I was in Washington, D.C. in hopes of being in the winning locker room for the big celebration after the Vikings sealed their first playoff berth with Mike Tice as their head coach, and I wanted to see the FedEx Field dream seats, which are basically the first three rows that circle the field at a cost of $3,500 per year — or $350 per game (including the preseason, of course). Well, I saw the seats, but that's where my dream ended, as once again there was a lot of disappointment for the Vikings on both sides of the ball.
The offense just doesn't seem to have the rhythm that it had earlier in the season, and the Vikings defense for some unknown reason just seems to lack confidence. It was rather obvious to see how much confidence Washington's defense had and how well a self-assured defense can execute its assignments. Also, when a team is in a must-win playoff situation, it can't ever give the opposing team hope, yet that's exactly what the Vikings did on the opening kickoff when Antonio Brown returned it 66 yards.
The Washington Redskins scored 14 points in the first half, which was only the third time this season that they've scored more than 10 points in that time period, yet the Vikings defense made a couple of mental mistakes to allow those points and it allowed Ladell Betts to rush for a career-best 118 yards. A lot of the defense's poor play has to do with their professional pride getting in the way. The defenders are afraid to make mistakes, but they can overcome those errors with aggressiveness. The wheel has not been reinvented from the early days of football, and these defenders have to understand that they can have fun out there, and the more they enjoy the game the more they will gain confidence.
As in previous games, three or fewer plays determined the outcome, and it was no different today. When Randy Moss scored his second touchdown, there was a very questionable holding call on Adam Goldberg, as the defensive linemen drew the flag with an Academy Award performance. That cost the Vikings seven points. Nate Burleson, with his sure hands all year, dropped a touchdown pass on the next drive. And even in the beginning of the second quarter, on third-and goal from the 1-yard line, the Vikings called for a running play but were penalized for a false start. The end result there was a four-point differential, as the Vikings kicked the field goal. That made 18 points — as many points as the Vikings ended up scoring — wasted on penalties and a dropped pass.
Anything can happen in the playoffs — anything. But the Vikings need to dump their locker-room disappointment and realize that they are now one of 12 teams that start the playoffs with a clean slate. They have to shake their postgame doldrums and realize where they are — in the playoffs … with a great opportunity. And I can't remember another scenario when a team played its division rival three times in one season and had a clean sweep. So drawing the Packers can give the Vikings renewed motivation.
I actually feel comfortable about this Sunday afternoon game in Lambeau Field. It could come down to three simple, little things: Don't give the Packers hope, get the offensive rhythm back, and find the confidence the defense should have because they do execute the schemes well enough at times to carry themselves further into the playoffs. Maybe I'll find my dream seat at Lambeau Field.
Lurtsema's Reaction: Rhythm And Blues
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