Vikings’ Rise to the Top Hit a Wall
Was it lack of postseason experience that caused the Minnesota Vikings’ breakdown in Philadelphia?
I think I heard a comment that only a couple Vikings players have ever played in a winning playoff game. The last time the Vikings won a playoff game prior to this season was in 2009. I know for sure that QB Case Keenum had never before been a starter in a playoff game.
The Vikings were Wild Card game losers in both 2012 and 2015. Just a year ago, they were an 8-8 team. While their 13-win regular season was impressive, way too many prognosticators and fans wrongly assumed that their playoff run would proceed much the same as their regular season went.
Before Sunday, the majority of the football forecasters had the Vikings going to the Super Bowl. Maybe their thinking was clouded by wanting a storybook ending of a team playing in their first Super Bowl before their fans in their home stadium.
On their way to their Super Bowl win following the 2010 season, the Green Bay Packers made the playoffs six times in the previous nine years. Before the Packers won it all after the 1996 season, they went to the playoffs in each of the prior three years. In 1993 and 1994, they won one playoff game each time, and in 1995 they made it to the conference championship.
The Rams’ rise in 2017 was even more rapid than that of the Vikings, but they quietly exited in the Wild Card game, losing to Atlanta 26-13.
Some other newcomers also made it to the playoffs in 2017. The Titans managed a one-point Wild Card win over the Chiefs, but were then trounced by the Patriots, 35-14. Similarly, the Jaguars achieved an exciting 45-42 win over the Steelers, but then fell to those Patriots.
The Eagles are the exception to the rule, as they now stand at 15-3 for the season and will represent the NFC in Minnesota. After being one of the league’s most successful teams from 2000 through 2010, they hadn’t been in the playoffs since 2013.
The dramatic improvement of quarterback Carson Wentz, the second overall draft pick in 2016, partly explains the Eagles’ meteoric rise. The rest of the explanation is that Nick Foles is a decent backup – in 2013, he established the third-highest annual passer rating ever, barely behind Aaron Rodgers (2011) and Peyton Manning (2004).
Back in 2013, Foles also performed well for the Eagles in the playoffs, finishing with a 105 passer rating, but it wasn’t enough to beat Drew Brees and the Saints. On Sunday, Foles recorded a fabulous passer rating of 141.4.
You’ve probably often heard people say that the NFL playoffs are a whole new ballgame, and that prior playoff experience is critical to postseason success. Following Sunday’s 38-7 beatdown, many Vikings fans would probably agree.