After a long off-season full of cravings for professional football, and the painfully Tanking Twins, it felt awfully good to finally watch a real football game, even if it was preseason.
It seems I alone among my friends really cares all that much for preseason games. So I had The Veteran and Phone Assassin and Delicious and Bottom Line over for the game last night and, I gotta tell you, KSTP’s got to get on the high-def bandwagon. Not only is KSTP the only local station that does not have a high-def channel (I’ve got the WB in high-def, for gawd sakes!) but they don’t have a digital channel either. What that translates to on my beautiful HDTV is a picture that looks like someone overcompressed in Photoshop–blurry with bleeding colors. I had to move further away from the screen to improve the quality of the picture!
Thankfully, the NFL Network will broadcast the game again on Sunday at 6 p.m. on their digital channel. (If you don’t get the NFL Network and you missed the game, you can catch the rebroadcast on KSTC 45 on Sunday at 3.p.m. If you want to check out Randy’s new digs, they’re broadcasting the Raiders/9ers game at 9 p.m.)
That, of course, did not stop me from watching the game.
The first drive was beautiful to behold, especially Daunte‘s falling-down bullet to Travis Taylor at the sidelines and Nate Burleson‘s catch-and-run TD (which, by the way, the Strib refused to give him credit for in their box score stats).
The defense left a bit to be desired by getting pushed all over the field and letting Priest Holmes kick their butts but it was nice to see them stiffen and keep the Chiefs out of the end zone.
For my money, the most encouraging defensive play was Darren Sharper‘s near interception in the end zone. Last year, the 5’-9" Antione Winfield discussed a technique he uses against taller receivers. Since against a 6′-4" receiver with long arms, a smaller guy like Winfield sometimes has to conceed the catch to the receiver but then try and stip it from him as he’s pulling the ball to his body. It looked to me like that is what Sharper did on the play. But the replay revealed that Sharper’s head was trained on the ball as it came in and his hands were in a receiver’s over-the-shoulder-catch position as the ball came. He was going for the pick.
"That’s something we haven’t seen in our safeties," The Veteran said to me.
Sharper’s going to be a major addition to our defense.I know this because during the first game I played in Madden NFL 06, Sharper had two picks.
You could practically feel the collective head shake of Vikings fans everywhere during our first punt attempt: A 29-yard whimper of a punt by Aussie Rules punter Darren Bennett with a cream topping of an illegal formation penalty.
Here we go again!
CUT TO: Shot of Rusty "Special Teams Guru" Tillman, sweating from the shoulders down (prompting Phone Assasin’s disgust), angrily talking to a Viking player.
The shot could have been spliced in from any game last year. Jeeze.
This should be the year that we determine if Tillman is actually a guru afterall who simply did not have the players to make his genius shine. I dunno–I’ve seen scant evidence of it but yesterday was a good start.
After the initial special teams flub, they started to look more like an asset than the liability they were last year. We’ve got a legitimate neck-and-neck kicking competition raging, with Aaron Elling hitting a 40 yarder, and Paul Edinger hitting a 48 yarder.
A. Forty. Eight. Yarder. When was the last time we had a kicker even attempt a field goal that long? Since 1995, maybe, when we had Fuad Reveiz?
The coverage units did a respectable job, especially by downing Travis Dortsch’s punt at the Chiefs’ eight yard line. We haven’t seen that in a while, either.
Mewelde Moore’s 43-yard kick off return was extended by the facemask penalty he got at the end and "sure-hands" man, Keenan Howry muffed a punt but recovered.
Finally, I thought 7th round draft pick Adrian Ward, the final piece of the Randy Moss trade, looked awfully good and he was in good company, tied with Antoine Winfield and Ralph Brown (who also looked good) for second-most tackles on the team.
All in all, not bad. Not bad at all for a first pre-season game.