If you listen carefully, you can hear all the people who took the Saints to cover a 5 point spread quietly wishing for Garrett Hartley a painful death. His two missed field goals made this game seem much closer than the final score suggests, and made what should have been an easy cover into a push. On a positive note, most of my predictions bore fruit.
Here's what I think people (and Skip Bayliss) will be talking about tomorrow.
1. Favre out of sync with his receivers. After a decent, if somewhat Matt Leinartian first half, Favre and his receivers completely lost the plot in the second half. He finished with numbers that wouldn't impress the Arizona Cardinals--a completion percentage barely over 50%, less than 175 yards, one TD, and one old-school Favre INT (and several balls that were just horribly thrown). On one incompletion, Cris Collinsworth said, "Favre just doesn't know what Harvin is going to do out there, and that's on Harvin." Ummmm...No, one of those guys missed training camp because of a death in the family and migraines so painful that he collapsed onto the practice field in a pool of his vomit. The other guy delayed needed ankle surgery, messed around with the team, and showed up in time to barely play at all in the pre-season. If WR-QB communications are an issue for the Vikings, that problem rests squarely on Favre's shoulders.
2. The "surprisingly stout" New Orleans defense. I'm not sure I'll buy into this one yet, at least in part for the reason above (and talking point #3 below (TEASER!)). But they held a theoretically great offense to just nine points. I think the Vikings problems on offense will become more revealed, as they play some defenses that I think are much tougher to crack than the Saints'. But this will be a talking point, until someone else comes along and hangs 35 on the Saints (probably whilst losing 35-38).
3. The running game in the 4th quarter. The Saint barely ran the ball in the first half, but came back in the second half and ran it a respectable amount, and put the game away using the running game to set up some pretty easy play-action passes to run clock. Pierre Thomas had, I think, one rush in the first half; he finished with 19 carries and 71 yards, and I don't think there's much doubt that if the Saints had 4 more minutes of clock to run off, they could have. Meanwhile, early in the 4th quarter, with the difference in the game all of 5 points, it felt as if Minnesota completely abandoned the running game.
I'm pretty sure, looking at the stats on the drives of the 4th quarter, that Adrian Peterson didn't get the ball handed to him once in the fourth quarter. That's crazy. And Stupid. Crazy/Stupid, if you will. The whole idea of Adrian Peterson is that he wears out defenses, and he was doing so against the Saints (19 carries, for 87 yds, an average just north of 4.5 yd/carry). The Vikings handed him the ball to end the 3rd quarter, and never gave him the ball again. (Unless you count a pass that lost 3 yards. I wouldn't count that). With 10 minutes left to play, after the Vikings had dodged a bullet that would have put the Saints up 8, they needed a good drive to win the game, and they never handed the ball off to Peterson. Imagine that! If that's not a major talking point tomorrow morning, the talking heads aren't doing their job. Equally amazing--Cris Collinsworth seemed more concerned about where Greg Camarillo was than where Peterson was.
4. The lack of disruption from Jared Allen. Annoyingly, this will almost certainly become a light-hearted jab at how his mullet held his power, and how he needs to grow it out, etc.