2012 NFL Week Three

Vikings Ramble

You know what I always say: never miss an opportunity to post a picture of Jesse Ventura looking pleasantly disheveled.

When Jesse Ventura won the gubernatorial race in Minnesota in 1998 Dan Rather famously said that “The people of Washington could not be more surprised if Fidel Castro came loping across the Midwestern prairie on the back of a hippopotamus.” I’m pretty sure that the people of San Fransisco – and the rest of the world, for that matter –  probably felt the same way when the lowly Minnesota Vikings dominated the 49ers on Sunday.

I had the good fortune of being at Metrodome on Sunday for what was certainly the Vikings best played game since Joe Webb beat Michael Vick and the Eagles on a snowy Tuesday night in 2010. To say that everything went right for the Vikings is misleading; they genuinely played well.

Christian Ponder looked like a seasoned veteran, especially opposite the hapless Alex Smith. He led the Vikings offense in a way Minnesota has not seen in years, somehow keeping the chains moving even with Adrian Peterson being a non-factor. He found his below average receiving core seemingly every time he needed to, especially on third down, in addition to finally being able to use tight end Kyle Rudolph.

The Vikings defense was nearly as impressive. The defensive line kept 49ers running back Frank Gore invisible and Alex Smith so flustered that he couldn’t get anything going. Their secondary didn’t do very well; almost every play Alex smith had an open receiver that he couldn’t find (to his – and the Vikings defensive line’s – credit, he was often too hurried to find them). They did well enough, though, to contain the 49ers fairly talented receivers.

Strap yourself to a tree with roots, Smith: you ain’t going nowhere.

Speaking of the 49ers receivers, Randy Moss was a name that was rarely called during the game. This was not his fault though. Each time Smith threw to him to he was wide open; half the time he wasn’t thrown to he was open, too. There were no less than 4 poorly thrown balls in his direction, one of them in the end zone. It’s easy for everyone in Minnesota to say that Moss doesn’t have it anymore based on his performance Sunday. But had Alex Smith been able to throw a pass Sunday he would have easily had at least a touchdown and about 100 yards receiving.

I haven’t been following San Francisco’s reaction to Sunday’s loss but I imagine it’d be pretty easy for them to play the “we beat ourselves” card. That is half-true, as Alex Smith had an atypically awful game and the strong 49ers defense looked more like a practice squad than an NFL powerhouse. The fact is that the Vikings caught the 49ers sleeping, plain and simple. That, combined with the fact that they brought it in a way that they haven’t in years, led them to an exciting, shocking, dominant victory.

But which team will show up for the Vikings in the coming weeks: the one that made the 49ers look awful or the one that made the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars look like tough opponents? In order for them to stay competitive this season they better hope for the former more than the latter. And for teams to lay an egg as the 49ers did on Sunday.

Around the league

“The ruling on the field stands”…well, which one?

–         Stumbling Replacements Last Friday I wrote an article defending the replacement referees. I was in the midst of a small minority who held this position; all of us woke up on Monday morning with a bit of egg on our face. Then Monday night happened. The regular refs have made disgraceful calls, from getting coin tosses wrong to missing many blatant calls that have decided games, but in my time and in all the research I’ve done I have never seen something as backwards and chaotic as the end of the Packer-Seahawks game. Seahawk wide receiver Tate blatantly pushes a Packer down, a different Packer gets an interception, Tate grabs it out of his hands once he’s down, and they call it a touchdown for the Seahawks…oh wait, one ref said touchdown, one said touchback. One game can decide a lot – a division title, home field advantage, making the playoffs – and if this game decides anything it will be a disgrace.
–         Yet…yet, it’s not like there haven’t been games decided by blown calls, even recently. In my article last Friday I pointed to two years ago when the Lions blatantly brought down Joe Webb with a facemask on the last play of the game, the penalty wasn’t called, and the game ended. I completely forgot the blown catch call that cost the Lions their first game against the Bears that same year. More than just the blown call, though, Monday’s game was poorly officiated all around in a way I haven’t seen ever, and I’ve always been critical of the refs. I guess we’ll see what happens in the weeks to come but I hope last night wasn’t a sign of things to come.

–         The game itself Amid all the replacement ref hubbub people are overlooking two important things : that the Packers looked horrible and that the Seahawks, while they didn’t look much better, still stayed toe-to-toe with supposedly one of the best teams in the league. After their good performance in a loss to the seemingly unbeatable Cardinals week one, their dominance of the Cowboys last week, and their victory this week begs the question: are the Seahawks a team that can make it deep in to the playoffs, maybe further? I doubt it but it’d sure be a fun story. I’d root for them.
–         Another question: are the Packers really not that good? Aaron Rodgers has been average at best, they have no offensive line or run game, and their defense warbles from very poor (as against the 49ers) to a bit above average. Is it possible that the Packers may not…gulp…even make the playoffs? The odds of that happening are low but if they lose a couple of their next few games it becomes a distinct possibility. This season is shaping up to be an interesting one, eh?

–         Any given Sunday Am I crazy or have there been a lot of upsets so far this season? This week there were several with most of them being pretty shocking: the Vikings over the 49ers, the Seahawks over the Packers*, the Titans over the Lions, Cincinnati over Washington, the Chiefs over the Saints, Arizona over Philadelphia, Jacksonville over Indianapolis at home, and Oakland over Pittsburgh.

–         The mighty Oilers Of those the most surprising, of course, was the Vikings over the 49ers. After that, though, each were pretty unexpected. The Titans put up a good showing against the Lions to take one from them. One has to wonder whether they won’t be as good as they predicted at the beginning of the season.

–         Arizona heat Nobody in the universe predicted that the Arizona Cardinals would be unbeaten after three weeks. Last week they beat the Patriots in New England and this week they made taming the Eagles look easy (I knew their luck would run out eventually). I’m not sure if they are a balanced enough team to keep up momentum and make the post-season but I hope so. What a fun story that would be.

–         The bad guys are losing The football gods are on top of the whole karma thing so far this football season. Drew the dick Brees and his Saints are 0-3 – and they look like an 0-3 team. Brian Belichick kicked and screamed but his team still fell short to the Ravens. Whiney RGIII and his Redskins lost heartbreakingly in his home début to the Bengals. The Jets may have won this week but they looked pretty bad doing it – and to the Miami Dolphins. Finally, perennial jerk Jim Harbaugh suffered the embarrassment of being beaten by the Vikings. Let’s hope the trend of the bad guys losing continues all season – especially in the case of the Saints.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics are cataloged regularly at Ramblin’ On. You can reach him via email here.


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2 Comments on “2012 NFL Week Three”

  1. […] 9/24/12 Football Ramble Analysis of the Vikings’ surprising and impressive win over the 49ers, the Seahawks victory […]

  2. […] 9/24/12 Football Ramble Analysis of the Vikings’ surprising and impressive win over the 49ers, the Seahawks victory […]

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