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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hard times in Minnesota

The NFC Championship game was as much about the team that lost as it was who won. Sure the Saints deserve to go to the Super Bowl. Sure it is also a great story that a town ravaged by Hurricane Katrina gets to celebrate its hometown football team's first appearance in the aforementioned game. But after all is said and done, this game will be remembered more for the chances that the Minnesota Vikings squandered than anything the New Orleans Saints did. Many people want to blame Brett Favre and his attempt at late game heroics for Minnesota's ultimate downfall. Others will point to Adrian Peterson's fumbles. I would argue that neither are the real reason Minnesota lost its chance to punch its ticket to Miami; rather, I place the blame squarely upon the shoulders of its head coach, Brad Childress.

Childress's first mistake was not taking out Adrian Peterson after he committed his second fumble(and lets be honest folks, Minnesota's first fumble was not on Favre, if you watch the replay Peterson is ready to take off before he secures the football.) Peterson more than likely will turn out to be a hall of fame running back. However, winning the turnover battle takes on ten times the importance during a playoff game(and especially a championship game) than it does during the regular season. And Chester Taylor has proven himself to be a more than capable backup to Peterson. Bottom line: with so much at stake Childress should have bet on sure hands rather than potential, in my opinion.

The second mistake (and history may reveal this to be more costly) Brad Childress made was calling a conservative game plan during the Vikings last offensive possesion. I believe that this led Brett to force a throw into coverage he normally would not because he did not believe they would get the yardage necessary to kick the winning field goal any other way. And even if it did not, the Vikings did not appear to be taking the chances necessary to win the game. I must confess, after the got the ball back with a little over two minutes left I thought they might be playing for overtime: the first few plays were a couple of runs and some safe passes. There is an unwritten rule in sports that says if you are the home team play for overtime, and if you are the road team go for the win. Why on earth would you then dial up a conservative game plan if you are trying to win the game? Even if the Vikings go down the field and score a quick touchdown, there is no guarantee that the Saints would be able to answer with a score of their own, as most of their scores came from a shortened field as the result of Vikings' turnovers.

There are many people who believe that Brett Favre is like the Phil Mickelson of the NFL: a guy who has tremendous talent but chokes on the big stage. While that may or may not be true, in my opinion, if anyone is to blame for the Vikings lost last Sunday look no further than its head coach.

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