P.J.R.: That was quite a Vikes' imitation of Eric Guliford play
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The Vikings ran off the London after the embarrassment of Sunday's 31-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Once there, the controversy started as to Christian Ponder's "rib injury,'' and whether it was legitimate or an attempt to make a switch to Matt Cassel at quarterback without admitting that Ponder was being benched.
The combination of geography and quarterback drama took away attention from one of the most-embarrassing gaffes an alleged professional football operation could suffer.
The amazing coverage and analysis that the NFL receives in 2013 includes Sports Illustrated's expanded site for Peter King and his MMQB (Monday Morning Quarterback). There are several full-timers working with King, including Greg A. Bedard.
On Monday, Bedard gave an excellent account of what happened on the Browns' fake field goal and pass for a touchdown to tight end Jordan Cameron with Cleveland leading 17-14 in the second quarter.
The Browns were fourth and 4 at the Vikings' 11 and kicker Billy Cundiff and holder Spencer Lanning jogged on for what seemed a routine field goal attempt.
Bedard's report included the following:
The tight end (Cameron) isn't on the field-goal team --"I think that's why it worked so well," he said -- so as he was trotting off the field, Cameron looked for special teams coordinator Chris Tabor and long snapper Christian Yount.
Tabor gave Yount the code word for the appropriate fake as he was going onto the field. He then relayed it to the players who needed to know. "He gave me the eye or whatever, saying the code word," Cameron said. "I just saw that, acted like I was going to the sideline and then made a left turn and got as close as I could to the sideline, hoping no one saw me."
Vikings safety Jamarca Sanford was the defender on the end of the line, and he's usually responsible for making sure no one is uncovered on that side of the field. The holder, Lanning, was supposed to check on Sanford before the snap. If Sanford spotted Cameron, the kick would proceed. If Sanford didn't see Cameron, Lanning would quickly throw the ball to Cameron.
"I had to make sure I was on the line of scrimmage, so I was talking to the ref --'Am I on? Am I on?' " Cameron said. "And then I looked to the left and that's exactly when he threw it. The ball was in the air forever, it felt like ...''
That was the bulk of Bedard's breakdown of the play. The Vikings' lack of awareness was decisive in allowing the Browns to pull off the upset. And as Cameron stood completely uncovered and took Lanning's floating pass, it was remindful a play that occurred in the Vikings' favor, also in the Metrodome, and against the Packers.
That game was played on Sept. 26, 1993 - 20 years ago this week. Fuad Reveiz had missed a field goal with 2:40 remaining, allowing the Packers to maintain a 13-12 lead. Thousands of Vikings fans responded by heading for the Dome's revolving doors.
The Vikings used up their timeouts on the Packers' ensuing possession. Green Bay punted and the Vikings, with Jim McMahon at quarterback, started at their 17 with 1:53 left.
There were a mere 14 seconds remaining when the Vikings reached midfield. Later, it was revealed that Terrell Buckley, the Packers' boisterous cornerback, had said to receiver Qadry Ismail during the drive:
"I'm not even going to cover you deep because McMahon can't throw it that far.''
Ismail ran a final deep pattern, and McMahon underthrew, and Qadry went to the sideline. Eric Guliford, a 5-foot-7, little-used backup, replace him and stayed near the Vikings' sideline.
Buckley and the rest of the Packers' D-backs ignored him. He went down the right side and appeared wide open inside the 10. McMahon huffed and puffed and got the football there, which Guliford secured for his only catch as a Viking.
Reveiz came in to kick a chip-shot field goal for a 15-13 Vikings victory. And then came the fun part:
Many Packer fans convinced themselves that Guliford never had been on the line of scrimmage, that he had sneaked onto the field farther down the sideline.
This theory was so great, and so ongoing, that two years later, I was allowed to write a sendup of this for the Star Tribune - a column purported that a Strib court reporter had accidentally found a diagram of the play while going through some legal documents in one of the team's lawsuits of the time.
I had a Strib artist come up with a mock diagram of the play and it was given large play in the sports section. I received scores of mailed responses from Packers' fans, saying they knew all along that the Vikings had sneaked Guliford onto the field behind the Packers' secondary.
There have been no such accusations toward the Browns this weekend in Minnesota. Purple fans have too much faith in the Vikings' ability to figure out a way to lose on their own.
--PATRICK JAMES REUSSE.