As Pacifist Viking wrote on Sunday, this is the Minnesota Viking's most satisfying victory in a long time. But what makes it doubly satisfying is how the Vikings did it. (You can also find TBird's post-game thoughts here.)
Let's turn back the Kick Ass Blog clock to PV's National Friday League post, where he said if the Vikings were going to beat the 49ers, they'd need some game-changing turnovers, big special teams returns and a few explosive plays from the offense.
The Vikings got little of that in this win. There were no big returns by Percy Harvin. No pick sixes or fumbles returned for touchdowns (although the Vikings did have three takeaways, which helped) and their longest offensive play was a 24-yard pass from quarterback Christian Ponder to Percy Harvin.
The Vikings won with no fluke plays. They won by doing things good teams do. They committed only one penalty (that the replacement refs called anyway). They won the turnover battle, albeit barely. They converted on third down consistently (seven for 14, or 50 per cent). Their maligned offense put together three long, clock-killing touchdown drives – none of them more an important than the 12 play, 86-yard drive that ended in a ridiculous one-yard catch by tight end Kyle Rudolph after the 49ers had cut the Vikings lead to 17-13 the drive before. And I better mention that the Vikings sieve-like secondary was much stouter than we could have hoped for. The 49ers don't have one of the league's best passing attacks, but they were still effective in their previous two games against the Packers and the Lions. The Vikings secondary held up against that offense, and the entire defense tackled well. It was just an impressive display of football all around.
This is the kind of win that inspires more hope in a Vikings fan than if they had won because Harvin had returned a couple of kickoffs for touchdowns or the Vikings had lucked themselves into a defensive score or two. The Vikings were just better than San Francisco in almost every phase of the game in this one. That's a good feeling. And it shows that this team has some talent, and when it plays to that talent, which it didn't do in last week's loss to Indianapolis.
Now the young and rebuilding Vikings will face another early test – sustaining their play over the long haul. The victory over San Francisco was fun and exciting, and the squad certainly played smart, determined football against a Super Bowl contender. But sometimes young teams don't handle unexpected success well. They don't know what it takes to be consistently good at this level. It seems strange to talk about the Detroit Lions – those loveable losers – as presenting another stiff test for the Vikings. But this is a team with a formidable passing attack. With Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford and Ndamukong Suh. And the Vikings will be playing them on the road (but it will be indoors).
If the Vikings go to Detroit next week and lose, perhaps the win over the 49ers was an aberration. If they can build on what they did at the Metrodome on Sunday and beat the Lions on the road, we could be in for an unexpectedly fun fall of NFL football.