Gaining respect in the loss

The Vikings may have gained more respect in their loss to the Steelers than they did in any of their previous six wins. Having two chances to win late in the game on the road against the defending champions, the Vikings overcame a lot of mistakes to be in that position.

A funny thing happened on the way to a 27-17 loss to the Steelers on Sunday. In many respects, the team may have gained more respect in losing than they did in any of their six wins.

With the game on the line in the fourth quarter on the road against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Vikings put themselves in a position to win not once, but twice. After getting a huge defensive play on the 3-yard line from Pat Williams to force a Rashard Mendenhall fumble, despite being backed up three times due to penalty, the Vikings had a first-and-goal on the Pittsburgh 10-yard line with eight minutes to play and trailing 13-10.

Despite the fact they got jobbed out of the go-ahead touchdown on a phantom tripping penalty on Jeff Dugan that negated a Brett Favre-to-Sidney Rice touchdown that would have given them a 17-13 lead and a subsequent fumble returned for a touchdown to give the Steelers a 20-10 lead, the Vikings didn't quit.

You get the feeling that such a reversal of fortune would have decimated Vikings teams of recent vintage. But those teams didn't have Favre and they didn't have Percy Harvin.

Although only seven games into his professional career, Harvin already holds the Vikings franchise records for kickoffs returned for a touchdown. Considering the team has played for 50 years, you would have thought someone would have done it twice, yet Harvin became the first. Harvin's was the 13th kickoff return for a touchdown in team history. With his second, he broke a 12-way tie.

Favre also stood up, completing nine of 10 passes on the drive that would end in the fumble return for a score and, in the final three minutes, he completed three of four passes to get inside the Pittsburgh 20-yard line with a little over a minute to play – highlighted by William Gay's introduction to Adrian Peterson, joining the back of Gay's shoulder pads to the Heinz Field turf.

As bad as things turned out Sunday, the Vikings had not one, but two chances to win the game late. The fact it didn't happen is disappointing, but the fact it was possible was something Vikings fans have grown accustomed not to seeing. Would Gus Frerotte have led the Vikings back? Probably not.

Starting today, the border battle between Minnesota and Wisconsin will heat up like few times in their long and storied rivalry. The wait is almost over. Brett returns to Lambeau, but this time, he's wearing purple. There couldn't be much more on the line. A loss and the Vikings will have a season split against Green Bay and be just a half-game up in the standings heading into the bye week. A win would give the Vikings a two-and-a-half game lead with all the tie-breakers in their favor heading into the bye and armed with the knowledge they won't go on the road again for a month – all three games coming out of the bye (Detroit, Seattle and Chicago) are at home.

A year ago, there would have been the sentiment that Sunday's game is a sign of gloom and doom. The Vikings have consistently struggled at Lambeau Field. The Packers are on a roll and getting their offensive line healthy. But, instead, the general feeling among the media types is that the Packers had better be ready because they're facing a Vikings team that is angry and looking to take it out on someone. What a difference a year can make in the consensus of opinion as it pertains to the Vikings.

MONDAY NOTES

  • Bernard Berrian refused to talk to reporters about the severity of his leg injury after the game, but his left leg was heavily wrapped and, from his reaction on the play on which he was injured, it would seem obvious that Berrian has re-injured his left hamstring. He missed much of training camp with a left hamstring pull.

  • Former Vikings trainer and current consultant Fred Zamberletti celebrated his 1,000th game with the organization Sunday. He has attended every Vikings game in the preseason, regular season and postseason in the 49 years of Vikings football.

  • The Vikings had to be pleased with the play of rookie cornerback Asher Allen. Making his pro debut, he came up with a huge play in the fourth quarter, coming on a blitz and knocking the ball out of Ben Roethlisberger's hands. Unfortunately for the Vikings, Ray Edwards tried to pick up the ball and run, collided with a teammate and the ball went out of bounds and remained in possession of the Steelers.

  • If the Vikings do win the NFC North, they may owe a debt of gratitude to the Cincinnati Bengals. Everyone's favorite doormat in the NFL, the Bengals have already beaten the Packers at Lambeau Field and dismantled the Bears on Sunday. With the Raiders, Browns and Lions on the schedule the three games before they play the Vikings Dec. 13, the Bengals could be a 9-3 type of team rolling into the Metrodome.

  • Big props have to go out to former Viking Darren Sharper. Not only does he lead the NFL in interceptions with six, he brought his third pick of the season back for a touchdown. His pick six Sunday against Miami came when the Saints were 14 points down. At one point, they trailed 24-3, but came back to win the game and remain unbeaten.

  • The Vikings were the only one of four of the unbeaten teams to lose Sunday. The Saints and Colts both won and Denver was on its bye week.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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