In this week's NFL "Tuesday Night Football", the Minnesota Vikings and host Philadelphia Eagles had the complete and undivided attention of the entire football-viewing nation. In the first NFL game to be played on a Tuesday since October 1, 1946, the Vikings overcame being 14 point underdogs to "shock " America with a 24-14 win.
In doing so, the Vikings exorcised a couple of football demons. This game represented the franchise's first victory over Eagle Head Coach Andy Reid, and the first victory over Eagle quarterback Michael Vick (When the Vikings defeated Vick's Atlanta Falcon team in 2003, Vick was out that week).
Whether the Vikings "bonded" - by spending two extra days on the road trip thanks to the winter storm that caused the controversial rescheduling of the game for Tuesday night as opposed to the original Sunday night date - or whether the team just got properly insulted by ridiculously being the largest underdog of any team all season, the Eagles got the message. It was not the Carolina Panthers that they were playing.
How soon folks forget.
Essentially, this same group of Viking players were a play away from being in the Super Bowl within this very same calender year. The Eagles were playing against one of the most talented teams in the NFL, despite the lousy 5-9 record. Dysfunction, distraction and dissenson derailed the Vikings season this year, not lack of capability.
For one night, and for perhaps the only time in the 2010 season, the Vikings simply played the way they were supposed to have played all year. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Vikings displayed both a truly great running back, who ran through actual holes opened up by the offensive line, and a controlled passing game that was able to get the ball to a group of highly-skilled receivers, without commiting turnovers. The defense was good against the run, and relentless in its pass rush. This was afterall, the same front seven that led the NFL in sacks just last season for those who can remember that way far back.
Yet, all of the fallout from this "stunner" has been about how horribly the Eagles played in general, and how horribly Michael Vick played in particular. My oh my, what happened to the Eagles?
What happened, can be summed up by two post-game quotes, one by Reid, and one by Vikings Defensive End, Jared Allen.
Reid said..."It was a complete tail-whipping right there, complements to the Vikings. Les (Vikings Head Coach, Leslie Frazier) has done a nice job there..."
Allen said..."I think this was a big win because this was a national game. We wanted to let people know we were still here even though we went through a rough patch."
Those two quotes spoke volumes. Yes, while the Eagles warranted being significant favorites going into the game, and were not at their very best Tuesday night, the fact that a sleeping giant like the Vikings could give them all they wanted, should not have really come as a complete surprise.
One element that was different from the Viking team in this latest game from the Viking team of a year ago however, was not the high level of quarterback play, but from whom the high level of quarterback play came. Rookie Joe Webb, in making his first career start, played with great poise and ability. At no point did Webb ever appear rattled, and he consistently made good decisions with the ball, whether with accurate passes or with crucial runs.
The rookie 6th-round draft pick from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, completed 17 out of 26 passes for 195 yards, and rushed for 31 yards on six carries. His deft nine-yard touchdown run in the second half has to have heads turning throughout the league.
The Viking franchise has to be excited at what could wind up being the best rookie quarterback of this year's draft. Webb's upside appears to be without limit, and for right now, he just needs to play.
Otherwise, Adrian Peterson's 118 yards rushing and a touchdown on 22 carries, should have surprised no one. That is the kind of game premier running backs have.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield's constant harassment of Vick - eventually forcing the quarterback into a turnover and converting the fumble into a touchdown - should have surprised no one. Winfield has been an elite cornerback in this league for the balance of his career, and making big plays is what cornerbacks of his stature do.
As for Vick, whose MVP chances certainly took a hit, he still was really very much the elusive marvel that we have all come to expect. In reality, as badly as the Viking defense whipped the Eagle offensive line from start to finish, the fact that Vick only got sacked six times was amazing in and of itself. In actuality, Vick eluded pass rusher after pass rusher, time and time again, and any other quarterback in this league would have been sacked at least 10 times.
For all of the talk of how Vick was hobbled due to injury, he still registered a classic Vick 10-yard touchdown run late in the game, and finished with an extremely impressive eight-yard-per-carry average with 63 yards on just eight rushes.
The bottom line is, the Vikings simply showed what they can do when well-coached, and well-focused. The rest of the league should feel very fortunate that last year's conference runner-up was simply not able to put it all together this year. While we do not know which Viking team will show up Sunday in their second regular season game in Detroit this season, for one night anyway, the Vikings gave the country a glimpse of what 2010 could have been like.