Postgame schadenfreude, Skål Vikings edition

In the 1970s, the Minnesota Vikings were known for getting to Super Bowls (IV, VII, VIII and XI) and losing them.

For the past 20 years, the Vikings are now getting a reputation for losing the worst game to lose of a season, either in excruciating fashion …

… or playing so poorly that people question whether you should have gotten to the NFC title game in the first place.

(By the way: “Skål” is the Norwegian, Swedish and Danish spelling of “Skol,” as in “Skol Vikings.”)

And so we have Sunday’s NFC championship game, reported upon by the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling:

The Vikings marched into Philadelphia as three-point favorites, with the NFL’s top-ranked defense against a backup quarterback who hadn’t thrown for more than 300 yards in a game since 2014. One game away from becoming the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in its home stadium, Minnesota had given its fans reason to believe the payoff was finally here, that Charlie Brown’s right foot would finally meet the pigskin squarely and send it soaring.

But in the end, with a crowd of Eagles fans jeering as they stood witness, Lucy pulled away the ball again.

It’s difficult, so soon after the Vikings’ 38-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, to rank their most recent defeat among their most crushing NFC Championship Game losses. But this one had to sting, both because of the opportunity lost and the manner in which it disappeared, in a game where most of what the Vikings had come to count on evaded them.

“If we would have gone out and they would have beat us at our game, you tip your hat to them and tell them good job,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “But we really dug ourselves in a hole, and that’s what’s going to make it most difficult. I felt like our fans deserve to watch us play in the Super Bowl in our stadium, and we let them down.”

A defense that had only allowed one quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards this season was filleted by Nick Foles, the Eagles quarterback who had taken over for the injured Carson Wentz just over a month ago. Foles threw strikes past just about everybody in the Vikings’ decorated secondary: past All-Pro safety Harrison Smith, past venerable corner Terence Newman, past former 11th overall pick Trae Waynes.

“We would love to play a Super Bowl if it was in China, to be honest with you,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Some of our strengths, they attacked. They got after us tonight. We weren’t used to those kinds of things.”

Case Keenum, the improbable Vikings starter who’d led them to this point after Sam Bradford’s knee injury in Week 1, had an interception returned for a touchdown for the first time this season. It would be the first of his three turnovers, followed by a fumble that set up Philadelphia’s third touchdown and a late interception after the Eagles had put the game out of reach. …

“There’s a lot of things that went wrong today, obviously,” Keenum said. “Opening up the game, with how electric that crowd was, and going down and scoring, we felt good. The turnover was a mistake that I definitely want back. These ends are so good, this front is so good, I’ve got to step up and get away from the pass rush and be smarter.”

Assuming Keenum ever has the chance again. Keenum was in the running, had the Vikings won, to be a potential answer to the trivia category of Worst Quarterbacks to Play in a Super Bowl, along with Miami’s David Woodley, New England’s Tony Eason, the Giants’ Jeff Hostetler and Kerry Collins, and the Ravens’ Trent Dilfer. My guess is Keenum will resume his role as clipboard-holder next season, whereas Foles now has a good chance to join that list.

After they built a 17-0 lead at halftime last week, the Vikings were outscored 62-19 in their final six quarters of playoff action. They will end the season with the typical round of questions prompted by these kinds of playoff defeats — about what they could have done differently, about what they will do next with Shurmur likely becoming the New York Giants’ next head coach and three quarterbacks set to hit free agency. …

But before the questions start, they will have to contend with the revulsion over what they lost.

There will be no home Super Bowl for the Vikings, in a market that is set to host the game for the first time since 1992 and might not see it again for years. Instead, a heartbroken metropolis will be asked to put on its happy face and dole out Northern hospitality for two boisterous fan bases: Patriots fans coming to watch their team play its eighth Super Bowl in 16 years and Eagles fans who spent much of the second half mocking the Vikings’ “Skol” chant, repurposing it as “Foles.”

Rana L. Cash ponders …

Is it better to have won then lost, than never to have won at all? Vikings fans must be wrestling with this notion. Had the Vikings not pulled off the Minneapolis Miracle, a moment that will be seared in sports history and Vikings lore, they never would have made it to the NFC Championship Game in the first place. So, there was sweetness in battle. But did that leave them more bitter after Sunday’s 38-7 loss to the Eagles? Perhaps. But nothing will exasperate the franchise and fanbase more than the cumulative misery of the last six NFC title game exits.

Jan. 21, 2018: They all hurt, but this one is raw, the Vikings falling 38-7 in humiliating fashion to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Two first-half turnovers put the Vikings behind 24-7 at halftime and from there, it only got worse.

Jan. 24, 2010: Saints 31, Vikings 28 (OT): If having 12 men in the huddle wasn’t enough of a drive-killer, the Vikings’ were undone by Brett Favre’s interception with 19 seconds left. Five of the Vikings’ final seven drives ended with a turnover.

Jan. 14, 2001: Giants 41, Vikings 0: The box score looks like something out of a horror movie: Daunte Culpepper passed for 78 yards, threw three interceptions and was sacked four times. The Vikings drives ended with two fumbles, three picks and six punts. It was over from the moment the coin flipped.

Jan. 17, 1999: Falcons 30, Vikings 27 (OT): Widely regarded as the best Vikings team to have not won the Super Bowl, Minnesota’s hopes were doused when Gary Anderson, who’d not missed a field goal all season, sailed one in wide left to give the Falcons a shot to push the game into overtime. Atlanta took full advantage of that, then put Minnesota away with Morten Andersen’s field goal in the extra period.

Jan. 17, 1988: Redskins 17, Vikings 10: Only six yards separated the Vikings from the Washington end zone and it appeared a fourth-down pass to Darrin Nelson with 1:06 left would be good enough to tie the game and send it into overtime. Quarterback Wade Wilson found Nelson, but Washington cornerback Darrell Green immediately knocked the ball loose, securing the win for the Redskins.

Jan. 1, 1978: Cowboys 23, Vikings 6: NFC Championship Games had been good to the Vikings up until this point. Entering the contest without an injured Fran Tarkenton (broken leg, thumb injury), Minnesota’s offense sputtered with Bob Lee and committed four turnovers. Their only scores came on two first-half field goals.

The ugly truth is that teams that have miracle playoff finishes (the Immaculate Reception, Sea of Hands, the Epic in Miami, The Catch II, Matt Hasselbeck-to-Al-Harris and now the so-called Minneapolis Miracle, which was really execrable pass defense) usually lose the next week.

Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Sunday night, the Liberty Bell wasn’t the only thing in Philadelphia with a massive crack in it.

There was the Vikings’ defense, too.

The Philadelphia Eagles split it wide open, finding flaws and openings in a unit that carried the Vikings to a 13-3 regular-season record and a renewed hope that this season would be different than so many others.

It wasn’t.

This season ended like so many others. With failure. With hopes, dreams and expectations stomped out.

It was ugly what happened to that defense, which was top-ranked in the league in the regular season and just plain rank in a 38-7 loss to the Eagles in the NFC championship game. …

All NFC championship game losses hurt, but this one had a pain all its own. …

There will be no bringing it home. No making history as the first team to host a Super Bowl in its stadium. None of that fun stuff. Just misery in the playoffs, like always.

Of all the soul-crushing postseason losses the Vikings have suffered, and there have been plenty, this was the soul-crushingest of them all.

Just look at what the Eagles did to that defense, strafing it for 452 yards and making a mockery of the Vikings’ league-best ability to shut down offenses on third down. And on offense, the Vikings had three turnovers and, other than the first few minutes, never were a threat to dent the Eagles’ defense.

“We didn’t play like ourselves,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “We couldn’t get it going. They were the better team. They put their foot on the gas.”

In the space of one week, the Vikings went from their most impressive playoff win to their worst playoff loss. It was as if the coaches forgot how to coach and the players forgot how to play.

And now this team takes its place along other Viking fails.

The four Super Bowl losses. The end-zone pass to Anthony Carter in ‘87 that didn’t have a chance because Darrin Nelson thought it was for him. The missed field goals against Atlanta in ’98 and two years ago against Seattle. The 41-0 rout by the New York Giants in ’01. The 12 men on the field and the fumbles and Brett Favre’s interception in ’09 in New Orleans.

In none of those games did the Vikings come right out, march down the field with ease for a lead, and collapse like an anvil was dropped on their head.

Yep, soul-crushing.

The Eagles made big play after big play in the first half when they constructed a 24-7 lead. And then there were more big plays in the second half.

“We know we’re better than that,” Rudolph said. “We did exactly what we said we couldn’t do.”

Well, the Vikings did have a 7-0 lead after the opening drive.

Everything flipped on them when Case Keenum got hit under his throwing arm by defensive end Chris Long and his pass fluttered to Patrick Robinson, who returned it 50 yards for a touchdown.

The Eagles didn’t just hijack momentum from the Vikings. It was like they ripped out the Vikings’ heart, aorta and everything else that gave them life this season.

And remember, the Eagles did this without quarterback Carson Wentz, the guy who likely would have been the NFL’s Most Valuable Player if he hadn’t suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 14.

They did it with a journeyman backup, Nick Foles, who threw for more than 350 yards and three touchdowns and helped set up a Feb. 4 date at U.S. Bank Stadium against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

Of course, it helped that the Vikings picked the absolutely worst game to reveal every wart and deficiency they had.

“We were very uncharacteristic tonight,” Rudolph said.

They showed impressive mental toughness in the way they beat the New Orleans Saints in the final second last week. Maybe they used it all up. Maybe they still had a miracle hangover and couldn’t get in the proper mind-set for this game.

Whatever the reason, they did what, ultimately, they always do in the postseason. Fail.

The Pioneer Press’ John Shipley puts it all into perspective:
 And so the darkness of another long winter settles over Minnesota. It has taken longer than usual, but now the Vikings are done, and reality has swept in like a bracing slap to the face.

So close, again. As the broken bard of Minnesota once sang, “I can live without your touch, but I’ll die within your reach.”

Such has been the fate of two generations of Vikings fans now, many of whom don’t remember the last time the Vikings were in a Super Bowl. They will always remember losing the rare opportunity to play one in their own stadium. Instead, it will be the Philadelphia Eagles playing the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4.

It’s going to be a long couple of weeks.

It is now six times and counting that the Vikings have come within a victory of returning to their first Super Bowl since 1977, now six times and counting that they have failed to rise to the occasion.

Last weekend’s “Minnesota Miracle” proved that good things can, in fact, happen for the Vikings. Sunday’s 38-7 loss to the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field proved that a divisional-round playoff victory, no matter how memorably stirring — cathartic, even — is only part of what will alter the narrative of the perpetually disappointing Vikings.

If the Vikings were finally on the right side of a miracle in a 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 14, they quickly, and somewhat unfathomably, stumbled back into their old roles on Sunday. Like their forebears of 1998 and 2009, this year’s Vikings appeared to be Super Bowl-ready, road favorites against the NFC’s top playoff seed.

But the 15-game winners of Randall Cunningham and Randy Moss in 1998, and the first of two Brett Favre-led squads in 2009, lost tight overtime games, losses traced easily to self-inflicted wounds — Gary Anderson’s missed field goal at the Metrodome, a couple of red zone fumbles and a late interception at the Superdome 11 years later. …

The interminable nature of Sunday’s loss served to blunt the horror. There was no twist ending this time, no shocking mistake to steal defeat from the jaws of victory, just the numb realization that it has happened again.

Many of us thought this team was ready for a Super Bowl; that years of disappointment would be mollified by the unprecedented reward of watching the Vikings play one in their own stadium.

“I felt like our fans deserved to watch us play a Super Bowl in our stadium,” Rudolph said. “We let ’em down.”

Still riding the high from the Minneapolis Miracle one week ago today, the Minnesota Vikings showed up at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday and forgot to bring a game plan with them. Or at the very least, the one they had didn’t work…at all. …

The backup quarterback that nobody was afraid of took the opportunity to shred the league’s best defense to utter shreds all night long. Torrey Smith showed up, Alshon Jeffery showed up, Nick Foles showed up and the Minnesota Vikings defense did not.

The Vikings were out of character across the board. The all-pros were making mistakes, the rookies were screwing up, and the game plan on both offense and defense just wasn’t working…not one bit.

It appeared to be a dream too good to be true, a host city welcoming their team to play in the Super Bowl at their home stadium…when the final whistles blew, it was too good to be true.

The fact is that the concept of the Super Bowl host playing in the Super Bowl is somewhat of a canard. Super Bowl teams get 17.5 percent of the tickets each, with the host team getting 6.2 percent, one-third of the tickets going to the other 29 teams, and the NFL getting one-fourth of the seats. Had the Vikings won, they would have gotten more tickets, but not more than the Patriots, the same as Super Bowl XIV in Pasadena with the Rams and Super Bowl XIX at Stanford with the 49ers. Twin Cities-area businesses actually make out better with the Vikings not in the Super Bowl, since Patriots and Eagles fans will be descending on the Twin Cities next week.

Finally, Facebook Friend Mike Maynard blames …

I think it’s the Wisconsin-based Viqueens fans that are keeping them down. The Football Gods look at them and think, “we give them our most glorious and cherished team with the most titles, the Green Bay Packers, but no, they would rather cheer for a team that plays across state lines with no titles? For that, we •curse• the Minnesota Viqueens forever and they shall never win any titles.”

Look, I don’t blame the Viqueens fans for being Viqueens fans if they are actually from Minnesota, but the Wisconsin-based Viqueens fans are disloyal dipshits of Lombardian proportions.


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