For me, it was quite the roller coaster FFL weekend that concluded tonight. Going into last night's Vikings-Packers game I had a 22 point lead over my opponent, but he had Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson going in that game plus Sydney Rice tonight. I had the Vikings DST and that was it. I was very nervous about that lead holding up.
I had gone back to the Vikings DST for this game because I saw that Green Bay was getting touchbacks on only half their kickoffs this year so far, meaning the always dangerous Cordarelle Patterson would likely get a chance to run back a kick or two. Sure enough, he took the opening kickoff 109 yards for a TD to open the game. For a brief moment I felt like a freakin' FFL genius.
Then Rodgers and Nelson connected twice for TDs in the first half and with bonus points my lead had dwindled to about 7 and it was looking kind of grim. The only good thing to come out of that game by the time it was over was my 49-46 lead. I had more bench points so I owned the tie-breaker for the match, but if Rice scored a TD or 4 bonus points I was done for the week. I was not confidant the my slim lead would hold up.
The roller coaster continued, only this time in my favor as Rice was injured early in the game tonight and did not return.
Final score: 49-46 and I go to an unprecedented, for me, 7-1. I'll take 'em any way I can get 'em.
Views from hunting this morning along the east side of Kimball Lake, Superior National Forest:
I had the area all to myself and it was so quiet that at times it felt like I had lost my hearing. No birds in sight, but it was a wonderful two+ hour walk along the lake and deeper into the woods here and there. No disrespect to regular church-goers, but it was my kind of Sunday service.(sorry for the crappy cell phone pics, forgot the camera)
Last night's Vikings-Giants game had to be one of the worst, if not the worst, ever in the storied history of Monday Night Football. Maybe the history of the Vikings franchise too. Both teams spent much of the night playing musical flubs, each in turn trying to hand the game to their opponent. When the music mercifully stopped the Giants had walked off with the 23-7 win. It was so bad it's kind of hard to know where to start.
I guess we can begin with the offensive line. Last year they dominated just about every team they played. This year they seem to be getting manhandled instead. We'll get to Josh Freeman in a minute, but note that while Freeman was only officially sacked once for 14 yards, the Giants defense racked up 13 hits on him. And that's with Freeman getting rid of the ball fairly quickly most of the game. At the same time, they seemed unable to open any holes for Adrian Peterson, who finished with only 13 carries for 28 yards. However, part of that might go back to the inexplicable play calls of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
Getting the rushing game going has been a challenge the last two weeks, but part of the problem has been Musgrave hasn't stuck with it. When you have a weapon like AP it's ridiculous to give him only 10(the week before) or 13 rushes. Sometimes you have to let your line and a tough guy like AP pound away on a defense before they break, especially when your opponent is only leading by a field goal at the half. There was no reason to go away from the run so quickly and push Freeman so hard. Musgrave called 53 passing plays with a QB who had been with the team for only two weeks. 53 pass plays! Can anyone explain that to me?
Then there were the individual momentary lapses of reason. Marcus Sherels had a great punt return for a TD last night, but then he managed to get tackled by the ground and fumble the ball away. And he dropped an easy interception that my 7-year-old nephew could have caught. Freeman's horrible throw for an interception as the Vikings were driving was just as ridiculous. About the only redeeming individual play came from Jared Allen with one of the most amazing QB sacks I've ever seen. Check this out:
When I saw that it was from a different angle and at first it looked to me like Allen was giving Manning a wedgie. Obviously he didn't, but it was still an awesome sack. Check out Eli's expression here:
Talk about a "Great Moments in WTF?" expression. That and a couple shots of bourbon didn't make up for such a dismal game, but they helped.
So where to from here?
First, Frazier has to stick with Freeman for a few more games. I still think it was a mistake to start him last night, but what's done is done. Now he has to give Freeman a chance to show he can grow into the position, or not.
Second, Frazier has to have a talk with Musgrave and get AP back into the game. Part of the way to do that, besides actually handing him the ball, is to get the 5-20 yard passing game going. Forget the deep stuff for now. Greg Jennings and Cordarelle Patterson are both excellent after the catch runners, work on Freeman connecting with them. And if they are still stacking the line, don't forget the short pass to AP as well. He caught one for 6 yards and peeled off 22 yards on another.
Third, the Vikings have got to get their offense going because three and outs on that side are going to kill the defense against better teams such as Green Bay this coming Sunday. Aaron Rodgers is going to carve them to pieces next week if Freeman and Musgrave can't get some drives of their own going. And defensive coordinator Alan Williams is going to have to figure out a way to get to Rodgers, because his secondary right now might just be the worst in the NFL.
That's about it for now. I think the best that can be hoped for is to build for next year and maybe be competitive in some games this year. Hopefully last night was the low point of the season.
While I wait for the kickoff of tonight's game and the debut of Josh Freeman as the leader of the Vikings offense, my best wishes to Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, who suffered a serious neck injury in yesterday's game against Cleveland. It sounds like he will be able to recover, but more tests and time are needed to say for sure. Good luck, Jermichael.
Huh. It looks like ESPN will go ahead and broadcast the 1-4 Vikings against the 0-6 Giants. I had put it at 50-50 that they would instead show reruns of Gilligan's Island.
The Giants are beating the Vikings defense on the line and in the secondary. After 9:36 and 16 plays the Giants had to settle for a field goal, but if the Vikes D can't get off the field better than that it will be a long night.
Josh Freeman has taken the field. For those in neighboring states of Minnesota, that strange glow is from the lighting of hundreds of thousands of votive candles.
Nice pass for a first down under pressure.
The offensive line didn't do Freeman or AP any favors that series. Punt.
Good series from the Vikes D.
Great punt return from Marcus Sherels. Guess who thought about picking up the Vikings DST again after I had dropped them for the Ravens because of the bye week a couple of weeks ago? Shoot.
The Vikes defense hasn't been that good, but Sherels on punts and Cordarelle Patterson on kickoffs are dangerous.
Freeman's back on for his second series.
That was over fast again. A somewhat half-assed reverse by Cordarelle Patterson, an overthrow to a WR incomplete, and a pass to the tight end that was short of the first down.
Another three and out, including another overthrown pass and another AP run stuffed at the line.
Hahahaha...look for a clip tomorrow of Jared Allen's sack of Eli Manning in the first half. For a second there I thought Allen was giving Eli a wedgie.
First half impressions of Freeman: He's game speed rusty and it shows with the overthrows. He doesn't panic under pressure in the pocket. He's making good reads, even if the throws aren't always that clean. One exception was a pass that put Jerome Simpson in position to have his head taken off.
Poor series to start the second half. Freeman was lucky that he wasn't intercepted on the third down incompletion. I'm starting to wonder if Freeman has only learned 6 plays so far.
Terrible 2nd and 3 throw by Freeman that ends in an interception. Bad, that was just bad.
I'll pay $1,000 to any person who can shut up Jon Gruden for the rest of the game.
Jerome Simpson just dropped a TD ball. I don't care who is tossing the rock, the Viking receivers definitely have to step up.
Well, nothing good out of this game. Would have been better if we had gone with the Gilligan's Island reruns. I'll recall what I said last week:
"There will be a lot pressure now to start Josh Freeman next week against the NY Giants and I think that would be a mistake. There are too many other things wrong with this team and throwing Freeman in there before a few of them are fixed will just poison the well for him too. I would give Cassel another chance while continuing to bring Freeman up to speed. Then I would hand the offense over to Freeman week 8 at home against Green Bay."
Now what does head coach Leslie Frazier do? I think he has to stick with Freeman for now and keep working on the other issues. And the rest of us might as well write off the rest of the season now. Frazier can still salvage his job if the team at least makes incremental improvements each week, but this game was just a disaster.
Over the weekend I read a story in The Economist that questions the narrative that science these days is self-correcting. We, meaning the general public, place an awful lot of trust in the integrity of the scientific method, that scientists themselves are honest, and that peer reviews and follow-up studies will catch errors or fraud. According to the article, that trust may be grossly misplaced. Read the whole thing when you have a moment, because it's quite disturbing in its allegations.
The focus of the article is biomedical research, but my gut tells me that similar flaws and failings are happening in other parts of academia. The pressure to do research, to "publish or perish," has perverted higher education in ways that I don't think the public realizes. My dad saw it take over the business department at the local college he taught at for 37 years.
The game goes like this: Schools pressure or require professors to do research papers, one of the thousands of academic journals publishes it, it gets delivered to a few thousand libraries and colleagues, and nobody reads it.
Okay, that's not fair of me. A great deal of published research is valuable and does get read within its field. But even more, far more according to my dad, is just crap that provides no value to the education system other than getting professors points for promotion or tenure. Nobody reads it and nobody cares, but everybody plays the game.
This is not a new phenomenon in higher education. Here's a great piece from 20 years ago that talks about this very problem. What has changed I believe, is the scope. Once mostly confined to larger universities or specialty schools, the practice has spread to smaller colleges and universities over the years and the pressure to do research has damaged what used to be education-focused institutions.
There are other components to the higher education bubble we are in, but I think this farcical deluge of crap research is a significant part of the problem. In general, the 80-20 rule should apply: 80% of higher education institutions should be focused strictly on staying up to date academically and educating their undergraduates, and let the 20% of bigger schools do education, including post-graduate work, and research.
I'm not sure what the solution is short of starting to cut off government funding for some of this useless research. I hesitate to call for academic "reform" though, because that word has become a siren call for politicians to helicopter in and muck things up even further. Maybe there is no graceful way out and the only way for it to end is for the higher education bubble to burst and this will be just one more thing that comes crashing down. It would be better if it didn't happen that way, but I'm afraid that the powers that be in academia are too short-sighted and too corrupt to prevent it.