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Unwrapping the Season Opener

Yesterday was like Christmas and Vikings fans got the gift of a win. After a long, dull off-season Vikings football was back. For as nice as training camp and preseason games are for football-starved fans, nothing compares to that first game of the season. Everything else is practice or an extended try-out, but that first game counts.

Because the season opener is a state occasion I wore my John Randle jersey and my toenails were painted Paparazzi Plum for luck. However, I didn’t wear my horns because I had a good feeling about the game. It was, after all, only the Cleveland Browns. So there I was, suited up and downing more caffeine than was probably healthy, watching my Vikings, the team that seemed to have had a glow of destiny about them all off-season and preseason—and, for the first half, they pretty much stunk.

The best that could be said of my team is that they were mediocre. Defense, offense, and special teams all looked sluggish. I kept waiting for Jared Allen to sack Brady Quinn and then do his calf-roping thing but it didn’t happen. Special teams gave up a touchdown to Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs in what looked eerily like a repeat of last season. Favre looked like a guy who had missed training camp and wasn’t on the same page as his receivers. Adrian Peterson was held to just 25 yards and, more concerning, was slow getting up when the Browns defense leveled him into the turf. With anyone else that wouldn’t have been surprising, but Adrian Peterson isn’t anyone else, he’s Mr. All Day. If he couldn’t rally against Cleveland, what chance did anyone else have?

But then, a Christmas miracle happened and, I suspect, Eric Mangini is going to petition the league to test the Vikings for half-time doping because the Minnesota team that played the second half bore almost no resemblance to the first-half team.

While Jared Allen didn’t sack Brady Quinn, Kevin Williams and E.J. Henderson sure did, shaking Quinn’s confidence and, probably, his teeth. Favre started finding Percy Harvin in a big way and hit him for a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Other than Cribbs’ touchdown return, Vikings special teams held the Browns in check on punt and kick-off return yardage. But the comeback story of the game was Adrian Peterson.

Fluids, a pep-talk, and a quick bout of vomiting during half-time and Peterson played like a man on fire, rushing for 155 yards and 3 touchdowns in the second half. Not even having blood running down his arm like a back-yard waterfall could slow the guy down. It was a beautiful thing to see him straight-arm Browns’ defenders on his way to yet another touchdown.

Despite my joy at the Vikings victory over the Browns yesterday, I hope we see more consistent play from, well, basically the whole team. Chris Kluwe is paid to kick the ball, not to tackle the punt returner. While Brett Favre might have gotten away with missing training camp a few years back, that is no longer the case and his lack of familiarity with his receivers was apparent. The offensive line needs to protect Farve better because he’s being paid $12 million to quarterback the game, not be a tackling dummy. And, for the love of all that is holy, make sure Adrian Peterson doesn’t get dehydrated. He’s the Vikings biggest playmaker, is it too much to ask that he be assigned his own assistant to hand him some Gatorade?

It may not have been a picture-perfect win, but it still came wrapped with a bow and a hint of promise. Next week, even though the Vikings are only playing the Detroit Lions, I’m going to have to wear my Helga horns. It is just a bit too early to trust these guys, even if they do come bearing gifts.

-Skol Girl

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