This week was tough if you were a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. Coming into the week, the Vikings were a 10-6 team that essentially waved the white flag in their final game of the season and went into New Orleans as 7.5-point underdogs against the 13-3 Saints.
But the fact that the nation decided to write the Vikings off like they were a third-grade football team against the Saints, Minnesota pulled the upset, performing a mid-game 180 that belongs in the Michael Jackson Thriller video.
Take the end of the game for example. With the chips down and the Vikings looking like they were going to blow it thanks to a prevent defense that played 20 yards off the ball in regulation, the Vikings finally got a coin toss from the heavens and started carving out a drive that looked like a professional football offense was doing it.
As Kirk Cousins went to the sidelines and put on his big boy pants to deliver a strike to Adam Thielen, the Vikings ran the ball twice – the second an inexplicable toss left that lost four yards – and put the game back on the shoulders of their $84 million quarterback. He responded by throwing it up for Kyle Rudolph, who soared over human torch P.J. Williams (who allowed his fifth TD of the season in coverage) for the game-winning score.
The celebration was as big as you would expect for a team that was supposed to get killed 100-0 in a game, but was short-lived as the national pundits immediately attempted to throw cold water because Rudolph stuck his hand out for separation before getting the ball.
For the actual play, this kind of makes sense. Rudolph is a big guy and Williams is a guy that's not as big, meaning Rudolph doesn't need to shove him into next week to change the outcome of the play. However, it's not like he Highlander'd Williams into next week to come up with the ball. It's the type of hand-fighting you see on every fade route in football.
That being said, the league probably should have taken a longer look at it with instant replay, but it's not the type of play people wanted to be reviewed when it was instituted on pass interference plays last year. That play would be when Nickell Robey-Coleman delivered a cross-body block on Tommy Lee Harris, costing the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.
With that play fresh in their minds, Saints fans were quick to throw the refs under the bus as did Rodney Harrison, who in no way would have a grudge against referees considering he spent his entire career trying to rip people's heads off for fun. What they're missing is that the Vikings did enough to win this game on their own.
In the game against the Saints, the Vikings held Drew Brees, who was averaging 297 yards in his last four full games, to 208 yards passing. Even more impressive was that the Vikings flustered the white-hot quarterback into a pair of turnovers, remarkable considering the Saints set an NFL record with just eight giveaways all season long.
There was also the effort by Thielen, who recovered from an opening drive fumble to post seven catches and 129 yards. Sure, the fumble was bad, but it turns out he might have been doing it for good luck thanks to this nugget from NFL research.
With Thielen shredding the New Orleans secondary, he caught the long bomb that set up the game-winning score that set up the questionable call in the first place. But nobody wants to talk about that. Instead, ESPN will talk about how the Saints "got screwed again" before diving into LeBron James' next haircut appointment and how Tim Tebow can build off his .163 batting average in the Mets' system last year.
Even Sean Payton, who just about wanted Roger Goodell in a steel cage after last year's debacle, acknowledged the job the Vikings did, saying to "tip their hats to Minnesota" for handing them this beating.
So as the Vikings open as 7-point underdogs to the San Francisco 49ers next weekend, the media can discount this victory all they want. The fact is the Vikings came out and took what they wanted and no national narrative can take that away.