Wednesday, December 26, 2012

This Scenario Is Exactly Why It's So Hard To Be A Vikings Fan

It's so incredibly tempting sometimes. It really is. It was in 1987 before I knew any better. It was in 1998 before I dove into a swimming pool full of thumbtacks. It was in 2000 before they backed into the playoffs in embarrassing fashion. It was in 2003 before Nate friggin Poole (and Mike friggin Tice). It was in 2009 before Favre Favre'd us.

I really want to buy into the "This Could Be The Year!" mentality.  It sounds like fun, fans of other teams get to do it all the time. But I've been burned way too often. Wayyyyy too often. I save that mindset like a bottle of especially pricey scotch. You don't just bust it out recklessly. You study the landscape and you pick your spots.

Notice I didn't put 2008 on that list in the first paragraph? We all knew better. I take pride that most Vikings fans realized that was a lame duck team that barely beat anyone all year. The combined record of the teams they beat were something like 69-91. Their best win was on a last second field goal to beat the 12-4 Giants who were resting their starters. There was zero reason to put any faith in Tarvaris Jackson or Brad Childress.

This led to the outcry against Vikings fans for failing to sell out a playoff game against the Eagles at the Metrodome. The tickets might as well have said, "Come get kicked in the balls as the Vikings get predictably embarrassed on national TV! AGAIN!" Sure enough, that's what happened, and I can't say I blame anyone for not showing up.

Vikings fans are smart like that. We're like my dog Clyde, who loves being outside on a walk more than anything in the world. But if it's too cold, you can open the door right in front of him, and he'll look at you like, "How dumb do you think I am? I'm not going out in that."

The door is being opened again for Vikings fans, and it's pretty damn cold, again. But...

They can rush the passer. They can tackle. They have legit players in the secondary. They have a guy named Harrison Smith at safety who beats the shit out of people, who's the best they've had since Robert friggin Griffith in the 90s.

Special teams are as good as they've been in decades. They have a guy who makes 50+ yard field goals like he's playing Pop-a-Shot with his feet. They even have a competent, reliable punt returner.

They have a steady head coach who knows exactly what to do in any given situation. They don't friviously waste time outs or challenges. They don't have a lot of stupid penalties. In fact, the stupid penalties they have are of the unnecessary roughness ilk that send a message.

They have a fantastic run-blocking offensive line. They have the best left tackle in the NFC and he's a rookie.

And they have Adrian Peterson.

That's a lot of positives, right? Do I dive right in? Do I emotionally invest? Do I eat all that up with a spoon like purple and gold Haagen Daas? Of course not!!!

There's also a guy named Christian Ponder who plays the quarterback position in the National Football League for this Minnesota Vikings football team. (Just try reading that sentence without hearing it in Mark Schlereth's voice.) He makes decisions with the football that remind me of the scene in Naked Gun 2 1/2 where OJ is about to spike a baby like a football. "Wait, wait, WAIT... NOOOOO!!!" He is often painful to watch.

But there was a period of 4 weeks earlier this year when he looked perfectly okay. Not great, not even above average, just okay. That's not unreasonable, right? For him to play okay? To not make catastrophically bad throws? To not suddenly drop the ball on a scramble?

And there's some athletic talent in the receiving core. Jerome Simpson could maybe flip over someone. Kyle Rudolph has good hands. Devin Aromashodu is kinda fast sometimes. Jarius Wright is good for like one swing pass. Michael Jenkins is tall. John Carlson is um... there. Is it unreasonable to imagine just ONE of those guys making some kind of difference on Sunday?

The real answer to that is yes. It is unreasonable to ask for that, it's unreasonable to ask for Ponder to play an average game, and it's unreasonable to ask for optimism. We are Vikings fans and this is how it works.

Now it you'll excuse me, I have go to drag my dog out into the sub-zero temperatures...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

1,700 Words On Two Old Video Games

Look up the opera scene in Final Fantasy VI on YouTube and you'll find comments like, "One of the most touching moments in video game history," “Such an iconic scene,” “I had tears in my eyes,” etcetera etcetera. I have one question for those people: Why?

Here's exactly how this scene comes about -- our heroes need to find a way to get to the Evil Empire. They decide to seek out this rich dude (Setzer) who owns the only airship in the world. They find him at this operahouse wooing some broad named Maria, who's playing the lead that night's show, and plans to kidnap her so they can elope (or something). Some villain conspires to mess things up for some unexplained reason. To protect her, you switch Maria out for Celes, a sorceress in your party to happens to look almost exactly like her. Celes agrees to perform opera accordingly and does so.

It's strange because the opera seems like it should be this big sweeping emotional moment (the music is undeniably fantastic), but it's not at all. The words behind what she's singing have no meaning. She's merely filling a role. She's not singing about anyone but the character in the opera. There's not even any read-between-the-lines meaning anywhere. In fact the entire scene isn't significant in the slightest to the main storyline.

Now, I will give credit where credit is due: this game shows the right way to do quick-time events, particularly here. You fight your way to the villain up in the rafters while the show continues below. While Celes is singing the opera, you have to make sure you select the right lines or you'll get booted out. Also it has to be mentioned again that the music here is fan-freaking-tastic. So at least there's that.

But otherwise, this scene is the perfect demonstration of how impressive this game can be to the point of self-indulgence. The scene is amazing on the surface, the music is as good as it gets, but it doesn't mean anything. It's just there because some developer thought, “Wouldn’t it be CRAZY if we had an opera scene? That’s unheard of!” It’s there for the sake of being there.

And that basically explains the point of the entire game. The story is gigantic – the depth in the narrative makes Chrono Trigger seem like an episode of DuckTales – and would definitely benefit from some editing, a more concise direction and something resembling a main character (Terra and Locke come the closest, but Terra isn’t even playable for a big chunk of the game and Locke is almost useless in battles), but I get the feeling the developers did not give a damn. It’s huge for the sake of being huge. There are many, many playable characters for the sake of having many, many playable characters. And so on.

Another inherent problem with having such a massive story is the minimal amount of effect that you as a player have. The way the game lets the narrative unfold essentially deems the player as nothing more than a gopher. All you’re doing is running your party from one long story sequence to the next (with a few battles in between of course). The game basically encourages you to do this too, by switching up your party as often as possible so you can see every scene. Sometimes it was pretty tiring and frustrating as you’re sitting there reading forever and waiting to actually do something. There’s too much out of the player’s control.

Don’t get me wrong, a huge part of what makes Final Fantasy VI unique is the narrative - there aren’t many other games on the SNES that had me playing for hours just to see what happened next. It has one of the all-time great video game villains in Kefka, who is truly one screwed up character. There are just as many laugh out loud moments (when you meet Gau, random Kefka stuff) as sappy moments (could they lay it on any thicker with Cyan’s backstory?), and some of it works and some of it doesn’t, but it has a very satisfying ending.

The battle system is incredibly detailed featuring all sorts of cool stuff like customizable magic, formations, relics, special abilities (one character has you input sequence of Street-Fighter style commands to execute attacks, another has a weird set of tools to choose from, another steals things, etc), not to mention tons of items and equipment. It’s extremely well done, holds up over time really well and is by far the most enjoyable part of the game. On the surface, it’s the best battle system for any RPG on the SNES.

My only criticism of the battle system is that it isn’t very balanced. The game really encourages you employ all sorts of tactical maneuvering with formations and equipment and whatever, but guys like Sabin, Edgar and Cyan are so powerful you can wipe out any enemy with the same attacks over and over regardless of what else you do. Compare this to Chrono Trigger or the Lufia series where the enemies match your increasing experience and abilities stride for stride, and the battles remain difficult without becoming frustrating. As fun as the battle system is for FF6, I never once felt I was in danger of even coming close to losing. All of the strategy seems like it’s for naught.

[Random aside: I completely understand how someone could become obsessed with this game. There’s an overwhelming amount of special abilities you can obtain for certain characters, there’s collecting all the espers, there’s having each character learn every spell from each esper, plus there’s stuff like the Colosseum, an ingenious idea where you can bet items on battles to win better items that are otherwise unobtainable. The OCD-collector gamer type would be in hog heaven here.]

Ultimately I’ll remember Final Fantasy VI for its wealth of creativity in battles, the incredible soundtrack (second to only Super Castlevania IV on the SNES) and its huge story, but I’ll also remember it all feeling kind of hollow. It’s merely an exhibition in game design, albeit an impressive one. 

* * *

Now, the underlying genius of Chrono Trigger is how balanced it is in every aspect of the game. The enemies are never too easy or never too tough or unfair and there’s no need to level-grind at any point. As you level up, gain experience and learn spells, the enemies match your strength. The boss fights are perfectly done - each one feels like an event. Not like Final Fantasy 6 which more often than not seemed to say, “Welp, here’s another boss for ya,” out of nowhere. Magus, Black Tyrano and Lavos in particular are really built up as big deals. I really like in particular how you have to take out Magus’ underlings (Slash, Flea and Ozzie) before you face him.

One of the best things about Chrono Trigger is how it gains momentum the more you play it. By that I mean the fact that not once is there a “Now what do I do?” moment. Even after the game splits off into several different side-quests, it remains very straight-forward telling you what to accomplish. Again, balance is the key word here, balance between linear and open-ended storytelling.

Instead of accumulating just strength and experience points like most RPGs, CT rewards you with combo attacks with your teammates. Some of these are flat out awesome and powerful as hell, like Ice Sword 2, Falcon Arrow, Delta Force and Arc Impulse [or what I refer to as Finnish Flag Attack] while some are laugh out loud funny like Poyozo Dance, which is this spastic nonsensical spell involving a stuffed animal, or Frog Flare, a giant exploding frog which looks like something out of Monty Python. Accumulating these attacks is fun as hell, and it keeps the momentum of the game going.

It also contains one of the most ingenious inventions in gaming, the "New Game +" option. After you finish the game, you can go back in time as often as you'd like with the same stats, gear and weapons and try beating the game from a different point in the timeline. There are 11 different endings you can achieve (most of them are well worth it, especially the one with messages from the development crew - “Get a life!”) which puts the replay value through the roof.

The characters themselves are a strange dynamic group, all distinctly different, some cliched and some not (at least not yet): our silent hero, the runaway princess, the nerdy tech-geek, the robot, the cavewoman, the talking frog and in a neat twist you can play as one of the main villains for a good chunk of the game. Each character has at least a couple laugh-out-loud moments, even the ultra-serious Magus. (“You got whacked cuz you're weak.”)

[Brief aside: one strange bit of trivia about this game - the developers gave the English translators exactly 30 days to translate the entire game. Because they were crunched for time, some of the translators were pretty slack so we ended up with lines like that. They “fixed” that in the DS version by doing a more direct translation and as a result most of the humor was missing.]

One particular aspect I don't think can be overstated is the main villain, Lavos. Rarely in a game, especially in an RPG, does a boss actually come across as invincible. Lavos is like the Terminator: it barely says anything, you can't reason with it, it can't be stopped, it won't be stopped until you are dead and everything is destroyed. And by the way, it lives in the center of the Earth draining its life for all its worth. The final battle music is absolutely perfect and gives me chills to this day, and I've finished this game at least 25 times.

CT was released very late in Super Nintendo's run, allowing programmers to maximize everything the SNES hardware was capable of, and damned if they didn't succeed in doing that. This is about as technically advanced, in terms of overall length, visuals and sound, as any SNES game gets.

Chrono Trigger is truly the total package: It's got a great sense of humor. It's never boring - you never truly know what's going to happen next. There's a crazy amount of depth in both the story and with items/gear. There’s tons of replay value. The music is top notch, with memorable themes created for each major character and for certain events of the game. All those factors add up to this: Chrono Trigger best game the SNES has ever produced.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Vikings vs. Running Quarterbacks

Bob Griffin III is hardly the first guy to do this against the Vikings...

 In fact it seems like every notable "running quarterback" has had a field day against the Vikings at one point or another. There's the infamous Michael Vick overtime run, where Corey Chavous takes out Greg Biekert...

There's Steve Young making an improbable run against a very good Vikings defense under 2 minutes...

But we're not done yet! Guess who else had a 40+ yard touchdown scramble? If I gave you 100 guesses, would one of them be Vinny Testaverde? Probably not, but it happened. Skip to 3:14.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Change of Pace

Like any other Vikings fan who's lived through 1987, 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2009, I tend to dwell on the negative. I've always maintained that I've written on this blog because I HAD to, for myself. I've even resorted to seeking out painful losses I didn't remember seeing as a kid. It's not easy rooting for this crap franchise.

In fact, ask any Vikings fan their favorite win ever. Anyone over 45 would probably say one of the NFC Championship wins over the Rams in the 70s. Anyone around 25-30 would probably say the 1998 MNF game at Lambeau. But the sad reality is that it's so much easier to rattle off the 8 or 9 worst losses you've seen than even five memorable wins. I even did it myself, it took probably less than an hour to write this column here.

Thanks to YouTube, I've remembered that there are a lot more fun wins over the years than I realized. Here's a few I could find on YouTube, the best last second or overtime wins in Vikings history...

[NOTE: I'm not including Ryan Longwell's game winning field goal to beat the Giants' second string team putting a lame-duck Vikings team in the playoffs in 2008. We can do better than that.]

7. Week 11, 2005 - Vikings 20, Green Bay Packers 17
6. Week 7, 2005 - Vikings 23, Green Bay Packers 20

The video flip-phone quality, but Paul Edinger once upon a time was probably the best kicker from 50+ yards the NFL had seen in a long long time. He hit 56 and 27 yard field goals, both with time expiring, to beat the Packers twice in 2005. Okay, the Packers were awful and finished 4-12 that year, but still.

5. Week 11, 1987 - Vikings 44, Dallas Cowboys 38 OT

The Cowboys weren't very good in the late 80s, but beating them on the road on Thanksgiving Day was still a big deal. Darrin Nelson blows past the Cowboys defense to win in overtime. Plus how do you not love classic Pat Summerall screwing up Nelson's name at 1:45? "DARRYL... DARRIN NELSON..."

4. Week 14, 1994 - Vikings 33, Chicago Bears 27

All he does? Catch touchdowns. A huge late season win over Wannstache's Bears that ended a three-game losing streak. That '94 team was a lot of fun.

3. Week 3, 2009 - Vikings 27, San Francisco 49ers 24

I never liked Brett Favre, but I'll be damned if this wasn't freaking awesome. Greg Lewis doesn't get enough credit for that catch.

2. 1997 NFC Wildcard - Vikings 23, New York Giants 22

Unfortunately this video doesn't include Jake Reed barely getting his foot down in bounds for a TD in the back of the end zone with less than 2 minutes left. It doesn't show the Vikings recovering an onside kick (when does that EVER happen???) either. But it does show an impressive Randall Cunningham-led drive for the winning field goal, as well as Denny Green calling a Robert Smith draw play that actually worked.

This was Denny's first playoff win and inspired many to envision a repeat of 10 years previous where the Vikings upset the Niners in San Francisco in the Divisional round. Didn't happen, but this was a lot of fun while it lasted. This sort of stuff never ever ever happened to the Vikings.

1. Week 15, 1980 - Vikings 28, Cleveland Browns 23


I was born in '82, so this one was before my time. That doesn't make it any less astounding to watch. A whopping fourteen seconds, a mere 80 yards, the division title on the line. No problem for Tommy Kramer and Ahmad Rashad. (Yes, that Ahmad Rashad.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Throwbacks: 1990 Week 6 Monday Night Football, Minnesota at Philadelphia

I discovered the other day that some guy uploaded this gem to YouTube: a Monday Night Football game from 1990 featuring your Minnesota Vikings playing at the wretched Veterans Stadium to face the Philadelphia Eagles. It's been a while since I've done a running diary sort of a thing to a game, so what the hell. It's smack dab in the Herschel Walker era so I figured it would at least be a bit insightful.

The intro profiles Walker and Randall Cunningham. Kind of funny how it was Cunningham who became the difference maker the Vikes desperately needed, only years later.

Dig those graphics! “On ABC's Mon-deeeee Night Football!”

Your broadcast team is Al Michaels, Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf. Brief aside: considering Michaels and Dierdorf have been around seemingly forever, you don't notice the changes in their voices in real-time over the years. But going back and listening to them in 1990 is strange. They both sound spritely and energetic. You know, like they're younger or something. It's a bit jarring.

Gifford begins by detailing the Vikings' problems so far this season: starting quarterback Wade Wilson out with a torn ligament in his thumb, last year's Defensive Player of the Year Keith Millard is out for the year (didn't say the injury) and Vikings GM Mike Lynn (BOOOOOO!!!) had just left the team to become... of all things... the president of the prestigious World League of American Football (WLAF, which would no doubt be referred to as WLOL had it happened today), a position in which he lasted exactly 10 months. But hey, he got his own football card.

Now if that's not the most punchable face you've ever seen, I don't know what to tell you.

Anyway, the point is the Vikings are 1-3 and not very good right now. But the Eagles are also 1-3, losing their three games by a combined 9 points. Meanwhile, Al Michaels is gracious enough to point out that the Vikings are 8-9 since the Herschel trade including last year's playoff loss to the Niners. Thanks, Al.

Speaking of Herschel, he returns the opening kickoff to the 16. Wade's replacement, a very young Rich Gannon, starts things off by overthrowing a wide open tight end Steve Jordan off playaction. Yikes.

That's followed by a RB Rick Fenney run of 4 yards and a Gannon sack-fumble recovered by the Eagles. It should be noted that the Eagles defensive line is monsterous, featuring Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons. RT Tim Irwin just got dominated by Reggie leading to the fumble. Godawful start to say the least.

Gifford notes that WR Anthony Carter, by far the Vikings best skill position player, has been bothered by a pulled hamstring and is questionable to play. He's being replaced by some guy named Cris Carter. Hmmmm...

The Eagles take over at the Vikings 20, but thankfully the Vikings defense is also pretty effing good. Cunningham scrambles for 7, then throws the ball away after getting decked by LB Mike Merriweather, followed by a botched option play by RB Keith Byars disrupted by DE Chris Doleman. Eagles kick a quick FG to make it 3-0.

Kickoff to Herschel again who runs straight into a defender. Not just any defender. A big slow lineman wearing #95.

Good God man, what the hell? You can't even kind of fake out a guy in the open field? Cut back? Break a tackle? Anything? Just awful.

The Vikings take advantage of that scintilating return by having Gannon overthrow Fenney in the flat and running Fenney up the middle for 3 yards. Now, just in case you're younger and weren't around for this era, you might be wondering: Why are they bothering with Rick freaking Fenney's consistent mediocrity when they gave up so much to get Herschel Walker? The answer: I don't know. Nobody knows. There is no answer.

WR Hassan Jones drops a wide open 3rd down pass (in fairness, it was a lousy throw) and the Vikings punt. Eagles ball at their own 42, where CB Carl Lee is flagged for a completely bogus pass interference call on 3rd down.

Dierdorf: “That's a tight call...” Gifford: “Pro-Bowl coverage by Carl Lee.”

Eagles ball at the 25, earning a 1st down on a 15 yard scramble by Cunningham before getting handed a touchdown by the refs. WR Calvin Williams caught an over-the-shoulder fade over Lee (who had perfect coverage) and came down out of bounds.

They had instant replay back then, but the call for some reason was not overturned. Michaels: “It what? A horrible call by the replay booth.” Man, you don't hear that kind of candor these days. Vikings block the extra point after a fumbled snap to make the score 9-0.

The officials contend that Lee pushed Williams out of bounds as he was catching it. The rules back then dictated that would've been scored a touchdown. Two problems with that: 1, Lee barely touched him and 2, Williams didn't have possession as he was getting his feet down. Dierdorf: “I think we'll just catagorize that as a pretty good break for the Eagles.” What a pile of horseshit.

Another kickoff to Herschel and he miraculously manages to get by the first couple guys to get all the way to the 37. Vikings get their first big play – 15 yard catch by Jordan with a 15 yard facemask penalty tacked on. Then comes a flea-flicker to Herschel (who hadn't had a touch in the game yet) and a bomb to a wide open Cris Carter for the touchdown. Woo hoo!

Fantastic call and two huge plays to stay in this thing. Weird to see Carter with sleeves, by the way. The immortal Donald Igwebuike kicks the extra point to cut the lead to 9-7, 5:22 left in the 1st quarter.

The Vikings' defensive line, mainly Doleman, Al Noga and Henry Thomas, harrass Cunningham into a three-and-out. We get a get a funny/interesting graphic on punt returner Leo Lewis:

“[Lewis] delivers with one of his specialties,” Michaels snidely remarks as Lewis calls for another fair catch. That's why I love watching this old stuff.

More referee bullshit: Gannon scrambles to the sideline on 2nd down, SS Ben Smith drags him down with a facemask and drives him into the ground a good 5 yards out of bounds. The call: 5 yard facemask at the end of the run. Uhhhhh, okay. There have been about 10 penalties between both teams, by the way.

The drive ends in another Gannon sack. Three possessions and Herschel Walker does not have a carry or a catch yet. Rick Fenney has 6 touches. Whyyyyy????

Enusing drive for Philly – third down pass is tipped and picked off by Merriweather! Unfortunately he steps out of bounds on the return at the 10 yard line. Herschel gets his first carry here.... and he promptly fumbles, recovered by Jerome Brown. Oh for fuck's sake. That is finally the end of a looonng 1st quarter.

SS Joey Browner levels TE Keith Jackson on a 1st down catch, and I have to point out how badass Browner's facemask is:

Vikings D forces a punt. Their secondary was really, really good back then. Every single pass is contested, nobody is open, everyone is super aggressive and playing up at the line of scrimmage. Not something you were likely to see in the days of Asher Allen, Cedric Griffin and Bennie Sapp.

Next Vikings possession: someone needs to tell Jerry Burns the trap play doesn't work anymore. This Eagles D-line is just way too quick. Rick Fenney is still getting most of the carries, which is pretty funny considering the broadcast team is going on and on about Herschel. He finally does haul in a catch on 3rd and 1 for a first down.

The Vikes dink and dunk their way down the field, the highlight being an 11 yard catch by Steve Jordan who levels SS Andre Waters on his way to the 9 yard line. Fenney plows in for the touchdown on 3rd and goal. Vikings rally back from down 9-0 to take a 14-9 lead, with negligible impact from Herschel. Good stuff.

Eagles punt on their next drive thanks to the killer Vikings secondary blanketing everybody. First play for the Vikings' next drive: dump off pass to Herschel who scampers for 8 more yards... and fumbles. But wait! The refs say he was down by contact. Um....

As you can see, the ball was in the air before he hit the ground. Break for the Vikings but the officiating has been horrendous so far for both teams. Big “bullshit” chant from the crowd and rightfully so.

Two plays later, Gannon goes deep and Cris Carter is alone! 78 yards for the touchdown!! 21-9 Vikings! A huuuuuge coming out party for Carter on the national stage against his former team.

Quick look at how the Vikings D has taken control after giving up the early TD:

Eagles punt again after three straight penalties totaling 25 yards. The fans are not pleased:

The next few plays feature three fumbles and three more penalties. “This looks like a game in July,” Michaels says. “Go to the locker room, guys. Seriously,” adds Dierdorf. Sure glad I picked this one to recap. Mercifully we've reached halftime. 21-9 Vikings.

Eagles receive to start the 2nd half and roll right down the field led by two 10+ yard Cunningham scrambles on 3rd down. The drive stalls out (again thanks to fantastic downfield coverage), Eagles kick a field goal to make it 21-12.

Ensuing kickoff to Herschel Walker, and he wastes no time in coughing up fumble number three (two officially) by muffing the kick. Who the hell even does that?!? When's the last time you saw someone muff a freaking kickoff? Eagles recover at the 15.

Thankfully the Vikings defense comes to the rescue again. Three plays and the Eagles kick another field goal to make it 21-15.

Herschel somehow returns the kickoff to the 20, and two plays later takes a toss left for a whopping two yards. He looks slow and goes down after the first defender even breathes on him. Meanwhile on 3rd and long, Gannon scrambles around and heaves a prayer to Cris Carter between three Eagles defenders. It's picked off by Wes Hopkins.

Some good news: next two plays, Doleman shows off how scary fast he is by chasing down Cunningham for two straight sacks. What a beast.

Eagles punt so the INT doesn't hurt the Vikes too badly. On 1st down Carter catches a slant across the middle for 12. Here's his numbers so far:

Vikings then go incomplete to Fenney, 3 yard pass to Jordan, 6 yard pass to Hassan Jones to come up one yard short of the first, but a break for the Vikings: the idiot Eagles returner tries to field the punt on a bounce and it careems off his chest into a Viking. 1st and goal at the 8.

Next three plays: 7 step drop sack, handoff to Fenney for 2 yards, false start (end of the 3rd quarter), and another prayer to Carter that he just baaaaarely misses. Um, this might be pass interference considering the defender didn't bother turning around to look for the ball...

“Is that not pass interference?” asks Dierdorf. “It was in the first quarter,” replies Gifford. Vikings get three out of it and still lead 24-15.

Eagles take over and immediately go three-and-out, much to the crowd's disdain. Vikings ball at their own 36. 13 minutes left in the 4th. Vikings get a couple first downs, including a painfully unathletic dive by Rich Gannon...

Wow, he might be a whole 2-3 inches off the ground there. Meanwhile, Al Michaels marvels over the fact that this guy has been on the sidelines the last two series...

Yes that's right, trade 5 players and practically 3 entire drafts so this guy can stand around on the sideline when the Vikings should be pounding the ball and running the clock right now. 3 carries for 3 yards so far. A Gannon sack on 3rd down forces the Vikings to punt with just under 10 minutes left. Impressively, Gannon has outplayed Cunningham thus far...

A Cunningham scramble leads to a 3rd and 1... and the Vikings D holds! Vikings ball at their own 39 with just under 8 minutes left, leading by 9. Things are looking up, right?

Not for long. That's when things get weird. Three straight pass calls lead to two scrambles out of bounds by Gannon (including one where Andre Waters dives at his knees, setting off Dierdorf: “He is the biggest cheap shot artist in the league.”) and one overthrow of a wide open Leo Lewis. Um, okay. Eagles ball at the 21.

Vikings force a 4th and 2. Ballgame right here.... but Joey Browner is called for holding TE Keith Jackson. Oh for fuck's sake. Eagles take advantage by dinking and dunking their way downfield led by Keith Byars, before a completely insane Cunningham pass bounces off three different players landing softly in WR Fred Barnett's hands for an easy walk-in TD. Unreal. 24-22 Vikings. 4 minutes to go.

This exchange is incredible:
Michaels: “This is the type of situation where you want a Herschel Walker to use up the clock and keep the ball on the ground.”
Dierdorf: “Is Walker headed to the huddle or the sidelines?”
Gifford: “He's headed to the sidelines.”

Two plays later, Gannon is stripped of the ball going back to pass (?!?!?) and the Clyde Simmons recovers. 1st and goal Philly. That's the fifth Vikings turnover. Are the Vikings seriously about to lose this game? 20 years later I can hear Vikings fans screaming at offensive coordinator Bob Schnelker. What the hell are they doing passing there? Why is Herschel not in the game? Cue Jerry Burns...

RB Andrew Toney goes straight up the middle for the go-ahead touchdown. 29-24 Eagles.

Two plays later, Gannon telegraphs a pass that's picked off easily by CB William Frazell. Eagles kick another FG to make it 32-24.

Herschel receives the kickoff and runs into the back of his own guy and falls over. Seriously, that's what happened.

Hard to tell from that screenshot, but there are literally no other defenders even near him. And he runs into his own guy. That picture sums up the Herschel Walker Era in Minnesota.

The Vikings meekly turn the ball over on downs, the Eagles take a knee, and suddenly that's it. Eagles win.

A true Vikings loss through and through that leaves you feeling gutted and a vague sense of, “What in the blue hell just happened?” That was one of the most strange out-of-nowhere turnarounds I can ever remember seeing. What a collapse.

Still, this was an interesting look at actual evidence of the Herschel Walker trade coming apart at the seams. It's kind of shocking to watch everything unravel in real-time. Watching him play as badly as he did knowing what the Vikings gave up for him was almost like watching a snuff film or something. Then for him to not even see the field when they need to grind the clock... I mean, that's exactly why they gave up so much to get him... and he's not even in the game... I don't... I... what... who... where am I...

Until next time, when hopefully I'll be recapping a more fun game...