No, not the album from Minnesota-made music artist Semisonic, although I do suppose their hit single “Closing Time” is very appropriate right now. As my neighbors in my on-campus apartment raged in the parking lot and my roommate explained to me that his claims of rampant drinking to forget the night was actually only a joke, I had a strange feeling of contentment. Don’t get me wrong, I was vastly upset at the turnovers, especially at the end of the 4th quarter, but now I feel dazed.
Why? I was feeling pessimistic throughout the whole game. Trust me, I wanted the Vikings to win, but I had a feeling that there was no way the Saints would lose this game. Subtract a turnover or two from the game, and I would have been wrong. Yet here I am, calm, unlike my neighbors who have resorted to smashing things now just 20 feet away from me.
The Vikings last play was easily the most frustrating part of the night for me. Just like I did with the Vikings overtime loss to the Bears earlier this season, I’m going to walk you through the replay of Favre’s last interception that ended the Vikings’ chance of winning this game.
At the start of the play, the Vikings have Sidney Rice (Favre’s intended receiver, circled) at the top, Visanthe Shiancoe at the bottom, Bernard Berrian as the slot receiver, who also went in motion pre-snap, Chester Taylor in the backfield, and Jeff Dugan as the tight end. Cornerback Tracy Porter, who intercepted Favre’s pass, is also circled.
When Favre starts rolling out, it seems to appear that he’s looking at Berrian, especially since he pump-faked in Berrian’s direction. Taylor is waiting for a nonexistent pass rusher to block. Shiancoe and Rice ran crossing routes, and Dugan with a corner route. Rice and Porter are again circled. As you can see, Porter is not covering anyone, suggesting that he was currently in a zone defense.
After watching the replays on TV, the following was what made me most upset after the interception. Since passing to Berrian would have resulted in a short gain, Favre turned his head upfield, finding Rice open. However, Berrian has a little separation from the defender, at least enough to make a safe pass for a short gain. But, with Brett Favre being Brett Favre, he went for the play with more risk and potentially more reward. Here, Rice and Porter are no longer in the camera shot.
Instead, Favre had locked onto Rice. Had he thrown the ball away or passed to Berrian, the Vikings would have been looking at a 48-55 yard field goal for Ryan Longwell. Favre decided to try and get about 10 extra yards however. With the type of throw that Favre made, Rice had to reverse direction in order to make the catch. However…it’s awfully hard to stop on a dime when you’re running one direction and you try to instantly reverse direction. Right by the NFC Championship logo, Rice had his feet planted when he tried to come back to the pass:
Unfortunately, Porter did not have to reverse direction. He started on the near side of the field, and since he was watching Favre the whole time, he was able to run to whichever spot Favre was looking at. When he turned his eyes onto Rice, Porter ran across the field to cover him. I’m willing to bet that when Favre released the ball, Rice was open. If the throw had been to Rice’s outside shoulder, I bet the pass would have been either a catch or incomplete. But, it was directly where Rice was standing, where he did not have full control of his balance. Therefore, the only thing he could do was lunge at the ball in an attempt to prevent Porter from making the catch, who had timed his jump on the ball perfectly.
He did what I always did in high school gym class when we played football: give the receiver enough of a cushion to make the quarterback think he’s open, but stay close enough that as soon as the quarterback starts his throwing motion, you can get in the throwing lane to knock down the pass or make an interception.
The thing that upsets me the most is not that the Vikings lost the game. It’s not the turnovers or the phantom pass interference call in overtime. It’s that the Vikings never got Ryan Longwell on the field to attempt a game-winning field goal in the 4th quarter. Well, that and we’re subjected to Favre-apalooza for another offseason. Despite that four hour game, though, I’m still feeling strangely fine.