After Sunday’s victory over Green Bay to clinch a playoff berth, it’s easy to forget just how far the team has had to climb to get this far. At the Daily Norseman, Christopher Gates reminds us of how deep the trough was (Part 1, Part 2):
It was one year ago today, January 1, 2012, that the Minnesota Vikings were leaving the turf at the Metrodome after suffering their latest loss, a 17-13 defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bears. The loss was the team’s 13th of the season, tying the low-water mark for this proud franchise, a mark not seen since the Les Steckel debacle of 1984 when the team outright quit about halfway through the season.
Two days prior to that, running back Adrian Peterson had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee, an injury he had suffered on Christmas Eve at FedEx Field against the Washington Redskins. The face of the franchise was laid up in a hospital bed, and questions about his future with the team ran rampant.
Quarterback Christian Ponder, drafted seven months previous to be the guy that would lead the Vikings in the long-term, finished an up-and-down rookie campaign after starting ten games following the benching of the ineffective Donovan McNabb. He had also gotten injured badly enough to get knocked out of three of the final four regular season contests for the Vikings, and people questioned whether the young Texan (by way of Florida State) was a reach. . .or, quite possibly, even a “bust.”
The Minnesota defense, despite the presence of a defensive front that led the National Football League in sacks, finished 31st in the NFL in points allowed and allowed the second-worst passer rating in NFL history. An injury to Antoine Winfield and the off-field transgressions of Chris Cook, among other things, forced the Vikings to play a lot of young players in the secondary, and even to bring guys in (essentially) off the street to fill the roster.
The Vikings’ 3-13 mark was a mere 12 games behind the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North division crown, a division that also sent the Detroit Lions to the playoffs at 10-6 and had the aforementioned Bears at 7-9 following an injury to quarterback Jay Cutler. Yes, things were looking quite dark for the Minnesota Vikings as the 2012 off-season loomed. Oh, and there was that minor little detail about the Vikings’ lease with the Metrodome expiring after that final game, essentially leaving the team without a home and speculation about a potential move running rampant.