Football gods tried once extra, and then they gave up on the Vikings

Harry P. “Bud” Grant was ready for the press field elevator 10-12 minutes after the Vikings had been eradicated by the New York Giants, 31-24, in the first spherical of the NFC playoffs on Sunday.

It was an extended than regular wait and we have been chatting. Back in my Pioneer Press days, when Bud was our legendary coach of the Vikings, I took to calling him “Horseshoe Harry” in honor of the luck that appeared to point out up simply in the nick of time for his group on so many Sundays.

Yet in all these years, 11 performed with 14-game schedules, six with 16 video games and one with 9 (due to the 1982 gamers strike), Bud by no means had a group embrace luck as totally as did the 2022 Vikings over their 17-game schedule.

“I believed the soccer gods have been smiling on them once more, Bud, when Slayton dropped that cross,” I mentioned. “If type adopted, they have been going to obtain the punt, take six or seven performs to attain a tying landing, and then win it in extra time.”

Grant nodded and mentioned: “A few us mentioned the identical factor… that the drop was the break they wanted.”

The Giants have been main by that landing, going through third-and-15 at their 41, and with the Vikings having used their three timeouts throughout this New York possession.

Rather than operating Saquon Barkley up the center to take extra time without work the clock earlier than a punt, the Giants ran a play that had labored a number of occasions:

A shallow cross towards the grain and Darius Slayton was vast, vast open, reaching full velocity, and was going to get the 15 as Giants quarterback Daniel Jones hit him in stride.

Slayton (4 catches, 88 yards) had been the second wideout choice to Isaiah Hodgins (eight catches, 105 yards, a landing) — and there wasn’t a touch from both of those largely nameless receivers that they may need a drop in a state of affairs akin to this.

But Slayton dropped it, first with a bobble, then with a panicked attain and slap at the ball to attempt to management it. The still-jacked-up crowd set free a roar of approval, as the Giants’ Jamie Gillan got here out for his second punt of what was now the night.

The Vikings could be beginning at their 12 with 2:56 remaining to get that tying landing. They had been in additional harmful conditions whereas changing into the NFL’s fourth-quarter kings. One cause being, Kirk Cousins’ potential to show quite a few third-quarter clunkers into fourth-quarter artistry.

And then, on second-and-4, the concept that Slayton’s drop could be the restrict of the gods’ involvement ended. There got here a bogus 15-yard roughing penalty on Dexter Lawrence, a premier Giants lineman.

The hit on Cousins ​​wasn’t too excessive, not too low, and not too fearful, however referee Adrian Hill — a peaceful and largely unobtrusive determine for the earlier three hours — determined to assist out the residence group.

This put the Vikings at the 33, and Cousins ​​instantly hit his major goal on this Sunday, TJ Hockenson, for 13 yards. He had 10 catches for 129 yards — and what an addition this tight finish has been since being acquired from Detroit on Nov. 1.

Considering the high quality of his first draft, giving up a second-rounder was simply the finest transfer made by Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, the rookie common supervisor, for the 2022 season.

Anyone seen that younger gentleman in a public discussion board lately, by the manner? Ever since Adofo-Mensah had a reasonably candid interview with USA Today in late July that brought about some controversy, he has appeared to remain farther out of the image than Patrick Peterson was in cross protection just a few occasions Sunday.

Back to the motion:

The Viking had first down at their 46 with 2:09 left… and the solely challenge appeared to be if Cousins, Mr. Late Lightning, would get his group into the finish zone too rapidly, permitting Jones to make a few performs (with both legs or arm) and set up a 61-yard game-winning subject purpose from Graham Gano.

And then the world turned once more on Kirk and the Vikings. Suddenly, they acquired to fourth-and-8 and there was Cousins ​​bringing again that outdated behavior that everybody thought left with Mike Zimmer’s teaching employees … throwing effectively beneath the sticks with a defender there to make a play.

In this case, Hockenson was 5 yards wanting a primary down when Giants security Xavier McKinney made the cease with 1:44 left. Three knee-downs by Jones and that was it.

The gods had once more tried to do their factor for these Vikings, however this time Cousins ​​and coach Kevin O’Connell — and, after all, the protection with one other 400 yards allowed (431, really) — didn’t have the machismo to simply accept this closing blessing

Postgame, O’Connell wished to tear Cousins ​​for throwing beneath the sticks, for not throwing to certainly one of the “three eligibles” past the first-down marker, and he nearly did… however then the coach hedged.

Yes, Kirk’s almost-no-chance-for-success throw to Hockenson was decisive, but it surely wasn’t in the identical class for absurdity as the third-and-1 O’Connell broke out to finish the Vikings’ second drive of the recreation.

They had swept down the subject for a landing on the first possession, and gave the impression to be in a tremendous move with third-and-1 early in the second drive, when they tried a trick play that had Justin Jefferson throwing to Cousins ​​in the left flat, from the place Cousins ​​was purported to … who in the title of Les Steckel is aware of?

After watching in the always-popular shocked disbelief, I went to a superb and well-reasoned soccer reporter — ESPN’s Kevin Seifert — and opined:

“There have been a variety of video games performed since American soccer was invented and that was the worst play name ever made in any of them.”

Seifert didn’t disagree.

Quite a clunker there, coach and squad. Even the gods lastly needed to give up on you.

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