Quotulatiousness

September 22, 2014

Vikings lose to Saints 20-9 in injury-filled game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

I posted yesterday that I thought the leash on quarterback Matt Cassel might be getting shorter, after the horrible outing last weekend at home against the Patriots. Sunday’s game in New Orleans was starting to look like we had another instance of “Bad Matt” on our hands, but head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t have the chance to decide whether to make a quarterback change, as Cassel left the game midway through the first half with what was originally termed “turf toe”, but was later re-defined as “fractures in his foot”. Teddy Bridgewater came in to play the rest of the game — the Vikings only had Cassel and Bridgewater active, so rather than Christian Ponder, the emergency quarterback would have been next man up … and we haven’t had a definite word on who the emergency quarterback would have been. Cassel is definitely out for a prolonged period (possibly the entire season, if the MRI verdict is bad), and Bridgewater has been designated the starting quarterback for next week.

Aside from Cassel, other players who left the field due to injury included tight end Kyle Rudolph, right guard Brandon Fusco, linebacker Chad Greenway, and cornerback Josh Robinson. So if you’re keeping count, the Vikings are missing their starting QB (injury), starting RB (Adrian Peterson is on the Exempt list and away from the team indefinitely), starting RG (injury), starting TE (injury), backup WR (Jerome Simpson, who was cut this week for his continued legal issues), starting LB (injury), and backup CB (injury). That’s a full season’s worth of personnel changes in only three games.

While the game was hardly a thing of beauty, the team rallied around Bridgewater and the defence put in a much better performance in the second half and might have kept the Saints out of the endzone but for a badly timed penalty on Captain Munnerlyn which kept a scoring drive alive. When you don’t get a win, you look for positives, no matter how meaningless they might seem:

Of course, there were positives that were not meaningless, like the return of the intermediate-to-deep passing game:

Bridgewater’s debut wasn’t statistically eye-popping — 12 of 20 for 150 yards and a passer rating of 83.3, plus 27 yards rushing, but he made few mistakes and generally did everything you want your backup quarterback to do when inserted into a game part-way through. Cassel had not completed a pass longer than 15 yards in the first two games of the season (unless you count interceptions). It’s also interesting to note that Bridgewater didn’t play at Louisville until he replaced an injured quarterback in the third game of his rookie season, now he’s replaced an injured quarterback in the third game of his rookie professional season.

Despite the road loss, Ted Glover sees signs of life in the Vikings, particularly with Teddy at the helm:

When Matt Cassel was hurt early in the game, my Twitter timeline BLEW UP. Not because everyone was happy that Cassel got hurt (and seriously, if you did, you’re a terrible human being — get well soon Matt) but because it was Teddy Time, the moment we’d all been waiting for. And it was in about the most inopportune time one could ask a rookie quarterback to come in at — on the road in a very hostile environment, against a good team, down 10 points. His numbers weren’t sparkling (12/20 150 yards, 0/0…6 carries for 27 yards) but for a guy getting thrown into the fire, he looked good, and played well. He looked in command, and made some very good throws, including one to Greg Jennings on a frozen rope. It was a hell of an effort for a guy pretty much thrown to the wolves, and yeah, he missed some throws, especially a couple of easy swing passes to Jerick McKinnon that looked promising. And no, he didn’t engineer a touchdown, which was the first time since the Vikings didn’t score a TD in a game since 2010. But there was so much to like in the debut, that you can’t help but be encouraged that the Vikings maybe, finally, have stability at the quarterback position.

Update: A Final Dispatch From The Teddy Bridgewater Underground. ¡Viva la Revolución!

February 4, 2013

CBS Sports fumbles during SuperBowl blackout

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:23

In the New York Daily News, Bob Raissman asks why CBS didn’t bother to do any actual “journalism” about the blackout:

The fans inside the Superdome were not the only ones left in the dark when half the building’s power went out in the third quarter of Super Bowl XLVII Sunday night. Viewers were left with unanswered questions as CBS Sports’ sideline reporters, and the rest of the cast, failed to go into a reporting mode.

There was no outrage, no questioning how a thing like this could happen on the NFL’s biggest night of the year.

At a time when they should have been aggressively gathering news, CBS’ crew was satisfied with the crumbs the NFL dropped on them. And they swallowed the scraps gladly. Not once during the 34-minute delay did a representative of the National Football League appear on camera to attempt to explain what caused half the Superdome to lose power. Why should they? No one from CBS put any pressure on them.

[. . .]

Think about it. CBS pays billions for the right to air NFL games. Much of that dough is shelled out to secure rights to the Super Bowl. So, on the big night, there is a major screwup and the NFL won’t put someone on the air — and CBS won’t push the league — to try to explain what’s going on? That’s mind-boggling.

But not quite as wacked as CBS’ laid-back approach to reporting this story, which will go down as one of the more unusual moments in Super Bowl history. All the players were on the field, waiting, stretching. Why not take a camera and microphone on the sidelines for an interview? If they blow you off, fine — at least viewers would have something worth watching.

May 2, 2012

The real NCAA scandal is how they treat the student athletes

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:05

Gregg Easterbrook’s annual post-draft column spends a bit of time excoriating the NCAA for its massively misplaced ethical priorities:

The draft had been in progress more than a day when the Sinners finally chose, having traded their first choice and lost their second in Sinnersgate. New Orleans’s first selection was Akiem Hicks, who played eight-game seasons at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, going there after the NCAA blackballed him for recruiting violations. Nakia Hogan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune describes the deeply shocking abuses of which Hicks was guilty:

“In 2009, Hicks transferred to LSU from Sacramento City Community College. … But Hicks was mired in a minor recruiting violation and never got to play at LSU. The school discovered potential violations associated with impermissible telephone calls to Hicks in the recruitment process, impermissible transportation before and after his arrival at LSU, impermissible housing and reduced-rent at an apartment complex in Baton Rouge in the three months before his enrollment at LSU, and the purchase of one meal by a football office student worker.”

Impermissible telephone calls! Three months of help with rent money! One free meal! Lock him up and throw away the key!

The description of Hicks’ blackballing sums up everything offensive about NCAA hypocrisy. Not only is it theater of the absurd that the NCAA punishes telephone calls. Not only do college kids always need help with the rent — if a kid from an upper-class family who was applying to LSU got trust fund money for his rent and meals, no one would blink. The real scandal is that the NCAA punishes phone calls but could not care less about graduation rates.

In the year Hicks tried to enter LSU, the federal graduation rate for the LSU football program was 42 percent, compared to 56 percent for the school as a whole. (Find any Division I sport program’s graduation statistics here.) The NCAA took no action on that.

College football players are creating hundreds of millions of dollars of value that goes to fund luxury living by coaches, college administrators and NCAA staff, but are not getting educations in return. Each passing day brings more evidence of the Taylor Branch “new plantation” analysis of big-college sports. As big-college coaches and NCAA administrators dine at four-star restaurants, one hungry kid gets one free meal — that must be punished! The horror, the horror!

April 23, 2012

Yet another New Orleans Saints scandal

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 15:21

A new report at the ESPN website:

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana was told Friday that New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis had an electronic device in his Superdome suite that had been secretly re-wired to enable him to eavesdrop on visiting coaching staffs for nearly three NFL seasons, “Outside the Lines” has learned.

Sources familiar with Saints game-day operations told “Outside the Lines” that Loomis, who faces an eight-game suspension from the NFL for his role in the recent bounty scandal, had the ability to secretly listen for most of the 2002 season, his first as general manager of the Saints, and all of the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The sources spoke with “Outside the Lines” under the condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals from members of the Saints organization.

[. . .]

Under Article No. 9 of the Constitution and Bylaws of the NFL, which lists “Prohibited Conduct,” the league specifically bans the use of “…videotape machines, telephone tapping or bugging devices, or any other form of electronic device that might aid a team during the playing of a game.”

“That would be a stupendous advantage if you had that,” said Rick Venturi, who was the team’s defensive coordinator during the period the sources said Loomis could eavesdrop on opposing coaches.

“That’s shocking,” Venturi said, when told of the allegations. “I can tell you if we did it, nobody told me about it. … Nobody ever helped me during a game.”

March 22, 2012

More on the New Orleans Saints

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:30

Skol Girl” writes at Daily Norseman on the less obvious victims of the bounty program defensive coordinator Gregg Williams ran:

A few years back a close friend of mine was working in France and she said that one of the business metaphors frequently used to try to encourage a sense of working together was American football. She said the French business people used American football as a metaphor because they felt it was one of the best examples of nothing getting accomplished truly on one’s own. Even the most novice football fan would probably agree, nobody in American football carries the show single-handedly. Just as a combination of players can help a single player make a play, so too can a single player undo the work of everyone else on the field.

Well, in New Orleans, the defense just tainted and, basically, undid everything that the other players on the team worked for during that Championship* season. Drew Brees may have had nothing to do with the bounties, heck, he might not have even known about the bounty program, but his legacy as a player has the same asterisk next to it that Darren “X Marks the Spot” Sharper has.

A lot of players talking about what they miss after they retire from football say they miss the camaraderie of the locker room. That’s one of the reasons Brett Favre gave for returning to the Vikings in 2010 after the pounding he took during that NFC Championship game against the Saints. But the non-bounty program players on the Saints have to be feeling like their comrades just dinged them in the nuts.

The same goes for the Saints’ fans. In 2006 New Orleans was still fresh from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina when the Saints brought Drew Brees in from sunny San Diego. Brees and Payton had a great connection that produced some great on-field play and it gave Saints fans something to enjoy, something good to identify with–the sense that their team was coming back swinging just like they were. The team might not have originated all the messianic overtones that went along with choosing to stay in the rebuilding city, but they certainly benefited from them. So did the NFL, which loved and promoted the inspirational storyline that mirrored the Saints journey with that of the damaged, but recovering, city.

March 21, 2012

NFL hands down punishments in Saints’ bounty hunting scandal

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:56

The NFL has finally announced what penalties it will assess against the New Orleans Saints and individual coaches for the bounty scheme the team ran (individual penalties against players who took part have not yet been disclosed):

  • Saints’ head coach Sean Payton is suspended without pay from NFL activities for one year.
  • Former Saints’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is suspended without pay indefinitely. The NFL will review his case after the 2012 season. This will also hurt the St. Louis Rams who hired Williams this season.
  • General manager Mickey Loomis is suspended without pay for eight games.
  • Assistant head coach Joe Vitt is suspended without pay for six games.
  • Loss of the Saints’ second-round draft pick in both 2012 and 2013.
  • A $500,000 fine on the club.

The penalties for the 22 or more individual players are apparently being held until the NFL Players Association can complete its own investigation into the scheme.

Earlier posts on this issue here and here.

Update: As several people have pointed out, this has a commonality with a lot of political scandals, in that the original sin is compounded by the cover-up attempts. It’s pretty much a certainty that this wasn’t the only bounty program in the league, and the penalty would likely have been much less if the Saints hadn’t worked so hard — as an organization — to cover it up after the initial accusation was made.

March 7, 2012

Perhaps the NFL doesn’t want too many people watching the 2009 NFC championship game right now

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

I retweeted a post from the Daily Norseman yesterday to the effect that the NFL Network had, without warning, pulled a scheduled re-broadcast of the 2009 NFC championship between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings. Gregg Easterbrook perhaps explains why:

The Vikings-Saints NFC title game two years ago may have been where the Saints’ deliberate rule-breaking was worst. Immediately after that game, I wrote, “Saints players came after [Brett] Favre so hard — four times slamming him in ways that invited late-hit or roughing penalties, only two of which were called — Williams [seems to have] told his charges something along the lines of, ‘Pound Favre every time you can; we will take a couple of roughing flags in return for making an old guy worry about the next hit.'”

So did I do a good job by noting two years ago what is suddenly considered obvious? No, I did a terrible job. Yesterday I watched every New Orleans defensive snap of that game and found four, not two, instances in which unnecessary roughness should have been called against the Saints but was not. In retrospect, my column should have led with dirty play by the Saints. The four unnecessary roughness penalties that were not called:

  • On the game’s first snap, Favre handed off, turned away from the play and was hammered with a forearm to the chin by New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita. Not only should a personal foul have been called — Fujita should have been ejected on the game’s first offensive snap. Instead, no call. Scott, were you paid for behaving like a street thug?
  • At 6:14 of the first quarter, after Favre released a pass he was hit with a forearm to the chin by safety Roman Harper. No flag. Roman, were you paid for delivering that cheap shot?
  • At 4:15 of the first quarter, Favre released a pass and then Darren Sharper slammed him in the chest with a foreman. No flag. Darren, were you paid for having low standards?
  • At 13:29 of the second quarter, Favre released a pass and then was hurled to the ground by Bobby McCray. No flag. Bobby, were you paid for doing something you should be ashamed of?

Reviewing the tape, another aspect of the game jumped out at me that I missed when watching live, and so far as I can tell, all sportscasters and commentators missed, too. Beginning midway through the first quarter, whenever Favre handed off, he immediately ran backward 10 yards — to get away from New Orleans late hits.

And the assistant coach who ran the bounty operation? What a piece of work he is:

Gregg Williams has a classy first name, but may be a man of twisted values. Monday on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Mike Pesca dug up audio of Williams speaking after the Saints’ Super Bowl win. Williams says, “My whole life … I’ve been trying to get people to play nastier.” Can he seriously think lack of aggression is a problem in football? Williams also had this to say about his two sons’ youth football days: “I told their little league coaches my kids will play fast, they’re going to play nasty, they’re going to play tough. Tell the rest of the babies around them to speed up.”

What kind of a man boasts that his sons are nasty and denounces as “babies” 10-year-olds who want to participate in a sport safely? Williams needs to take a long look in the mirror — and by his distorted values, he has forfeited any claim to a leadership role.

The NFL has a bigger problem than figuring out how to discipline the New Orleans Saints players and coaching staff. Perhaps that is why no penalties have yet been announced. The bigger problem for the NFL is that they need to retain the aggression and the passion, yet clearly enforce and be seen to enforce the rules against deliberate attempts to harm other players. If they miss this opportunity, expect politicians (in an election year where media exposure is even more important than usual) to jump in and start trying to do it for them.

March 3, 2012

New Orleans to rename NFL team after “bounty hunting” revealed

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:05

Football is a fast, hard, dangerous game. But the New Orleans Saints made it that bit more dangerous for their opponents by offering head-hunting bonuses for injuring players during the game. This is against NFL rules, and it’s rather surprising to find that players earning hundreds of thousands per year could be motivated by such relatively trivial sums ($1,000 to $1,500 for knocking players out of the game):

The National Football League on Friday found the New Orleans Saints guilty of a wide-ranging system of bounty payments to between 22 and 27 defensive players from 2009 through 2011, and player-safety-conscious commissioner Roger Goodell could bring the hammer down very hard on the franchise.

The most alarming finding by the league, according to one club source who was briefed on the investigation late Friday afternoon, was this: Before the 2009 NFC Championship Game, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered any defensive teammate $10,000 in cash to knock then-Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the game. Favre was hit viciously several times in the game. Favre told SI.com Friday evening: “I’m not pissed. It’s football. I don’t think anything less of those guys.”

The details of Vilma’s offer were in a report to the 32 NFL owners, sent out by the league to detail further what the league’s 50,000-page investigation found.

Early indications late Friday afternoon were that the sanctions against the Saints and their former defensive coordinator who the league said administered the bounties, Gregg Williams, will be severe. The league said the penalties could include suspensions, fines and loss of draft choices — the latter of which could be particularly damaging to the Saints, who do not own a first-round pick this year. Their first choice will be late in the second round, the 59th overall … unless Goodell takes the pick away.

Football is a rough sport, but Goodell needs to crack down on this with enough force to send a message to the entire league. Taking away New Orleans’ draft picks would certainly be a punishment of that magnitude.

December 19, 2011

Drew Brees got his early Xmas gift from the Vikings

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:26

A few weeks ago, I said “If you really want to have your team’s quarterback enjoy an early Christmas gift, there’s nothing better than setting up a date with the Minnesota Vikings pass defence: your quarterback’s stats will improve dramatically after just one game!” I also predicted “Next week, it’ll be Drew Brees racking up a personal best passing performance for the New Orleans Saints.”

Perhaps I should go into the predicting-the-future business:

Drew Brees’ performance against the Vikings on Sunday wasn’t just brilliant, it was historically brilliant. According to the experts at NFL.com (via @DanBarreiroKFAN), Brees on Sunday became the first QB in NFL history with a game of 400+ yards, 5+ TDs and an 80%+ completion rate with no INTs. In other words, Brees’ gashing of the Vikings’ defense today was arguably the most incredible such mauling in the entire long and storied history of professional football.

Update: To say that the Vikings secondary is awful is merely acknowledging reality:

Here is Quarterback A: 69.1 completion percentage; 31 TD passes, 6 INTs; 110.8 passer rating.

Here is Quarterback B: 71.5 completion percentage; 37 TD passes, 11 INTs; 109.1 passer rating.

Quarterback B is Brees. Quarterback A is a combination of everyone who has thrown a pass against the Vikings this season. Yes, that includes Brees and Aaron Rodgers (twice), who are having phenomenal years.

But essentially the Conglomorate known as Quarterback A is having — at the very least — a Pro Bowl season. And if you want to go deeper, the 110.8 rating would be the 8th-best single-season passer rating in NFL history were it one QB. So you could say QBA is having an historic season.

Update, the second: Christopher Gates on the toxic waste pit masquerading as the secondary:

If Sean Payton had wanted Brees to throw for six hundred yards and seven touchdowns, he could have, and there wouldn’t have been a damn thing that the Vikings could have done about it. Because this might be the worst secondary in Vikings’ history. Worse than the Willie Teal years. . .worse than the Wasswa Serwanga/Robert Tate years. . .worse than any collection of secondary players in the 51 seasons that the Minnesota Vikings have been playing football.

Of all the current defensive backs on the Vikings roster, I can’t think of a single one that should feel confident that they’re even going to be on the team next season, let alone playing a significant role. That may sound like hyperbole, but I’m really not sure that it is. I mean, I don’t count Antoine Winfield in that, because he’s done for the year, but really. . .and nobody’s a bigger Winfield fan than I am. . .the guy turns 36 before camp next season. How long can you rely on him?

Chris Cook? The odds are just as good that he’ll be in prison in Week One of the 2012 NFL season than they are that he’ll be in the NFL. Husain Abdullah? Possibly, but now he’s fighting a concussion, and you can never really gauge how well a guy is going to come back from that. Outside of that, there is not one guy in this secondary that should be under the impression that their job is secure. Hell, right now our best defensive back. . .by a significant margin. . .is Benny Sapp, a guy that was watching games at home on his couch three weeks ago.

Update, 20 December: This picture explains why it’s a bad idea for Minnesota to try to come up with trick plays:

Yep. That’s Joe Webb, backup quarterback, faking a hand-off to Christian Ponder, starting quarterback. On a team that includes Adrian Peterson, the best running back in football. I loved this comment at the Daily Norseman from dsludo:

CP7 and Musgrave convo
CP7: What’s the play call?
BM: Derp
CP7 What are you talking about coach?
BM: Derp Derpity Derp
CP7: Fuck it, I’ll be the running back
BM: Derpity Herpity Derp
CP7: Webb you shotgun this shit. AP get back to the sidelines where you belong, while fucking over everyone’s fantasy team. Loadholt pretend you’re an NFL caliber Olineman.
Ready break.
CP7: Damn coach that didn’t work
BM: Derp it again
CP7: Seriously?
BM: Do I look serious, I SAID DERP IT AGAIN BITCH.

January 7, 2011

Something tells me that Seattle isn’t a popular pick

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:08

Here’s Scott Feschuk venting his spleen about the myriad wonders that put Seattle into the playoffs as the number 4 seed, despite posting a losing regular season record:

Did you see how coaching mastermind and Up With People alumnus Pete Carroll waited to tip his hand about who’s going to start at quarterback for his Seahawks. That left New Orleans at the disadvantage of having to prepare for both Dumb and Dumber. That’s some sneaky maneuverin’! It’s too bad Seattle couldn’t bring in The Most Sought After Man in the World, Jim Harbaugh, to coach this game. Or quarterback it. Or use his heavenly powers to part the Saints D-line while curing leukemia with his farts. Because according to sports talk radio Harbaugh could totally do it. HE’S A MICHIGAN MAN! Alas, the Seahawks are stuck with the roster that managed exactly one victory this season against a team that finished with a winning record. Every single one of Seattle’s nine losses this year was by more than 10 points. Every. Single. One. Why? Because they are terrible. TERRIBLE. Do not let yourself forget this: They are a terrible football team that is awful! Although in their defence Mike Williams has had a nice season and Carroll’s hair has never had more lustre and bounce. Some people seem to be trying to talk themselves into taking the points. At ESPN.com, one blogger wrote about how “the planets are aligning for a Seahawks victory.” His proof? “The defending Super Bowl champs must travel across the country to face a 7-9 team they defeated by two touchdowns already this season. Is that anything for them to get fired up about?” Um, yes, actually. I’d think the prospect of beginning your quest for a second consecutive Super Bowl title by lining up across from the Spazzy McNumbnuts would indeed be a tantalizing and highly agreeable proposition. Sure, the Saints will be without their two top running backs. But you know why that’s no big deal? BECAUSE THE SEAHAWKS ARE TERRIBLE.

Bruce Arthur chimes in:

Playoffs! We’re talking about playoffs! But not before we check off the list of those who didn’t get here, and therefore got thrown out on their behinds. We’ll go from the top of the trash pile to the bottom, starting with the stinking Seattle Seahawks, who finished 7-9, scored fewer and allowed more points that the 4-12 Cincinnati Bengals, got outscored by a total of 97 points — more than Detroit, Dallas and San Francisco combined — and …

Wait, what? They’re in? Well, that’s ridiculous.

October 28, 2010

New Orleans to abandon “crime camera” network

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:53

New Orleans installed a multi-million dollar camera network to try to reduce crime. It hasn’t been a good investment:

In seven years, New Orleans’ crime camera program has yielded six indictments: three for crimes caught on video and three for bribes and kickbacks a vendor is accused of paying a former city official to sell the cameras to City Hall.

Given that ignominious track record and the millions the city has paid for a camera network that rarely worked, Mayor Mitch Landrieu unceremoniously pulled the plug on the project Thursday.

“Most of us can agree that based on the way that they were installed, based on the way that they operated and the way that they were not maintained, that they were not a good investment,” Landrieu said as he announced his proposal to scratch the program from the city budget. The budget requires City Council approval.

For now, the cameras will stay in place, but won’t be maintained. Landrieu said he wants to wait to see if they are ever something they could use again before taking them down.

H/T to Bruce Schneier for the link.

September 12, 2010

Vikings face uphill struggle in new season

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:08

The acid-penned Jim Souhan points out the difficulties facing the Vikings this season:

For months, the Vikings’ opener at New Orleans, in a rematch of an epic NFC title game, in the home of a city believing the Saints offered proof of its rebirth, felt as consequential and symbolic as Christmas.

Turns out it was more like Halloween — a holiday signifying little, featuring loud costumes and leaving half the participants with queasy stomachs.

Ugly and overhyped as it was, the Vikings’ 14-9 loss to the Saints doesn’t mean much. Losing on the road to a championship team early in the season is hardly fatal. It was just another Fleur de Loss in “The City That Doesn’t Sleep In Its Own Bed.”

What the loss means is that the Vikings suddenly have little margin for error. They haven’t dealt with this predicament previously with Favre at their helm.

Last year, they started with easy victories over Cleveland and Detroit, stole one from the 49ers and started the season 6-0. The early winning streak gave them immense confidence and a cushion in the NFC North that allowed them to survive unsightly late-season losses at Arizona, Carolina and Chicago.

In fact, that early winning streak obscured the Vikings’ struggles on the road under Favre. Including the end of last season, the playoff loss at New Orleans and Thursday’s loss, the Vikings have lost six of their past seven road games with Favre under center, a strange occurrence given his experience.

As I’ve enumerated before, the Vikings were lucky to return so many of their 2009 starting players and key backups, but luck had a lot to do with their early season last year. They’re not as lucky this time around, and it’ll be easy for bandwagoners to bail in coming weeks. The Vikings still have the talent to go deep into the playoffs — once Favre gets into synchronization with his wide receivers. That will take a few more games, if last year is a guide.

September 10, 2010

Saints 14, Vikings 9

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:38

It wasn’t a pretty game, aside from the opening New Orleans drive. Drew Brees had a great start, making the Viking backfield look like statues, but that was the only really “magic” part of the game. From that point onwards, it was a very pedestrian performance by both teams.

This is similar to the start of last season: Brett Favre came in after training camp and only had the playing time in preseason games to learn about his new teammates. The difference is that last season, the Vikings had an easy start to their schedule.

Both Favre and Percy Harvin showed the effects of too little practice, and appeared to be on different pages of the playbook for too much of the game. It’s not surprising that they both have rust, especially for Harvin, who suffered from migraines all through training camp (and had other medical issues). At one point during the game, TV reporter Andrea Kramer reported that Harvin’s heart had stopped after he collapsed on the practice field during training camp, and that he’d then been diagnosed with sleep apnea (the migraine medication may have caused the collapse).

In spite of the early problems, the Vikings went in to the locker room at the half holding a 9-7 lead, thanks to a drive that showed what they’re capable of (given more time to gel). Visanthe Shiancoe got behind the covering linebacker for a touchdown, and Ryan Longwell had put the Vikings on the board with a field goal earlier. A blocked extra point kept the Vikings at 9.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the game was how well the Vikings’ patched-together-with-string-and-bailing-wire defensive backfield held up under the pressure:

Despite a few lapses, it’s hard to complain with a Vikings defense that held the NFL’s best offense to 14 points. In the first half, the Vikings showed they are still one of the league’s best at stopping the run. In the second half, the Saints managed to methodically push through the game. After the ugly first drive, the cornerbacks held their own. Lito Sheppard played well after a quiet training camp.

But the Vikings offense has 10 days to work out the offensive rustiness in time for Miami next Sunday in the Metrodome.

“This won’t get us derailed from our goal of the Super Bowl,” said Shiancoe, who finished with a team-high four catches for 76 yards. “It’s nothing to panic over.”

Update: Jim Souhan isn’t as kind:

Thursday night, in their season-opening, 14-9 loss in New Orleans, the Vikings’ skill-position players performed as if they needed nametags on the front of their jerseys, as if they should have taken time in the first huddle of the season to reacquaint themselves.

As in, “My name’s Brett, I’m from Hattiesburg, and I’m real sorry I held out for more money.”

On this visit to New Orleans, the Vikings needed a 12th man in the huddle just to make introductions.

Favre lived a charmed existence in 2009. He didn’t pay for his belated arrival because the Vikings started the season against Cleveland and Detroit, enabling him to make more warmup tosses than Mariano Rivera.

By the time the Vikings began facing real teams, Favre had developed a bond with Sidney Rice and a football version of telepathy with Percy Harvin.

Thursday, Favre played as if he had just driven over from his hometown of Kiln, Miss. On his tractor. With a cattail between his teeth.

September 9, 2010

QotD: Why football is king in America

Filed under: Football, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:37

You probably remember the pain, the feeling of deja voodoo.

You probably remember a sense of disbelief, as the Vikings and Brett Favre blew another epic game.

If you can forgive the Vikings their sins of that day — the 12th man in the huddle, the five turnovers, that fateful Favre pass — what you should remember is this:

The Vikings’ 31-28 loss to the Saints in the NFC Championship Game stands as the latest, best demonstration of why football is king in America.

Baseball is a beautiful and comforting game. Basketball showcases the world’s most spectacular athletes. Football reaches into our guts, reaches into the most evolved and most prehistoric portions of our brain, combining all of the elements of our greatest dramas, from violence to pathos to unpredictability to intricately interwoven plots.

What happened in the Superdome on Jan. 24 was Shakespearean. Not Shakespearean in the popular use of the word, meaning “effete” or “intellectual.” Shakespeare became popular by writing plays filled with blood and revenge, lust and greed.

And tragedy.

Shakespeare would have loved Favre.

Jim Souhan, “Take your seat, the big show is about to resume”, Star Tribune, 2010-09-09

Vikings-Saints preview

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:49

The 2010 NFL season starts tonight with a rematch of the NFC Championship between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. Last time the teams faced one another, the Vikings had all the advantages, except in turnovers, and that was what eventually decided the outcome. A late interception prevented the Vikings from attempting a field goal for the win, and the Saints got the ball in overtime, driving for the winning score.

The Vikings need no further encouragement than the opportunity to prove that the Championship game really was a fluke. Not all the same players will be on the field tonight: Sidney Rice had surgery that has him sidelined until the middle of the season, and other players are still recovering from injuries (Cedric Griffin and rookie Chris Cook for the Vikings, and Darren Sharper for the Saints).

The stakes aren’t as high as last time, but each team wants to set the tone for the new season.

Of course, it being the official kick-off of the new season, the game is getting a lot of analysis. I’ll summarize what most coverage is saying:

  • Quarterbacks: Drew Brees is still one of the top five in the league. Brett Favre is 87 years old. Edge: Saints.
  • Wide Receivers: New Orleans loves to play four wide: Minnesota only has four receivers on the entire roster, and their best one is recovering from surgery. Edge: Saints.
  • Running Backs: New Orleans has Reggie Bush, a very elusive, dangerous back. Minnesota has some guy who’s best known for fumbling the ball. Edge: Saints.
  • Offensive line: New Orleans won the Superbowl. Minnesota didn’t. Edge: Saints.
  • Defensive line: The Vikings may have a few guys who are well known, but they only sacked Drew Brees once in the NFC Championship. New Orleans nearly disassembled Brett Favre into separate pieces. Edge: New Orleans.
  • Defensive backfield: Finally, an area of weakness for the Saints. They’re not fielding the same four guys as last season. Minnesota had to round up the vagrants down at the bus station to man their corner and safety positions for this game. Edge: Saints.
  • Special teams: Minnesota just traded away a top punt return guy to the Giants. Brad Childress may have to suit up for punt return duties. Edge: Saints.

As you can see, the media is pretty uniform in their opinion. The game is being played in New Orleans, which is a very loud stadium. The Vikings don’t have a chance to win. That’s why I think it’ll be the Saints who’ll disappoint their fans in the opener.

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