John Shipley / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS — The last Rams team to play in St. Louis had a Super Bowl quarterback on the roster and, in fact, he started 11 games. Or five games. It depends on whether the Vikings or Eagles win Sunday's NFC championship game in Philadelphia.
MINNEAPOLIS — Move over, Drew Pearson, there's a new Hail Mary in town, and this one will be remembered here for all the right reasons. Stefon Diggs' 61-yard touchdown reception as time expired Sunday night was the shocker to beat all others as the Vikings finally snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in an NFL playoff game, a 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium that might have been the shock to the system this franchise needed.
MINNEAPOLIS — Brad Childress announced this week that he will retire almost exactly eight years after being elected to his first term as Minnesota's governor and ending an unprecedented run of health and happiness in his adopted home state. "It's time," said Childress, elected in a landslide a year after leading the Vikings to victory in Super Bowl XLIV. "I've been blessed, and it's time for new blood in Minnesota state politics."
MINNEAPOLIS—I've always had a soft spot for Matt Millen. He was a largely lousy executive for the Lions and has said some questionable things in front of hot mics, but the former Pro Bowl linebacker also punched Patriots general manager Pat Sullivan in the face after his Raiders lost to New England in the 1985 playoffs. He had me at "Bam!" It was untoward, uncivilized and, frankly, illegal, yet even in retrospect seems like the reasonable thing to do. It was another time and place in the NFL, and if you were around for it, you likely miss it.
MINNEAPOLIS — In the Vikings' locker room Thursday, Jan. 11, defensive players were rousting teammates to their next meeting. The topic: third down. Clearly, they've been doing their homework. The Vikings (13-3) enter Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints with the best third-down defense in the NFL, allowing conversions to a new set of downs 25.2 percent of the time in 16 regular-season games. That is the NFL's best third-down defense in several years, dating at least back to 2002, according to statistics compiled by ESPN.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings already had played every possible opponent in Sunday's NFC division playoff game this season and got the one they probably know the least about. Not only did the Vikings play the Saints way back in their Sept. 11 opener, New Orleans will have an entirely different running game in Sunday's 3:40 p.m. kickoff at U.S. Bank Stadium. And this time it's a good one.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — It's not that the Vikings don't want to pick up some intel on their playoff opponent while watching them play this weekend. It's they really can't. "It's hard, it's really hard," all-pro receiver Adam Thielen said this week. "I've tried it." One of four NFC teams playing this weekend will be the Vikings' first-round playoff opponent in a 3:40 kickoff on Jan. 14 at U.S. Bank Stadium, and they won't need the NFL Sunday Ticket to watch them.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn.—Kyle Rudolph's sprained right ankle made it through the final three games of the regular season in one piece. That was his first goal. Now the Vikings' starting tight end wants to get as healthy as possible for a potential run to Super Bowl LII. "I told Coach Zim, 'I'll do anything for three weeks. I just need to get to this bye,' " Rudolph said. "So, we're here now, and I'm able to get some time off."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The way Sam Bradford played in the Vikings' season opener against the New Orleans Saints, there was always a chance it would be his best game of the year. It would have been difficult to improve on 27-for-32 passing 346 yards and three touchdowns. After injuring his left knee for the third time, Bradford never really got the chance. The Vikings' erstwhile starting quarterback returned to practice this week and was elated Wednesday, Jan. 3, simply to have practiced two days in a row.
ST. PAUL — The Wild on Tuesday, Jan. 2, finally played a game with Zach Parise on the ice, and there is no doubt he'll make them a better team. Yet how much Minnesota improves in the second half of the season won't be about Parise. At nearly the midpoint of the season, the entire team must decide whether hovering around a playoff spot is good enough, whether barely finishing among the top 16 teams in a 30-team league is a worthwhile accomplishment. The guys actually playing 82 games might come to believe that by April. No one else will.