Before I even start to make my point in this article, I must start by saying the Minneapolis Miracle was the best moment the Vikings have had in my lifetime, and it certainly ranks high in the 58-year history of the franchise. Being in the stadium for that game and that moment is by far the best experience I’ve had as a sports fan; I’ll cherish it forever.
However, we all know what happened seven days later. The fact that the Vikings didn’t go on to win the Super Bowl last season doesn’t completely take away the excitement and significance of that wonderful moment, but it didn’t help it age well. I remember when I went to work the Monday after the win over the Saints, a co-worker (who is not a Vikings fan) asked me if that play erased the pain from all of the heart-breaking moments of the past (Gary Anderson, 41-0, Tracy Porter, Blair Walsh…you get it). I immediately responded that it did not. Those moments continue to stab at my soul and 38-7 added another deep wound. The Miracle was unreal, but the aftermath has been anything but.
I was at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday to witness the revenge match, hoping to take in another victory over the Saints. Instead, I was provided another prime example of why the snake-bitten nature of this franchise continues to haunt this fan base far more than one miraculous play could’ve done to restore our confidence.
When a team has a long history of choking in big moments, fans start to expect it to happen. You could feel a nervous energy in the crowd throughout the game on Sunday with sprinkled moments of confidence in the first half (Stefon Diggs’ touchdown on fourth down and Harrison Smith’s interception stand out). Those moments did not have long-term momentum in the crowd. The cheers after Smith’s interception turned into horror when Adam Thielen, who hadn’t made mistake the entire year, fumbled to set up a Saints touchdown before the half.
Once that happened, you could feel the entire stadium fall silent as the familiar feeling of dread crept in. Despite the Vikings having more chances to get back in the game, we all knew where this was heading. When the Vikings were lining up to go for it on fourth down on their own 45, the result felt inevitable. As the offense trotted back on to the field, a pick-six on a broken play felt more likely than an equalizing drive. That moment was the official nail in the coffin, but the energy of the fans made it clear that the Thielen fumble is where we started preparing for an all-too-familiar feeling: heartbreak.
The Vikings were able to beat the Saints in the playoffs last season due to one massive error by Marcus Williams. The Saints deserved to win that game and somehow the team that always disappoints came through with a miracle.
On Sunday, the Vikings held a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback to 120 passing yards and forced him to throw his first interception of the season. The offense had a bunch of success through the air despite Kirk Cousins getting pressured on almost half of his drop backs. Two horrible mistakes by the three best offensive players on the team completely sank the Vikings’ chance at what was an attainable win. It might be a stretch to say the Vikings deserved to win, but they did feel like the better team for plenty of moments throughout that game, but a couple dumb mistakes cost them. This was the predictable outcome that I was expecting last January.
As amazing as the Minneapolis Miracle was (and still is, honestly. It consistently gives me chills when I re-watch it), it can’t erase decades of disappointment. As a Vikings fan, I continue to emotionally prepare myself for the worst to happen. The only thing that can get rid of that expectation of dread is witnessing a Super Bowl victory. Until the Vikings reach that pinnacle, I’ll always expect them to disappoint. Given the way this season is going, it feels like that dream is still far, far from reality.
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