The big W! Woo hoo! I knew all along that we could beat anyone if we scored more points than they did. And, as always, I was proven correct. I admit, this victory tastes especially sweet to me, as I spent the entire week being told by fellow students that the Vikings were going to win "by at least a couple of scores, maybe more" as though it was an obvious fact (is there anything worse than an extremely condescending fan of a bad team? I mean, good Lord, to hear some of those guys talk you'd think they're the Packers and we're a sorority's powder puff team. Homerism: not just annoying when we do it!).
So what's the word? Besides the bird, that is (that Family Guy episode has ruined my life. Or made it ten times better. I haven't made up my mind on that one. But haven't you heard... you know what, let's move on before I start singing and dancing in the middle of my Civ Pro class).
Well, the word in the street is that I've got some apologies to make to a few of our players. Because I've said and thought some pretty harsh things about some guys, and I need to make it right. Even for the negative thoughts. Because hey, who needs the bad ju-jitsu of negative thoughts (that's karma that's so bad it's like you're being put in an arm lock by a Gracie brother)?
Oh, also, I'm going to go out of my way to NOT apologize to a couple of players. In fact, I'll even go so far as to explain to them (again, you know they care. I heard Andy Studebaker cried after reading one of my preseason posts...not really) why neither I nor anyone else owes them an apology for being negative about them.
You're wondering if I'm going to apologize to Matt Cassel, aren't you? It's killing you, isn't it? At least a half dozen of you are already banging your head against the table waiting for me to get the point, aren't you? OK, fine, let's talk football...
Dexter McCluster, let's start with you. I'm sorry
I'm sorry I doubted you. After a rookie year in which you teased us (do I make an inappropriate joke here? I really want to... but the wife reads these... Ah, I'm a chicken. Can't do it) with flashes of playmaking ability but ended with much more of a dud than an explosion, I had my doubts about you. I even went so far as to at times bemoan the players we could've picked instead of you. I thought you were a bust at WR and too small to be a RB. So basically, a wasted pick.
Flash forward to this year. Jamaal Charles goes down. Uh oh. We're screwed. And yeah, it's been pretty rough watching our offense go at times. But without you, it would've been way, way worse. Sure, your stats don't jump out at us (only 164 rushing yards and 52 receiving yards over SEVENTEEN catches. Seriously, let's ease up on the super short throws to Dex, ok?), but you're averaging almost six yards a carry and you're one of the few guys moving the chains out there.
You're not JC, but you've proven that you need to be touching the ball at least 10 times a game. Now, if only we can get you some real opportunities in the passing game and not those (mentioned above) ridiculous dump-offs you've been getting. Although to be fair, those dump-offs might actually start working, in large part because of...
Steve Breaston, to whom I owe an apology
This one is for my lack of patience. Through the first couple games Stevie didn't do much out there. I gotta admit, I was getting a little antsy. I was starting to sweat. Objects were being picked up and tested for their breakability in preparation to throw. Where's the guy we signed? Were the doubters correct that you're overrated and incapable of performing without a great offense?
Then Dwayne Bowe got hurt, Cassel started to look your way, and things started picking up. You are clearly a baller, you just need to get some looks. I should've been more patient. Speaking of patient...
Tyson Jackson, the world and I owe you an apology
Now, I wasn't a doubter. I, along with the rest of us who break down film in our spare time, noticed that you've been playing some pretty respectable ball, regardless of claims to the contrary. However, I was a little embarrassed to not be in the hater club, since it had so many people and hey, I just want to be liked! I'm sorry I didn't defend you more passionately T-Jax. Because lately, since the coaches finally started playing you, Gregg, and Dorsey together with consistency (hey, note to Romeo. It's a good idea to play your 3 best linemen as much as you can. And it's a BAD idea to throw Wallace GIlberry and Allen Bailey in there when the other team might run the ball. Understand? You SEEM to be getting it, but I'm taking no chances. Remember, best 3 linemen? Good. Situational pass rushers being on the field too often? Bad. I'm glad we talked about this) you've been a beast.
You'll probably never be B.J. Raji, but this season you've jumped your game up a serious notch. In my opinion, let the Dorsey vs. T-Jax debate begin (OK, maybe wait one more week. But it's happening, mark my words). On a less cheerful note...
Cameron Sheffield, I most definitely do not owe you (or Romeo Crennel) an apology
I've been saying since preseason, and I'll say it again: there is no reason for anyone but Justin Houston to be out there at SOLB, especially on obvious passing downs. I don't know what you're doing that mesmerizes so many, but it sure isn't getting to the quarterback. That's four games now in which you've been in there on obvious passing downs across from Pass-Rushing Jesu... er, Tamba Hali. And you don't have a single sack to show for it. In fact, I've made it a point to watch you, thinking I was missing something.
I'm not. You're not that good of a pass rusher. Which we should've known in the preseason as Houston was dominating RTs, TEs, and RBs and you were merely looking "good" against said players. Houston isn't great yet, but he deserves those pass rushing downs. Because you sure aren't doing anything with them. Speaking of not doing anything...
Thomas Jones, I don't owe you an apology
Hey, Jones had a slightly-less-than-pathetic game on Sunday. Good for you, man! I was pretty excited, until I realized that what I thought was a great game by you was an 11 carry, 37 yard yawner. You know it's bad when you think it's great your "feature" back was able to break a 12-yard run (Yeah, that's sad. When did a 12 yard run mean you "broke" anything? It doesn't).
You've got the vision, old man, and you've got the guts, but you just flat out don't have the speed. I was watching the game live with a few Vikings' fans buddies of mine, and one of them pointed out on three separate runs that TJ had a huge hole he just wasn't fast enough to get to. And he was right. Even Jackie Battle looked faster out there. And when you're a vision back who can't hit the holes fast enough, that's a bad thing. Your carries need to go to Dex and Le'Ron McClain ASAP, or even...
Jackie Battle, I MAY owe you an apology
Let's see what happens. But here's what I know: We needed yards on every touch you had, and you delivered in crunch time (anyone else notice it WASN'T TJ getting those crunch time carries? Apparently I'm not the only person who's noticed TJ isn't getting it done). You ran with power and conviction that I haven't seen from you since... well, every preseason ever played. I was screaming for your head this offseason. Take those carries from TJ and pound the rock. Keep those legs moving after impact for the extra couple yards. You did it in your limited chances on Sunday. Do it again next week, and I'll bump this to a full apology.
Now, how about some quick-hitter apologies?
-Tamba Hali, I'm sorry I thought your sack total and overall dominance might dip a little this season. You are ridiculous and made Rivers and McNabb miserable. You're carrying this defense.
-Derrick Johnson, I'm sorry I thought you might mail it in now that you got paid. Sunday was the most lights out I've ever seen you.
-Justin Houston, I just feel sorry for you, period. You know why. But don't worry, Percy Harvin does that to a lot of people. Learn from it, and move on.
And last but not least... Matt Cassel-
Sorry, Matt. I owe you nothing. One solid half of football doesn't make up for the crapfest that has been your play. Now, to your credit, you made some very good plays out there in the 2nd half. But you also got the ball back with the lead and 5:45 left in the game with the chance to ice. And you didn't close. At all. You want me to apologize to you? Here's a list of what you'll need to do: keep getting Breaston involved, go through your progressions faster, stop freaking out every time there's a pass rush, and play TICKED OFF. You were much, much better when you were mad. The second you lost that edge, you started playing scared (that last series, the change was obvious. You weren't mad anymore. You were scared of losing).
Do those things, and do them for the entire rest of the season, and I'll apologize. I'll even do it profusely.