TWTW: At least these Vikings are entertaining

The Vikings are 3-9-1 after their latest loss, an entertaining but ultimately heartbreaking 29-26 loss at Baltimore.
It was an enjoyable game, one in which Pete Morelli (the same guy who ref’d the Vikings loss to New Orleans in the 2009 NFC title game) and his crew were spectacularly awful for the duration.

But I’m not here to blame the officials — readers of this blog know I’m not a fan of that — because as much as the Toby Gerhart non-fumble ruled a fumble and Chad Greenway phantom pass interference call gave the Ravens 14 of their points, the Vikings still should’ve won the game.

The kick return TD by Jacoby Jones following Gerhart’s TD run was a pathetic special teams play, topped off by Blair Walsh making one of the most feeble efforts at a tackle in history. He didn’t even have to make a tackle, he just had to shove a guy out of bounds who was tiptoeing the sideline. Apparently making contact with another human being was a little too much to ask for poor little Blair.
image(December football is awesome, btw - photo, Vikings.com)

It looked like the Vikings overcame that when Cordarelle Patterson took a screen pass and went 78 yards for a score only seconds later, putting them back on top.
The Ravens got the ball back, and they had to go 80 yards in 45 seconds. I don’t care how bad the PI call on Greenway was, if you can’t keep a team out of the end zone when they have to go 80 yards and only have 45 seconds, you don’t deserve to win.

It was a heck of a finish, though, and that has been the norm for the Vikes this season.

I know I’m not alone in reaching a point in my life where I don’t really let the Vikings record and/or performance affect my life all that much — I simply wake up every Sunday hoping that they entertain me for three hours. Judging on that scale, they’ve been pretty good this year.

Just go down the list:

They opened the season with a 34-24 loss to the Lions in Detroit. Adrian Peterson went 78 yards for a score on the first play of the season, which was, of course, awesome. The Vikings led 14-13 at half and trailed by just a field goal after three quarters.

A week later, the Vikings appeared poised to steal a win in Chicago, taking a 30-24 lead late in the game on a trio of Blair Walsh field goals. But failure to cash in TDs cost them, and the Bears rallied, with Jay Cutler finding Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds left for the game-winning TD in a 31-30 Bears victory.

The Vikings were 0-2, but easily could’ve been 2-0.

An easy win figured to be on the horizon in Week 3, with the Browns coming to the Dome, having just traded RB Trent Richardson.
But Brian Hoyer threw for 321 yards and 3 TDs, leading the Browns to an embarrassing loss that basically wiped out the Vikings’ playoff hopes.
The Vikes took a 27-24 lead on a Walsh field goal early in the fourth, but Hoyer rallied Cleveland late, hitting Jordan Cameron with :51 left for a 31-27 win.

Another highly entertaining game that the Vikings could’ve won, but didn’t.

Matt Cassel took over at QB the next week, as the Vikings went to London and got their first win. They appeared headed towards an easy rout of a win, going up 34-17 late in the 3rd on a Cassel strike to Greg Jennings, but Ben Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers, getting within a touchdown with a pair of fourth quarter scores.
Minnesota escaped with the win in another back and forth game that went down to the end.
For those scoring at home, the Vikings were 1-3, but legitimately a few plays away from being 4-0.

But a couple stinkers followed. Cassel was not good in his second start, an embarrassing 35-10 home loss to Carolina, and Josh Freeman did a Rick Ankiel impression at QB the next week in a 23-7 loss to the Giants in arguably the worst game in the history of Monday Night Football.
That was followed by a 44-31 loss to the Packers that was nowhere near as close as the score makes it sound, with the Viking defense failing to make Green Bay punt even once. Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 29 passes. The loss dropped the Vikings to 1-6, and raised serious questions about Leslie Frazier getting fired in-season. It probably would’ve happened if his coordinators were not so poorly regarded.

I was certain, for some reason, that the Vikings were going to beat Dallas the next week, because #LOLCowboys, and they nearly did, with Christian Ponder rallying them late to come back from down 20-10 to go up 23-20, but Tony Romo found Dwayne Harris for a 7-yard TD strike with :35 left, allowing the Cowboys to escape with the win and sending the Vikings to 1-7.

Just four days later Ponder played one of the best games of his career, leading the Vikings to 20 unanswered points as they rallied from down 27-14 to win 34-27, their first win of the season on American soil.

They were predictably routed the next week in Seattle, but bounced back to tie the Rodgers-less Packers a week later in one of the more memorable (because of how bad both teams are) recent games in the MIN-GB rivalry. It was the first time the Vikings tied in my lifetime, so that was something.

They nearly tied again the next week, with Robbie Gould of Chicago edging Minnesota’s Blair Walsh in a battle of which usually-reliable kicker could miss the bigger field goal, allowing the Vikings to escape with another dramatic win.

And then, of course, there was yesterday’s game, with the Vikings and Ravens combining to score 42 points in the fourth quarter — 36 of them in the final 2:05.
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So let’s recap: 8 games decided (or not decided, in the case of the tie) by one score or less, six of them by four points or less. Two games that went to OT. Five that were decided in the final minute (six if you include the tie).
The bad news, of course, is that the Vikings are 1-4 in those games that were decided in the final minute. If they find a way to hang on in those four games they lost in the final minute, they’re 7-5-1 and in first place right now.

Maybe that means they’re not as bad as we think. Maybe it means they’re worse.

But, for me at least, they’ve been entertaining almost every week. And that’s enough to get me to keep watching.