So, we have now completed the greatest trifecta of the year as far as sports is concerned. It's the opening of football and the back-to-back-to-back starts to the high school, college and pro seasons.
This past weekend, I attending a season-opening game in person for the first time since 1988. Back then I watched the Bears beat the Miami Dolphins 34-7 in Soldier Field. It was one of Dan Marino's worst games as a pro in that he was 9-of-22 for 113 yards.
Since then, I had not had the desire or opportunity to attend an NFL opener. That is until Sunday, when I got swept along for a trip to Minnesota to watch the Vikings open at home at Mall of America Field against Jacksonville.
For those loyal Gap Shots & Whiffs readers out there, yes, it was Dave's suggestion.
I have to admit that I was less than enthusiastic about seeing the Vikings and Jaguars kick off the season. However, it was pretty cost effective in that I was mainly just along for the ride to keep Dave company to and from Minneapolis.
It was actually an exciting game — though I would hesitate to say that it was a "good" game. Minnesota won the game 26-23 in overtime, but it wasn't exactly a work of art. Regardless, Adrian Peterson made it back for an opening-day start after going down with a major knee injury eight months ago. In the process he scored two touchdowns and ran for 84 yards to become the Vikings franchise leader in rushing yards.
As for the game itself, the Vikings were leading 20-15 after a Blair Walsh field goal with 5:33 left in the game. At that point, the game in Minnesota was in line to be the first game completed of all the NFL noon starts. With the odd score, I also didn't see overtime in the future, either.
Little did I know.
Jacksonville proceeded to march down field on the arm of Blaine Gabbert and he hit Cecil Shorts on a 39-yard TD pass with just 20 seconds left. You could have heard a pin drop in the dome at that point. The Jaguars then completed the two-point conversion and had a three-point lead.
Still, with just 20 seconds left, I wasn't thinking overtime, but that's exactly what happened.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder started slinging the ball down the field and believe it or not, got in position for Walsh to hit a 55-yard field goal as time expired to send the game into the extra session.
Personally, I had no dog in the fight but at that point I did sing along to the Skol, Vikings fight song with the rest of the rabid faithful just to be in the moment. Still, all of the sudden the idea of getting home by 10 p.m. was out the window.
Because of the new rules regarding overtime in the NFL, each team is guaranteed a possession if the team that receives the first kickoff goes down and kicks a field goal — which is what happened. The Vikings went down and Walsh hit a 38-yarder to make it 26-23, meaning the Jaguars would get the ball with the chance to tie or win the game. They did not score and the game ended, but had Jacksonville kicked a field goal, the old sudden-death format would have kicked in.
At some point because the game was so ugly and had pushed back our arrival time to Illinois, I was actually hoping there would be a tie so I could come back and write my column about watching the two worst teams in football open the season in such a manner.
Guess I sort of did anyway. For the record, we got home at around 11:15 p.m.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking. Miami may actually be one of the two worst teams in the NFL. Guess I was spared from having to watch the Dolphins' opener this year, huh?