Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I don't know who writes the sports headlines at Comcast.net, but somebody should send him (or her) a Webster's Dictionary as an early Christmas gift. Using the word "classic" to describe last night's Monday Night Football clash between the Saints and the Vikings makes about as much sense as kicking to Reggie Bush after he returns two straight punts for touchdowns. Yes, the Vikings won on a last-minute field goal less than two minutes after Saints' kicker Martin Gramatica missed a 46-yarder. And, yes, the oft-criticized Bush had two astounding touchdowns on punt returns and might have had a third if he had not slipped to the turf as he cut back across the field. The Vikings' points came in equally unconventional fashion, as they scored on a blocked field goal and a pass thrown by Chester Taylor, who normally finds himself clearing space for Adrian Peterson.

You want to call it dramatic, that's fine with me. Vikings coach Brad Childress probably saved his job, and Gramatica probably lost his. The thrill of Bush's returns was complemented by several hi-def hits and blocks in the second half. One of those hits knocked Minnesota QB Gus Frerotte out of the game after he completed a pass to Bernard Berrian for 36 yards. Frerotte returned one play later and marched his team to the end zone.

So there were some great plays, some big hits, but I can't think of one reason to call it a classic, something that would stand the test of time. Last week's MNF game pitted hated rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore battling for the top of the AFC North. As the defenses dominated, the result seemed more a question of survival than execution. There were a lot of penalties and punts, but that was more a testament to the strength of the defenses than the offenses' ineptitude. The main question in last night's game was how many plays could make the blooper reel.

New Orleans did not attempt a punt in the first half because three straight possessions ended in turnovers. One of the two fumbles that the Saints did not lose came when Drew Brees wasn't ready for the snap on a shotgun formation; since the ball hit him in the shin, it probably wouldn't have mattered if he was. The Saints best scoring opportunites came as Bush awaited Minnesota's punts; and for some reason, the Vikes kept kicking to him. Minnesota punted a total of seven times, including five in a row in the second half. Neither team rushed for more than 60 yards on the night. Throw in the oddity that referee Ed Hochuli has become and you've got yourself a football game as envisioned by Tim Burton: oddly beautiful and compelling, but eerily unsettling because something is just not quite right.

The only reason I watched to the end was because of a very entertaining Yahoo Sports Live Blog. I'm not a bettor, but I'm guessing most of the others people who stuck it out were waiting to see if New Orleans could cover the three point spread. Better luck next week, for all of us, I hope.

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