moment will last a lifetime. Yes, you read that right. The players will feel the pain of this loss forever. They had a good enough offense this year, and, with the improvement in the defense, they had an excellent chance to duplicate what the New England Patriots did two years ago. Instead, the final touchdown for the Cardinals was dictated by a judgement call from an official. Of course, the Vikings never should have put themselves in that position to start with.

The play was Arizona's final touchdown with no time left on the clock when Nathan Poole caught the ball in the end zone while Denard Walker and Brian Russell both hit Poole, knocking him out of the end zone. The official's judgement was that, had Poole not been hit, he would have been able to have both feet touch inside the end zone sideline stripe. This same type of judgement call happened on a fourth-and-12 situation in a playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys one play before that infamous Hail Mary of 1975. One play before the Hail Mary, there was no way Dallas tight end Billy Joe DuPree would have had any chance landing in bounds before cornerback Nate Wright hit him. That play kept us from going to the Super Bowl again during our prime years as the Purple People Eaters. Players know the opportunity to make the playoffs doesn't happen year in and year out, and unfortunately some of the Vikings players will never have that chance again.

Now don't blame Vikings coach Mike Tice for this loss, especially for not taking the field goal on the first drive, when the Vikings were stopped on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. The NFL's No. 1 offense had four opportunities starting at the 3-yard line against the worst defense in the National Football League, the Arizona Cardinals. The players can take the brunt of the blame for not scoring there. And had the good-hands team recovered the onside kick with just 1:54 to go in the game, then Tice would be the toast of the town with a 10-6 record and the NFC North division crown.

Sometimes I can understand why the Vikings have won only one of their last 17 games in outdoor stadiums, as their offensive team — especially the running backs — did not seem as assertive during this game on natural grass. They seem to be a lot more aggressive on artificial surfaces, so maybe this is a speed team that needs to be analyzed in the offseason. I've never seen Daunte Culpepper have so much time to throw the ball as he did Sunday, yet there were no big plays downfield, so an upgrade in the receiving corps might be another area to look at. On the other side of the ball, if the Cardinals' defensive plan was that good against the No. 1 offense in the National Football League, then maybe the Vikings should hire Arizona head coach Dave McGinnis, who is expected to be fired soon, as their defensive coordinator for the 2004 season.

I'm feeling that pain again, created by this loss that opened up my old wound from ‘75, and I can only imagine that the young players on this up and coming Minnesota Vikings team will feel that same pain for years to come, especially this offseason.

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