Season Ends With Questions

A 4-2 record vs. 2003 playoff teams is little consolation to the Vikings, who had four of their seven losses come to teams with 4-12 records and the four teams that will pick first in April's college draft.

The depression that has followed "The Push" – a controversial play in which the Vikings went from hosting a wild card game this Sunday to watching it on TV – can be felt from the coaches to the players to the fans and to owner Red McCombs.

After all, the Vikings really have nobody to blame for not making the playoffs other than themselves. Their record against teams that are in the 2003 playoffs was 4-2. But of their seven losses, four of them came to teams with 4-12 records (San Diego, Oakland, Arizona and the Giants) – the teams that will make the first four picks in next April's draft.

Sunday was merely a microcosm of the season. The No. 1 offense in the league is shut out by the last-rated defense for two-and-a-half quarters. The maligned Vikings defense held Arizona without a first down in five straight possessions until the final six minutes. At the two-minute warning, the Vikings had an 11-point lead.

These are the things that have people wondering where the thought process is coming from. Second-guessers will go back to the opening drive where the Vikings refused to kick a field goal and came away with no points. Others would ask why on a fourth-and-6 with five minutes to play the Vikings didn't challenge the spot on Anquan Boldin's reception – which looked to come up short when he was tackled. Others would ask why on a fourth-and-27 play where Arizona has to put the ball in the end zone, the Vikings had seven men in the box and left just four players back to guard against the Hail Mary pass.

These are questions that the Vikings will have to answer – whether publicly or privately – over the coming weeks and months as they ponder what might have been had they made the playoffs.

* Randy Moss finished the season as the first wide receiver in NFL history average a touchdown and 100 yards a game.
* After catching three passes in the Vikings' opening drive of the game, Moss had just two catches for 11 yards the rest of the game. The Cardinals double-teamed him consistently and the Vikings didn't try to force him the ball.
* Until a 15-yard pass to Bryant Johnson with five minutes to play in the game, the Cardinals had minus-7 yards of total offense in the second half.
* Lost in much of the dismay over losing was a dominant performance by Kevin Williams. In the second half with the game on the line, Williams had three sacks and an interception to keep the Vikings' playoff hopes alive.
* There was some speculation that the Vikings might call a time out with five seconds to play. While the Cardinals would have been given time to draw up a play – which in the end is why they didn't do it – the Vikings could have got their "hands team" in the end zone to bat down a prospective pass, since the Cardinals need 27 yards on fourth down. Instead, they came with a four-man rush and three linebackers in the box – apparently looking for a short pass and a series of laterals.

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