Sensibly, the Canadian TV schedules omitted this game as having no bearing on the playoff standings and chose to broadcast games that still mattered. Neither the Chicago Bears nor the Minnesota Vikings had anything left to play for, aside from pride and perhaps a minor shift in final draft standings for 2017. The Vikings finally played the kind of game fans had been waiting for since week six of the season, producing the season’s highest score (with some significant help from the defence).
Sam Bradford set a few records during the game: the NFL record for completion rate at 71.6%, and the Vikings single-season record for completed passes (395, beating Daunte Culpepper’s 379 in 2004) and lowest interception percentage (0.9%, beating Brett Favre’s 1.32% in 2009).
Bradford has set the Vikings single season record for completions in a season currently with 380, passing Culpepper's mark of 379 in 2004.
Also setting records was Kyle Rudolph who moved into first place in team history with his 29th touchdown reception by a tight end, previously held by Steve Jordan. Overall, he also passed Joe Senser for most catches by a tight end with 83 for the season.
Colby Cosh asks why the NFL puts up with field-invading streakers (even if the TV cameras avoid showing the incidents):
I don’t have hard data, but the TV policy does not seem to be diminishing the number of field invasions in NFL and college football games. In our social-media panopticon world, this was foreseeable. The remarkable part is that the instant justice almost always dealt by the security guards does not seem to be discouraging the practice either.
Field invasions are a serious matter, because you never know when someone might be carrying a knife and a grudge. The idiots who run out onto the field don’t think of themselves as inadvertently rehearsing the possible murder of an athlete. But they all have to know by now that they are inviting a hard tackle, experienced without padding, from a beefy, motivated stranger.
If you have ever been a 22-year-old male, you understand that this may easily be part of the fun. It is the nature of a dare to be more impressive when the stakes are higher. I don’t know that all NFL streakers are actually drunk, but I am certain that nobody ever runs onto the field during a game without first having had a conversation with his friends — one usually involving the words “Hold my beer.”
So why are spectacular tackles of narcissistic morons by security guards tolerated by the teams that employ them? The apparatus of the NFL does not seem to have developed a nonviolent cordon approach to field invaders. If it has one, it is obviously not very consistent about applying it league-wide. As often as not, the security guards seem to be showing off their special-teams gunner skills for the audience.
It might be expensive to develop and practice a formal method of peacefully capturing rowdies who elude security and reach the field of play. (I suppose a lasso would be too theatrical?) But lawsuits are expensive, too, and we cannot be too far from the day when a security guard breaks some cretin’s neck at a game.
Yes, the game was played nearly 48 hours ago … I had better things to do with my time on Christmas Day than to conduct an autopsy of the Packers game. But I guess I can’t put it off much longer, so I’ll hold my nose as I dip into the media and fan coverage of the last letdown in Lambeau.
For a start, let’s briefly touch on the one player who did everything in his power to carry the team to victory, with Adam Thielen’s career performance at wide receiver: 12 catches for 202 yards, and two touchdowns, moving him past Stefon Diggs as Minnesota’s leading receiver for 2016. Thielen is a restricted free agent next year, so we can safely assume signing him to a new deal will be high on Rick Spielman’s list of priorities for the off-season.
If you’re a fan of signs, omens, and portents, you hit the jackpot even before the Vikings made it to their hotel on Friday evening, as the team’s chartered plane slipped off the runway after landing in Wisconsin and the team had to be evacuated from the plane, two-by-two by fire department cherry-pickers. It was several hours before they were all re-united at the hotel, so team meetings had to be cancelled in favour of allowing the players and coaches something like a normal night’s sleep.
The Minnesota Vikings’ historically bad running game was supposed to get a big boost when Adrian Peterson returned to the line-up after spending most of the season on injured reserve. To be kind, that’s not what happened on Sunday. The Indianapolis Colts came in to US Bank Stadium desperately needing a win to stay relevant in the AFC playoff race, but the Vikings appeared to already be thinking about what they’ll be doing in the offseason. There were a few individual efforts that merit praise, but the team as a whole looked unco-ordinated, unsynchronized, and unmotivated. Andrew Luck is a good quarterback, but the Viking defence made him look like the league MVP — when they weren’t giving up bone-headed penalties and playing out of position. Without safety Harrison Smith in the defensive secondary, the Colts’ tight ends and receivers seemed to be open all game long.
Before the game started, the TV announcers emphasized how much trouble Indianapolis would have against the Vikings’ fearsome defensive line, especially as the Colts would be starting three rookies at centre, right guard, and right tackle. Yet once the game began, a strange thing happened: Andrew Luck remained upright and almost completely untouched until the fourth quarter when Tolzien came in for clean-up duty. No turnovers, no sacks, and almost no pressure made Luck’s day a very easy one.
Adrian Peterson, activated from injured reserve on Saturday, got the start for the Vikings but was unable to do anything behind Minnesota’s historically bad offensive line. His longest run of the day ended in a lost fumble that the Colts turned into a touchdown. It would probably have been better for Peterson and the Vikings if he’d waited until next week to make his return: Jerick McKinnon was much more effective in both the running and passing game after Peterson was benched.
At 1500ESPN, Matthew Coller suggests a (pretty obvious) solution to the NFL’s ongoing problem with Thursday Night Football:
On Nov. 20, the Minnesota Vikings had the type of game that turns a season around: A 30-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals at US Bank Stadium. On Nov. 24, they were on the road playing on national TV against the Detroit Lions. The Vikings lost a hideous, good-thing-you-didn’t-pay-to-watch-that-one game in the Motor City by three points. The game essentially cost them a shot at winning the NFC Central.
It’s hard to take that result seriously.
There are several lenses in which we can look through when discussing the misguided way the league has implemented Thursday games. The first is player safety. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman recently attacked the hypocrisy of the league claiming the game is safer, then pushing players back on the field without proper time to heal.
He wrote on the Player’s Tribune:
“I just don’t understand why the NFL says it’s taking a stand on player safety, then increases the risks its players face by making them play on Thursday, before their bodies are ready.
My Seahawks teammates and I are playing in one of the last Thursday night games of the season this week, so we’re one of the last teams to be exploited in 2016. One of the last to be taken advantage of. One of the last to get the middle finger from the NFL.
But as long as the NFL is using that same finger to count Thursday Night Football dollars, I don’t think it really cares.”
The solution seems so easy. Why can’t TNF begin in Week 5 and have the schedule set up to give the two teams the previous week off? Bye week. Thursday night. Then 10 day break until the next game.
That scheduling tweak would almost certainly make a huge difference for the individual teams assigned to the TNF slot: it’s like a mini-bye-week.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to watch Sunday’s game even if it was broadcast in the Toronto area, as I’d promised to head down to Burlington to bring my mother to our place for the holidays. This means my Twitter feed was completely empty of my traditional game-related tweets on Sunday afternoon (you’re welcome, guys).
After dropping two games to the Detroit Lions, the Vikings are looking at a wildcard rather than the NFC North title to get them into the post-season. Even getting the wildcard pretty much requires the Vikings to win all of their remaining games (and still will likely need some help), which will be a challenge with an offensive line consisting of a hay bale, a regional champion mannequin challenge player, a scarecrow, a mime with a nasty makeup-related skin condition, and young Bobby McFarlane (the backup right tackle at Our Lady of Hopeless Causes High School in Mankato, MN). Honestly, it’s a genuine miracle that Sam Bradford is still alive at this point in the season … and keeping him alive for the last quarter of the season will be a double miracle.
Dave Rappoccio on the least likely event that just apparently happened in the NFL:
What I think is funny is an irony that I don’t think anyone else has picked up on yet. Andy Reid, a coach with quite possibly the worst reputation for time management on final drives, now effectively, in a way, holds the record for fastest game winning comeback drive in an NFL game.
It is. It’s the fastest. The only way a comeback can be faster is if the exact same thing happens but the guy runs to the endzone slightly faster. There is no way to score a faster comeback. Extra Points or conversion attempts do not take time off the clock. Effectively, the Falcons, despite scoring the go-ahead touchdown…were never actually ahead. When the clock started again, the Chiefs had the lead. The Falcons lead was maybe a minute of real time, but in game time sits in a weird vacuum between dimensions, never to be found. This is the fastest game winning drive in NFL history, and the man who owns it couldn’t call a timeout properly if his lunch date depended on it. Andy Reid, a man who is so baffled by clocks he’s still trying to understand how daylight savings works, owns this record. This might low-key be the most amazing thing that happens all year. Sometimes football can deliver in ways you’d never expect.
The Dallas Cowboys visited Minnesota on Thursday night, bringing their NFL-best record and a ten-game winning streak. They left town with their streak still intact, but it came down to the last minute of the game to secure the win.
With Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer resting at home after emergency eye surgery, special teams co-ordinator Mike Priefer was acting head coach, to allow offensive co-ordinator Pat Shurmur and defensive co-ordinator George Edwards to concentrate on their respective areas of responsibility. The Vikings got a few key players back from injury, with wide receiver Stefon Diggs and cornerback Terence Newman both suited up for the game.
The game was very close from start to finish, which meant that minor miscues could have huge ramifications on the scoreboard. I missed most of the first quarter, but my Twitter feed provided all the “T.J. Clemmings is garbage” content during that time to assure me that things were back to their putrid normal on the offensive line. Cowboys quarterback phenomenon was shown to be merely human through most of the game, and his biggest contributions to keeping drives alive were on scrambles (aided by some pretty blatant holding on the offensive line, especially against Brian Robison).
Both of the Cowboys’ touchdowns came after a minor glitch gave Dallas an opportunity and they were able to capitalize. Other than that, the Vikings defence kept the lid on all game. One was a mistake in coverage, as Harrison Smith was too aggressive in covering Dez Bryant, and the second was a fumbled punt by Adam Thielen deep inside Viking territory.
Minnesota taxpayers contributed nearly half of the costs to build the new stadium that the Minnesota Vikings call home (“one of the largest public subsidies ever given to a sports facility”). The state government appointed a six-person board to negotiate the state’s share of the costs. Now, it comes to light that those six people get free luxury suite tickets to not only Viking home games, but every event held at the stadium:
Six government appointees, including the son of a vice president, who negotiated how much public money would be spent building the Minnesota Vikings’ new football stadium get free access to luxury boxes for all events in the stadium.
Which, you know, might call into question how hard they really negotiated for the taxpayers on that one.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the six members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), the quasi-government agency created in 2012 to oversee the public subsidies for the building of U.S. Bank Stadium, get free tickets to two lower-level luxury suites for all events held there. Even though taxpayers covered more than half of the cost of the $1.1 billion stadium, which opened earlier this year, the public is being kept in the dark about who occupies those 36 seats and the adjoining luxury suites during Vikings home games and other events.
The team claims that the suites are used for “marketing purposes,” but the Star-Tribune‘s investigation found that family and friends of the board members are usually in attendance too.
Maybe the best part of the story is the moment when two members of the MSFA board (chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and executive director Ted Mondale) try to justify their sweet, free, and secret perk by arguing that they “work long hours on game days and spent long nights negotiating on behalf of taxpayers during construction of the building, so having friends and family there is reasonable.”
For anyone who isn’t part of this special cadre of insiders getting special access to the suites for free would have to shell out more than $20,000 for season tickets in similar suites at the stadium. Since the six members of the MSFA board also have access to the suites for all other events at the stadium, the actual value of their seats is in excess of that figure.
The whole thing raises ethical questions since public officials in Minnesota are not allowed to receive gifts, including special privileges or access not otherwise available to the general public. That gift ban has a loophole allowing public officials to accept such special freebies if it’s part of their official duties.
As you’ll know if you’ve read the blog for any length of time, I’m a big fan of the Minnesota Vikings, despite never having lived there or even visited the state. I’d be very upset if they became the L.A. Vikings. But I also totally sympathize with Minnesotans who don’t want their taxes being used to give corporate welfare to the billionaire owner of the football club. Pouring money into facilities for professional sports teams is one of the very worst ways to use tax dollars, as the lads at Reason.tv explain:
The Vikings played the early US Thanksgiving game at Detroit yesterday and were in reach of a win in the final minute of the game, but a rare interception of Sam Bradford gave the Lions the win instead. With top wide receiver Stefon Diggs on the sideline, Bradford depended on getting the ball out as fast as humanly possible to Adam Thielen, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Kyle Rudolph, as the patchwork line lost yet another starter with center Joe Berger out with a concussion (and a hip injury to backup tackle Jeremiah Sirles).
With the CFL’s Eastern and Western conference finals being played, there was no Canadian broadcast coverage of the Arizona Cardinals visiting Minnesota that I could access, so I had to follow the course of the game on Twitter. Many Vikings bloggers were billing this game as a make-or-break for the Vikings season after enduring a four-game losing streak and yet more injuries on the offensive line. It would be especially important because the team is playing again on Thursday in Detroit. Another loss and a short week before facing the Lions at home was probably going to be too steep a hill to climb.
During the pre-game introductions, a Fox sound technician had an unwelcome encounter with the Vikings defence:
The Blair Walsh Project has finally come to an end. I’m sorry to see him go, but I believe the Vikings made the right decision, if a bit later than many fans might have liked. Walsh had a brilliant rookie season after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 draft and was rewarded with a big contract (for a kicking specialist, anyway), but his missed kicks, blocked kicks, and miscues since the playoff game against Seattle finally forced the team to release him. Jim Souhan says it was a mistake for the team to give him as many chances as they did:
I don’t know who all the guys wearing the purple jerseys on Sunday were, but they sure didn’t play like the team that won five straight games to start the season. The names were (mostly) the same, but the effort just didn’t match what the Vikings had been doing earlier in the season. There were a few individual performances that stood out (Diggs, Thielen, Bradford), but many who just seemed to be sleepwalking through most of the game (Barr, Alexander). There were, of course, more injuries during the game (Long, Rhodes, Kendricks) and those still not playing due to injuries in earlier games (Sherels, Floyd, Munnerlyn), but the team just didn’t seem to have the same passion they had to start the season, and the responsibility for that falls on the coaches.
It was not a pretty game to watch, but it did have enough drama to keep watching to the end. As a rule of thumb, any time the fans on Twitter are bitterly complaining about the officiating, their team is losing … and I saw a lot of complaints about the refs on my Twitter feed during the game. Of course, if Blair Walsh had been able to convert an extra point, the game wouldn’t have gone to overtime. The Walsh death-watch may be back on the table in Minneapolis after Walsh missed and had a field goal attempt blocked (and the replays looked as if it was going to miss the target even if it hadn’t been blocked).