Vikings players were cleaning out their lockers and finishing with team meetings for last time in a few months. They still haven't gotten over the manner in which they lost their chance to go to the Super Bowl.
The emotional ending of the Vikings' 2009 season was a sight few have seen in the locker room. The dead silence that followed Sunday's game was broken only by the loud celebration that could be heard taking place on the field by the Saints and their fans. Tears were shed by some. Others sat in disbelief, staring straight ahead at nothing in particular.
The day after didn't bring any consolation. If anything, it only deepened the sorrow associated with having the plug pulled on what was the Vikings' best chance at winning a Super Bowl title since 1998 – before any of the current Vikings were on the team.
"It still feels about the same," defensive tackle Kevin Williams
said. "It's hard to believe that it's over so fast. You almost wish that they had been beaten us by 20 points. It would have been easier to accept that than how it ended."
The numbers from Sunday's game were staggering. The Vikings outgained the Saints 475 yards to 257. In the second half alone, the Vikings gained 286 yards, while allowing the Saints just 74 yards of offense. The Vikings had 31 first downs, as opposed to just 15 by New Orleans. They ran 82 plays prior to overtime, while New Orleans had just 46 plays. They held the ball for 36:49 of the game's first 60 minutes. They forced the high-powered Saints offense into seven drives that went three-and-out.
But, in the end, the only numbers that mattered were those on the scoreboard. That, combined with five turnovers, made the difference in what many believe should have been a road win that would have propelled the Vikings to the Super Bowl.
"The things we did Sunday are things we haven't done all year," linebacker Ben Leber
said. "We were very good about not turning the ball over and giving away chances. You have games like that from time to time, but not when so much is on the line. This one is going to take some time to get past."
Cedric Griffin was on crutches Monday as he left the Vikings locker room. While he didn't give any official confirmation, it is believed that he tore his right anterior cruciate ligament covering a kickoff in overtime that will likely require offseason surgery.
Fellow cornerback Antoine Winfield aggravated the foot injury that sidelined him for six games during the season. He opted out of the Pro Bowl Monday and is scheduled to have an MRI on the foot this week to assess the extent of the damage.
Guard Steve Hutchinson is expected to have offseason shoulder surgery. He played most of the season with the injury and gutted out the final three months despite the pain. There was no immediate timetable as to when his surgery will take place.
The Vikings-Saints game drew huge numbers for FOX, pulling in a 58.7 rating and an 80 share in the Twin Cities market. Nationally, the game pulled down a 45 share, which represents about 58 million viewers – making it the highest-rated game since the Cowboys-49ers game in 1982 that was made famous by "The Catch" by Dwight Clark. Aside from Super Bowls, the rating for the Vikings-Saints game was the highest viewership since the 1998 series finale of "Seinfeld" – which had 76.3 million viewers.
Three Vikings pulled out of the Pro Bowl Monday – Brett Favre, Winfield and Percy Harvin. Favre was replaced on the roster by Tony Romo of the Cowboys. Winfield will be replaced by Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins and Harvin's return role will be filled by Johnny Knox of the Bears.
After some discussion about playing a second NFL game next year in London, the NFL has scrapped the idea – sticking with one game, an Oct. 31 game between the 49ers and Broncos at Wembley Stadium.