I know what the state of Minnesota needs after doing a complete tour of the new Gillette stadium out here in Foxboro, home of the New England Patriots. It is definitely fan-friendly. And, its losing record aside, something else that is fan-friendly is this year's 3-8 Minnesota Vikings football team.
There is no quit in this year's team, but even with world-class effort after digging a 21-0 hole against the world champion New England Patriots, fortune shined much brighter on the home team. It was such a pleasure to watch the Vikings jump on the Green Bay Packers last week with a 14-0 lead. Yet, when they got back on the road, the Vikings spotted the 2001 Super Bowl champion Patriots a three-touchdown lead. Despite that, when all was said and done, the Vikings should have come home with a win once again.
The Vikings ended up having three turnovers by their best offensive players — Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper, and Micheal Bennett — each losing a fumble. The Patriots fumbled three times, too, but they recovered all three. Lopsided statistics like those can be frustrating to any coach. And to top it off, the New England Patriots coaching staff tried to hand the game to the Vikings by making some of the poorest decisions that I've seen in a long time.
The swirling winds make this field a kicker's nightmare, so field position is of the utmost importance. In the second quarter, with just 1:14 to go and the Patriots facing fourth-and-10 on the 31-yard line, the Vikings wisely called a time out. The Patriots went for it and ended up losing 8 yards on the first of two sacks by Chris Hovan, who played the best game of his young career. That great field position allowed Daunte Culpepper and the no-huddle offense to cap a 50-second drive with a 6-yard touchdown to D'Wayne Bates. Suddenly, the Vikings were in a manageable situation with an exciting 21-7 score going into halftime.
On the Patriots' first series of the third quarter, facing fourth-and-2 on the Vikings 46-yard line, New England once again decided to go for it — and once again failed. That field position eventually set up another Vikings score, a 7-yarder to Kelly Campbell. It was dumb coaching on New England's part, but just like it has played out all year, the Vikings were snake-bit when opportunity knocked at their door.
A beautiful stadium, a beautiful day, but once again ugly results.
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