Like grains of sand

Week 1 – Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI – September 8, 2008

Minnesota 19, Green Bay 24 Vikings 0-1, (0-1 NFC North)

It’s the most visible position in football and undoubtedly the focus in this game for a variety of reasons. Yes, every one of the 37 guys who brought us the pregame, play by play, and the color for last night’s ballgame would not let us forget that Brett Favre isn’t in fact playing for Green Bay any longer. Gasp!

I’m not interested in going on about Brett Favre and what his absence meant to this game. He’s not playing for the Packers now. It’s different.

What I am concerned about right now is how the 2008 version of the Minnesota Vikings looked on the field against an NFC finalist and last year’s divisional champ.

They didn’t look great. The Vikes were penalized nine times. On one crucial series trying to stop the Packers from scoring after a 56 yard pass from Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings the Vikings defense was penalized 3 times in 3 plays. New arrival DE Jared Allen didn’t even make a single tackle and the defense failed to record a sack. The 2008 Vikes looked a lot like the 2007 version with a formidable running back, a stingy run defense but with nothing on offer in terms of a pass defense or passing attack.

It is called the “most important position” in the game and this game offered the viewers a glimpse of that importance. And it’s not all about the numbers. One quarterback completed 16 of 35 passes for 178 yards and 1 touchdown. The other completed 18 of 22 for 178 yards and 1 touchdown. The latter numbers were Rodgers’, Favre’s replacement and winning quarterback. So with the numbers so close, why was the game’s result never in doubt?

Efficiency and efficacy. Tarvaris Jackson is not blessed with either quality. With the ball and 1:51 remaining and 69 yards from victory. Jackson threw a pass intended for Visanthe Shiancoe that floated into the waiting arms of Atari Bigby. Contest over. The Vikes have become a one dimensional team. And that dimension is not winning close games in the fourth quarter. Until this changes and balance is achieved, this team will wallow in mediocrity.

The game was close, and that fact will be lost in all the hoopla surrounding Rodgers’ ascension to the throne of the kingdom of Lambeau. In the end it was a difficult situation for Jackson to be in: a crucial divisional game, on the road, under the glare of the national spotlight, after an injury-riddled pre-season.

But excuses aside, the Vikings will look back to this game as one that got away. And got away just like too many games did last year.

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