Vikings beat Vikings in New Orleans
The clarity of hindsight tells us that the Minnesota Vikings choked themselves to death in the NFC Championship game.
The Super Bowl-bound New Orleans Saints did not beat the Vikings, the Vikings beat themselves.
Brett Favre, who has a great future ahead of him as a tackling dummy in New Orleans if he decides not to rejoin the Vikings next August, has drawn a lot of scorn for his foolish decision to pass the ball in the fading seconds to a well-covered Sidney Rice. Tracy Porter intercepted Favre's pass to Rice and while it did not result in a New Orleans score, it might have been the worst mistake of the night for the Vikes.
But before putting the rope around Favre's neck you have to consider the bonehead penalty that cost the Vikes five yards -- 12 men on the field. Ouch! Up until that point the Vikings were just trying to put Ryan Longwell in position for a long field goal. The penalty made it third and 15 and Favre felt he had to pass. He rolled right on the play and he could have tucked it away and ran it himself for a gainer but he is not a running quarterback. He could have passed to a wide open Bernard Berrian on the sideline in front of him but he apparently did not see him. He could have even thrown it away. Did he do any of these things? No, he made a difficult, low percentage pass into a pile and Porter came right out of the weeds and grabbed it.
Favre never touched the football again. The Saints ran out the clock, won the overtime toss and elected to receive. Drew Brees took them right down the field and Garrett Hartley kicked the winning field goal from 40 yards out. Favre and his offensive weapons stood on the sidelines and watched.
There is another way this one could have played out. When Favre had to be helped off the field in the third quarter with a foot injury, the Vikings could have decided to stick Tarvaris Jackson in the game. They could have brought Favre back whenever they wanted.
Minnesota's defense was actually trying to stop the NFC's top two offensive teams. They only allowed 257 yards of offense but the Saints still managed to score 31 points because the Vikings gave them so many short fields.
Turnovers lost the game for the Vikings. No doubt about it. You just cannot fumble six times, lose three of them, and throw two interceptions and still win a championship game. That level of bungling is not going to put you in the Super Bowl.
Living in the past is a mistake but building for the future is not. The Vikings have to start thinking about next season and how they can help themselves reach the Super Bowl. They have some great players on defense like Pat Williams, Antoine Winfield and E.J. Henderson that must be thinking of hanging up their spikes. The Vikes can replace these guys through the draft or they can go after some free agents. They might also look at quarterbacks and offensive linemen.
Where they are going to be playing is also a question but maybe whetting the appetites of Minnesota football fans with an NFC championship game appearance will do just as much as winning the whole shebang. Getting Favre to come back could close the deal.
Will Favre be back? If he listens to his own voice, yes. This is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history that we are talking about. Watching him getting pummeled Sunday night and getting up time and time again made me think of another famous, if fictional, southern character by the name of Scarlett O'Hara, who just refuses to give up. The Saints threw everything they had at him and he kept getting up.
Favre knows a lot about running an offense. He knows nothing about quitting.