Wow, I'm awesome. It's a really good thing I'm not much of a gambler when it comes to sports. Only Baltimore's domination of Miami saved me from misfiring on all four of my picks for this weekend's games. I guess that, among other reasons, is why I'm not a coach in the NFL.
The Minnesota-Philly game was particularly depressing. In the other games, at least the opposing team seemed to belong, to be good enough to deserve the win. Arizona proved they belong in the playoffs, and I thought they controlled the game more than the score shows. The Chargers looked impressive all night save for a couple of bad turnovers in the Colts' end zone, and it would have been tough to see those miscues cost them the game. Baltimore's defense did what I expected it to do, and their offense wasn't bad either. But Philly didn't look so great as much as Minnesota looked hopeless. Neither team really had any business winning that one, But the Vikings did more to lose it.
I can see why Vikings fans hate their team so much now. They're just a frustrating team to watch. For as good as their running game is on both sides, their passing offense and defense are pathetic. I can't remember the last time I watched a pass defense so bad, especially in the playoffs. I mean, when Philly faced second down, I was actually hoping they'd get close enough to the marker to try to run it on the next play, because it was obvious to me that if they threw the ball they'd pretty much be guaranteed a first down. Seriously. The Vikings' pass D was that
bad. They did well against the run the whole game, but their secondary let Philly keep drives going. Their rush wasn't even too bad and forced a fumble, but pass rush doesn't help much when the QB can just throw to a wide open receiver at will.
On offense, we knew they'd run well and they did. But they couldn't get a semi-consistent passing game going to save their season. It's easy to blame Jackson, but I didn't think he did so bad by himself. After all, it's tough to do much as a QB when you spend half the time on your back. He did have a rough game though. How can the Vikes' O-line be that good at blocking for the run and that bad at pass protection? I don't get it. But their inability to sustain drives and put up points, especially in crunch time, is a terrible thing to watch.
I can't sign off on this one without mentioning coaching. In the past I've been prone to cut Childress some slack, unlike a lot of others whose stuff I read, figuring he can't be as mindless as people make him out to be if his team is 10-6 and has some good strengths. But not this time. He made two atrocious mistakes that could have cost him the game.
First, on the opening drive, Philly failed to convert a third down from the Minnesota 26 (or so). But the Eagles were flagged for holding on the play, which if accepted would have backed them up 10 yards and given them 3rd and 19 at the 36. But Childress, much to the consternation of the sportscasters and I'm sure every Vikings fan watching, declined
it! So what results? Of course, none other than one of the best kickers in recent NFL history, David Akers, trots out and kicks a 43-yard field goal like it's a chip shot.
So, Brad, what the heck are you thinking on that one? Do you have so little confidence in your defense that you're afraid they'll give up 20+ yards on a single play, a third down
no less? Did you figure the chances of Akers missing a 43-yarder were better than the chances of McNabb & Co. failing to convert a 19-yard third down? Come on, it's not like everyone in the bleeping stadium didn't know the Eagles needed some big yards. Why not back them up and see if your defense holds? Maybe they get some of that yardage back, or maybe the freakishly pull off a first down pickup, but if not then at least you make Akers work from a little further away. Heck, maybe Philly punts from that far back. The worst part is, later in the game, this field goal was the difference between Minnesota needing one score or two scores, which effectively eliminated them from the game by forcing them to rely on passing to move down the field quickly. All in all, that move is inexplicable. Brad Childress, you're an idiot.
But that's not all. Boneheaded Childress Move #2: With less than two minutes left in the first half, and with the Vikes down 16-14 and backed up deep in their own territory after a punt, Childress faces a decision. He can either take some shots downfield and try to get into field goal range, a long shot at best given how his passing offense has been so far, or just call three ground plays and run out the clock, and hope to regroup at halftime and come out swinging in the third quarter. So he calls a do-nothing run on first down and doesn't use his last timeout, an obvious indication that he intends to call it a half...right? But on second down, Jackson throws a bad short pass in the flat, far from the sideline, which bounces off the receiver's outstretched arms and falls harmlessly behind the line of scrimmage. This burns a down and
stops the clock--great thinking, Brad! As expected, Philly uses its last timeout after Minnesota rushes again on third down. Minnesota punts and the Eagles almost get into field goal range, the disaster being averted only by a great open-field tackle to keep Westbrook in bounds (in Minnesota territory) so the clock runs out.
Now, what in the world was the goal of that second down short pass?? Did Childress think the guy would break it and dash 75 yards for a score? Was he supposed to get out of bounds after picking up a few yards while eating precious time off the clock, thus accomplishing nothing of purpose? If he was just supposed to stay in bounds with it, then a run does the same thing and averts both a clock stoppage and a potential interception. (Jackson had already thrown a TD pass to Asante Samuel earlier, this being the Eagles' lone touchdown at the time.) Keep in mind also that this year's Vikings punt coverage unit tied the league record for futility by giving up four return touchdowns, and DeSean Jackson had already run one back 62 yards earlier in the game to set up a field goal. So it should be obvious, even more so than in any regular game, that a punt should be avoided at all costs here. And yet Childress runs a play that basically guarantees the Vikes will punt it back to Philly and give them good enough field position to try for a last-second field goal. Unbelievable.
So, any way you slice it the Vikings game was a tough one for me to watch. I'm even dumber than Childress was during his shining moments in the game for picking that one-dimensional team to carry the NFC banner in the stupid bowl. Oh well...as it is, Pittsburgh would appear at this point to have a clear shot to Tampa. I don't think any of the three remaining AFC teams are on their level, not even Tennessee. Maybe San Diego...but the Steelers will have homefield advantage against them next week and that will be huge. In the NFC, who knows. I don't think any team there is dominant. If I had to pick I guess I'd go with the Giants...but I'll be pulling for Arizona to turn some heads.