It's December 28th, 2003, and the Vikings are on the road in Arizona playing the red-clad Cardinals. If the Vikings win, they are NFC North champions, are in the playoffs, and even host a playoff game at the dome. Meanwhile at Lambeau Field, the Packers need help. If the Vikings lose, they can make the playoffs with a victory. Leading the 31-3 over the Denver Broncos, the Packers can only watch and hope.
The Cardinals, with nothing to gain, fight and score on the last play of the game. The Vikings see red as the Cardinals dance and celebrate a come-from-behind victory in the desert sun. At Lambeau, the Packers dance, too.
It's 2004 and I can still hear Paul Allen's voice in the distance yelling "No!" (Paul Allen is the play-by-play voice of the Vikings. He does a great job and his calls are often featured on ESPN and the NFL Network). His call of the catch that ended the Vikings' season is part of history. I can't help but look at next week's game at the red-clad Washington Redskins and think...
Last year was confusing. The Vikings came out hot, went to 6-0, then struggled going 3-7 to end the year. The winning ended when the New York Giants flew into Minnesota and beat up the Vikings soundly (17-29) at home. The Vikings never regained their form and 2003 ended with a long flight home from Phoenix.
Publicly, the Vikings addressed last year as some kind of fluke and wouldn't happen again. But this year, Tice told us things are different. Suuuuuuure, they are.
Well, I guess this year is different, isn't it? We were comforted by Tice with a 'weak' schedule to end the year. The Vikings were not undefeated this year but also started hot. Six weeks in the Vikings rebounded from last year's debacle and were 5-1. Then the Giants came to town, shellacked the Vikings 13-34, and things have never been the same since.
So this Sunday, it looks like 2003 again. The early promise of having a playoff club again rests in the hands of a bad Washington team awaiting the Vikings in the nation's capital. Anyone care to guess how this story ends?
Congrats to Tice
No matter what happens Sunday, the Vikings were smart to renew Mike's contract. Anyone who wants Tice out has to also recognize that getting rid of Mike Tice means restarting, throwing away the last two years, and risking hiring a bad coach. The current Vikings are young and should have a young coach to build around them. This one-year extension is not solid vote of confidence for Tice but look for an extension midway through 2005 if Mike does well.