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Zulgad: Vikings’ season goes from magical to nightmare as super opportunity is lost

PHILADELPHIA – Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf exited the Vikings’ locker room Sunday evening with vacant looks on their faces as the Philadelphia Eagles and their fans celebrated inside Lincoln Financial Field. Case Keenum sat at his locker staring in disbelief as a glassy-eyed Kyle Rudolph attempted to respond to questions to which there were no good answers.

The magnitude of the Vikings’ 38-7 loss to the Eagles in the NFC title game was not lost on this team. Not only was this an embarrassing defeat, it also was crushing given the opportunity that had been presented to this franchise.

A week ago the Vikings were celebrating their miracle last-second finish that gave them a victory over the New Orleans Saints in the divisional playoffs. A 13-3 regular season, followed by that improbable victory and a chance to become the first team to play host to a Super Bowl. The Vikings and team-of-destiny were being mentioned in the same breath on a daily basis.

Minnesota had the best defense in the NFL, Case Keenum had gone from career backup to the starter with the magic touch, the stars seemed to be aligned for the Vikings to make their fifth Super Bowl appearance and first since the 1976 season. The win over the Saints seemed to be an indication that all of that playoff heartbreak – 1987, 1998, 2009, 2015 – might have disappeared.

Then the Vikings came out and opened the scoring on their first drive Sunday when Keenum lofted a 25-yard touchdown pass to Rudolph. The Eagles tied the score on Patrick Robinson’s 50-yard interception of Keenum’s pass on the Vikings’ next series. Philadelphia scored on its next series and the rout was on. It got so bad that Eagles players were doing the Vikings’ Skol Chant in the second half.

“Obviously, it was very surprising,” Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said. “I didn’t expect to come here and get the (expletive) kicked out of us. So, yeah, it was surprising.”

Robison’s frustration was understandable. At 34 years old, the 11-year veteran doesn’t know how much time he has left in the NFL. He also knows the Vikings had an opportunity that might not come again.

That’s because anyone who assumes this season was just the beginning of the Vikings’ success only needs to look at the 2016 Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders. Both were playoff teams and were expected to be near the top of the league again this season. Both crashed back to earth this season and the Raiders fired coach Jack Del Rio.

The Vikings will return their key players on defense next season, but no one can guarantee the type of health that unit had for almost all of 2017.

All three of Minnesota’s quarterbacks – Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford – are due to hit the free-agent market in March and Keenum’s performance the past two games, save for that miracle pass to Stefon Diggs against the Saints, create doubt about whether he deserves a long-term contract.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who had a marvelous season calling plays, is likely to be named head coach of the New York Giants in the coming days. Quality offensive coordinator are hard to find.

Unless you’re the New England Patriots, there are few guarantees that one good season will assure success in the next. Evidence is provided by the 2016 Vikings, who got off to a 5-0 start before collapsing for a variety of reasons.

This season was different. The Vikings started 2-2 – with Bradford’s season basically ending after the opening game and standout rookie running back Dalvin Cook being lost in Week 4 – before they won eight in a row and 11 of their final 12 games.

This was finally going to be the Vikings’ year to get to the Super Bowl and it was going to come at U.S. Bank Stadium and everyone couldn’t wait for their team to dispense of the underdog Eagles and their backup quarterback, Nick Foles, on Sunday and then return home to start a two week celebration.

That dream ended with a resounding thud. This might have been worse than the 41-0 loss to the Giants in the 2000 NFC title game given the expectations for these Vikings.

Minnesota’s losing streak in NFC title games now has reached six (1977, 1987, 1998, 2000, 2009 and 2017). Three of those losses were gut-wrenching. Sunday’s debacle doesn’t join that group. Rather, this one only was shocking in its one-sided nature. The second half should have been played with running time.

Let’s be honest. It’s not only the team that has eggs on its face. All of us who thought the victory over the Saints meant things were going to be different this time also were left feeling pretty foolish on Sunday evening.

  • Gary

    Shurmur was awful the last few games! He made absolutely no adjustments. Kept running the ball up the middle on first down even when down by three touchdowns. I don’t understand why any OC doesn’t just study the Patriots offense and then replicate the plays and play calling. The Patriots offense reminds me of the 1998 Vikings offense. You could count on a few tricky unpredictable plays in every game.

    Shurmur’s offense was unbearably predictable. Good riddance unless the Giants come to their senses and retract any offer they made to him. Good luck with the NY media with that simpleminded offense.

  • Gary

    Alshon Jeffery picked the correct team. NY Giants picked the wrong Coach!

  • Andre Esters

    No sugar-coating a beheading, awful way to end the season… unfortunately, a terrible outing like this further reinforces the Zulgads of Minnesota to continue their bitterness.

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  • Gordon Guffey

    Stats show team who win like the Vikings did last week often show up flat the following week ~ I’m not sure where to find these stats but they talked about it o NFL Network a few times this week ~

    The Eagles are a good team but no better than the Saints and the Vikings beat them twice ~ Sh!t happens ~ It not the end of the world but it should be the end of Remmers and Berger as tarting OG ~

    Well to be fair Remmers looked much better at right OG and it was only his second week at left OG ~ I have read and seen a number of videos from players over the years was have said its not easy to make the switch to the left side in the middle of the season ~ Well this happened at the end of the season so theire is still hope he could be a very good OG ~

    Eston was missed but I’m all about improving in the offseason and that the mod I’m in now ~ The OL needs some help in the draft ~ I dont see any FA signings on the offense unless they play for the Vikings as they like to keep their own ~ Draft offense this year in case the defense is flat like today so you stand a shot in a shootout ~ Its going to happen ~

    Just look at the Jags the last two weeks ~ All the talk about how good their defense was and yet they were in a shootout vs the Steelers last week while giving up 42 points and couldn’t score 25+ points to beat NE because their defense gave up 24 points this week after their big win last week ~ Another flat team ~ It happens and against very good teams Sh!t Happens ~

  • Vvvvvvvv

    We got completely outclassed and embarrassed by a team that had huge issues with: Oakland, Dallas, Atlanta in the past 3 weeks.

  • Jake Johnson

    Not me, Judd. I’ve said all along the Vikings were in trouble having to go out East, starting on Dec. 10th. This team blew their best chance to reach their first super bowl in 41 years, losing to the Panthers that day, while the Eagles took care of the Rams later that day, in L.A. Their brief, one week hold on the top spot was gone, just like that, and I knew it was unlikely they were gonna go. They needed a 2 game swing after that to regain the top seed with just 3 to play, due to the Eagles now having the common opponent tie-breaker. The Vikings are now 1-8 in Philadelphia since 1985 after this latest beat-down. They have also now lost an NFC Title game to every current East division team, on their turf. The cycle is complete.

    One more thing: you know that indoor team stat in conference championship games playing outdoors now at 0-13? Yep, the Vikings account for 3 of those.

    • SM

      Just the latest in the long line of once a decade championship loss disappointments.

      And dude, if you think home field would have given them 30 points, then you be toking.big time. 🙂

      • Jake Johnson

        Did you closely read my post? I said they blew their BEST chance, never that it was a given. And dude…., if you don’t think home field is a big deal, then you are naive and simple in your comprehension and you really have been hitting the pipe too long.

        • SM

          Haha. Funny.

          Tell me how great the.home field advantage was with three TDs in a few minutes vs the Saints.

          My point was home field advantage doesn’t compensate for crappy play. They were dominated.

          • Jake Johnson

            Home field advantage was fantastic, SM- they won the game. They were also 8-1 at home this year, nearly unbeatable save for a flukey loss to Detroit. They’ve never won a road Championship game and I didn’t expect them to win this one, either. It’s just too bad.

  • Justin Fuchs

    The Vikings Curse lives on!

    • Gary

      Someone needs to pass that info on to Zim!

  • Jan Rootham

    It appears our revamped offensive line is more than adequate in our division, but lacks championship quality needed to win conference against the east. Hope some early draft picks or trades are directed in that area this offseason.

    • SM

      Totally agree and add some more depth on DL too, along with another LB and nickel back that can cover shifty backs.
      Gedeon is a slow throwback. Father time needs to retire.

      Frankly I ain’t jazzed with any of our three QBs.

  • styx rogan

    The Stink at da Linc….3-13 next year… 10 more years till we good again.. I cant take it any more… 65 years of futitly

  • SM

    Much rather get blasted than lose a close one. I guarantee Pittsburgh, Atlanta.are asking themselves “what if we just did…?”.


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