B.Grant

Well, Tomb, now that the Vikings are officially in the playoffs, and now that your prediction insisting they WOULDN’T make it (yes, you capitalized it for effect) is officially an embarrassment for you, it’s time for us to discuss what this four game December finish means for the Vikes and their fans.  I assume you have some grand, wordy explanation as to how your faith in the purple was so weakened for this finish, but within that description, perhaps you could tell us what most surprised you about these last four games.  (Obviously, you had to be surprised by something!)

Personally, I was especially pleased with the defensive improvement we saw, at least until injuries put our not-so-deep secondary on the field against the Packers.  And even then, it was nice to see our offense decide they weren’t going to let us lose.  The defense now seems aggressive, and the secondary is actually taking away some of what the passing offenses want to accomplish.  Timely interceptions against the Bears and Rams were big parts of those wins, and to keep Houston out of the end zone was something more than any defense should expect of themselves.

Obviously, AD running amok against opponents is the key to this team, and the lack of turnovers, timely third down passing, and good defense has made the Vikes worthy of a playoff berth, as well as some real respect within the playoff season.  So, my friend, how do you see things in this playoff week which you said would never happen?

Tomb…

I don’t have the exact numbers, but I think if you point out that I was incorrect one, maybe two more times, you’re officially extended a heartfelt invitation into Tomb’s ex-girlfriend club. Word of advice: don’t bring wine; that stuff makes ‘em crazier than usual.

In any case, yes, the Vikes squeaking out the 6th seed in the playoffs is absolutely shocking to me. I really didn’t think they had it in them, and I fully admit I was wrrr…wrrrroo…not completely correct. They played hard and smart and deserve their spot. As you said, “AD running amok against opponents is the key to this team.” Truer words were never spoken. What he does helps out damn near every aspect of the Vikings game. I also think a huge part of his success has to do with not only an improved OL, but bringing in Felton. AD said he doesn’t like running behind a fullback, but the numbers that he racks up when he does are hard to argue with. 296 yards in one game during a brilliant rookie season behind Richardson, and now cracking the 2k yards in a season behind Felton lends much credence to having a good fullback in the game plan. Anybody miss Tahi?

Fullback aside, I think the main ingredient in the last 4 wins was Musgrave deciding to quit being cute, and just give the ball to AD. Look at the last 9 games of the season. The numbers listed on the right are “attempts, yards, and avg. yards per carry.” 15 carries, loss. 17? Loss. 27, win. 18, loss. The first Packer game I consider a bit of an aberration. Ponder’s untimely picks threw away what I considered a very winnable game. AD never had less than 24 carries/game after that, and a season high 34 in the last game.

8              Buccaneers        L  17-36                 15           123         8.2

9              @Seahawks       L  20-30                 17           182         10.7

10           Lions                    W 34-24                 27           171         6.3

BYE WEEK

12           @Bears                L 10-28                  18           108         6.0

13           @Packers           L 14-23                  21           210         10.0

14           Bears                    W 21-14                 31           154         5.0

15           @Rams                W 36-22                24           212         8.8

16           @Texans             W 23-6                  25           86           3.4

17           Packers                W 37-34               34           199         5.9

What I give the coaching staff credit for is finally realizing that you need to use, even abuse, your number 1 threat. I don’t give Ponder a big basket full of credit, and likely won’t for the foreseeable future. He’s playing defenses that completely sell out to stop the run, and has only recently started to take advantage of that. He had a good game last week, but he should have had games like that all year long. How would he look facing teams that are actually game planned to stop the pass? I shudder to think. In any case, if he can maintain last week’s level of play for even a few more games, I’ll declare a personal moratorium on dubbing him the Big Reach, and simply refer to him as Standard Reach. My gift to you, Mr. Ponder, in the spirit of the season! Do please take advantage of my offer.

As far as the defense playing better, I would say that stands to reason. Less 3 and outs means less time on the field means a less tired defense. Like, doy, Coach. Doy.

Question is, does the same game plan win a 2nd game against the puke green clad fuglies from across the border? As you noted, the depleted secondary is not just a concern, but my number one concern. Constant and aggressive pressure on Mr. “I’m with a girl, see I’m totally straight!” Rodgers is absolutely key to a repeat win.

B.Grant

Seeing how hard it is for you to admit you were wrong (which you were), I will concede the fact that I did not make the prediction after week 12 that the Vikes would get into the playoffs.  I simply said that they still had a good chance, so I guess I can stop reminding you that you were wrong (which you were).

Please, don’t patronize Mr. Ponder and I.  You still don’t like him, and you don’t see him as our long range answer to the position, so let’s just leave it at the Big Reach stage for now.  That will save you having to swallow hard to call him anything else.  I know he still needs to prove himself.  I know he doesn’t play the position like Brady, the Mannings, or Rodgers, and I agree that his decision-making sometimes causes squirming in my football throne on Sundays.  All said, I still like the kid, and I see a Rich Gannon-type player in him.  I recall several plays in recent weeks where his legs made up for his arm.  Also, he has learned to throw the long ball to one of the guys who will actually catch it when it drops into his arms.

Interesting stats you present.  Whatever “doy” means, I would suggest the same to you on this one.  If the run is working and we’re in the lead, doesn’t it stand to reason we would run it more?  If we’re trailing and they’re shutting it down, doesn’t it make sense we will run it less?  More three and outs mean less plays to run.  Doy (I guess).

All that aside, I think the two units – offense and defense – can be real compliments to each other.  If the defense can play well early, force three-and-outs like they did the first two Packer possessions, and let our offense get things going and get a lead, then both units are going to have a good day.  I think we would both agree this is not a team that is going to have a lot of success coming back from 17 down.

Let’s face it, Tomb.  A win at Lambeau this Saturday won’t be easy. Even so, the Pack has to be thinking about the fact that they got in a shootout and lost this past week.  If we can do that, then the Pack has to be wondering just how they can beat us.  And of course they are still wondering how to stop AD.  What do you expect Saturday night? And don’t worry, if you’re wrong, you know it won’t be me making a big deal out of it.

Tomb…

It really is tough to go toe-to-toe with you on bold predictions. I remember that one time you predicted we had a good shot against the 49ers, depending on whether we played well and won, or didn’t play well and lost. That’s going out on a limb right there. Granted, the limb is a 3 foot thick oak limb, but still…

Ponder may well prove to be a Gannon type player, eh? That there is every fan’s dream, to use your 12th overall pick to grab a guy who can follow in the vaunted footsteps of Rich Gannon; a barely above average QB who’s claim to fame is getting crushed in a Super Bowl. I’m pumped!

We definitely agree this is not a team built to come back from 17 down. Maybe when Ponder reaches the ethereal heights of Gannon, we can, but now? Not so much.

Sarcasm aside, all my life I’ve heard that starting a rookie QB and having them do well is an absolute rarity. This year, Luck, RG3, and Russell Wilson all made the playoffs (Kaepernick and Dalton maybe worthy of a raised brow too?). At some point we maybe need to readdress that old axiom, or redefine the meaning of the word rarity.

One thing we clearly agree on, is that a win at Lamblow is no small feat. It is, however, definitely winnable. To take a page from your playbook, I think we have a great chance of pulling out a victory, unless we don’t. I do not see them stopping AD, quite honestly. They tried damn near everything they could last week, and still couldn’t do it. Question then is, can Ponder play his part, and make timely throws sans interceptions? We’ll see.

By the way, when it comes to doys, there’s no re-doying. I’m rubber, you’re glue…whatever doys you say bounce off me, and stick to you.

Boing, stick!

B.Grant

Moving on from “doyness” protocol/buffoonery (sheesh), allow me to explain my position prior to the 49er game, so as to put your blurred recollections into focus.  We were just coming off a loss to the “lowly” Colts (playoff team as it turns out), and most Viking fans, including many on VT, felt that the Vikings had gone 1-1 in their only two winnable games of the year (i.e. “despair”).  At that time, my point was that the pre-crowned, dreaded 49ers were actually a pretty favorable match-up for us and barring a rash of stupid penalties or 6 turnovers, we could actually win that game.  That was no 3-foot oak limb at that time, my friend.

Alright.  Alright!  I will make a definitive prediction about this week’s playoff game.  But I can’t do that without the comfort of some qualifications and explanations as a prelude to my venture into the oak tree of prognostication.

First, I see we are major underdogs heading into the game, and that surprises me a little.  Yes, the 11-5, Aaron Rodgers-led, division champion Green Bay Packers are at home against the upstart, unproven QB-led, wild card Vikings who lost all the outdoor games they played this year.  How could the Vikings possibly win?  Well, Tomb, Las Vegas, and Packer fans, the Vikings WILL win this game by a score of 24-20.

I make this prediction on the basis of something you said, Tomb.  The Packers simply cannot physically stop Adrian Peterson.  Now, I do believe they might well “hold” him to around 150 yards in this game, but the Vikings are growing in their confidence to win games with other parts of their offense, and that is an issue for the Packers. As Ponder expands this offense, he expands the list of problems for the Packer defense.

I also base this prediction on something I heard Leslie Frazier say this week.  He said the reason for the strong finish to the season is based on the team growing in their “resiliency”, the ability to overcome events within a game which may have overcome them in the past.  It’s a mental thing, and I feel it is one of the coaching strengths of Denzel.  I think we all felt like the Packers were “taking over” last Sunday  with the personal foul penalties and the injuries in the secondary that made our defense look like someone cleaning up water with a pitchfork.  But they did not take over, and the Vikings did exactly what they needed to do to win.

Now, there are plenty of things to be worried about in Saturday night’s game.  The stadium environment, the weather (which might take away a very critical weapon for us – the 55 yard field goal), our injured secondary, our lack of playoff experience, and several others.  I know good and well that we probably should be underdogs for this game, but if so, then this will be one of at least two upsets this weekend.

OK, doyless one, given your statement in our last discussion that missing the playoffs (you were wrong) would at least spare us the pain of one-and-done, are you standing by that prediction after what you have seen the past 4 weeks, or are you ready to board the bandwagon?

Tomb…

Your dismissive attitude towards parliamentary procedure re:doy concerns me. What next, no recognition of dibs? I’ll let this go for now, but feel like I may need to further discuss this troubling matter with you at a later time.

Of course we are underdogs. Green Bay has a better record, much better QB, and are playing at home. Cobb is back and healthy again. They also aren’t too far removed from a Super Bowl victory, thus they have experience and a recent track record of winning in the postseason. The Vikes, as you stated, have yet to win outdoors. These points, amongst many other factors, lead me to ask: who wouldn’t put money down on the uglies pulling off a win?

That aside, I think the Vikes could definitely walk out of Lamblow victorious. The template was established their last game, and translates very well to a cold weather environment. If the boys play a damn near flawless game, it’s easy to imagine, no?

As much as I desperately want to win this one, I still don’t think we will. Unlike 4 games ago, when I couldn’t even imagine it, I can definitely imagine, and even see a Viking victory, but have to put the slight odds NOT in our favor. Besides, my “Negative Nelly” attitude seems to have been a winning recipe last week, so why not try it again, right? I like to think of myself as not being swayed by the hokum of superstition, but as I cast a glance to my left at the gargoyle who is still wearing his Vikings/Santa hat (the only bit of Christmas left in the Tomb household, in case it may have been the key to victory), I have to admit I cannot completely discount it.

To sum: I’m getting acclimated to this whole being wrong thing, so let’s hope I get to slice another hunk of crow off my plate.