Fans of the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers have one thing in common.
No, it’s not their cholesterol level, or the number of ice scrapers in their car, or their mixed feelings about Brett Favre, or the notion that it’s acceptable to order pizza from a ranch.
Okay, maybe there are a couple of similarities.
But the most prominent trait the two fanbases share right now is their exaggerated belief in the power of one catch. Call it the cult of momentum.
Vikings Twitter didn’t take long to start dragging Irv Smith Jr. after his hideous drop in the second quarter with the team down 14-7 on Monday night against the Philadelphia Eagles. And it was an ugly drop indeed. Exceptionally ugly. A Wisconsin “6.” Truly tough to look at. Smith bobbled a perfectly floated long bomb with nothing in front of him but a sea of freshly mowed grass. If only he’d caught it…
Minnesota started Week 2 in Philly so uninspired and listless, you’d think they had eaten a lifetime of Philadelphia cuisine and attended the Philadelphia school system. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ offense scooted around the Vikings’ D like they were a minor inconvenience at best, while the offense spent so little time on the field during the first quarter they risked losing their NFLPA union health insurance. Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was apparently attempting an elaborate reverse-psychology strategy in which he in no way adjusted to the opposing offense, perhaps hoping that they might overzealously adjust to his potential adjustments and accidentally stop being really good. (This did not work out.)
But if Irv Smith Jr. runs that ball in for a touchdown, it’s a one-score game. With a bit of luck and a couple of big defensive stops — kind of like the ones they got in the second half — Minnesota could march into the locker room down only seven, ready to receive the second-half kickoff, despite being pretty obviously outclassed for 30 minutes. Now it’s a two-quarter ballgame.
Packers fans know this pain. (Note, Packers fans: If this pain appears in your chest and upper left arm/shoulder area, seek immediate medical attention.)
Green Bay’s whole dang season kicked off with a beautiful throw from Aaron Rodgers that sailed right between the hands of shiny new second-round draft pick Christian Watson. The players later admitted the big-strike play had been dreamed up and rehearsed for a couple of weeks. There’s no question whatsoever that’s a touchdown in every alternate reality in the entire multiverse in which Watson catches the ball.
Packers fans all gnashed their teeth in agony — something New Orleans Saints fans cannot even attempt — pained by the what-if thought. What if Watson did catch that ball? The whole momentum of the game changes, and the Pack probably wins. You can’t argue with momentum. It’s science, probably!
And this is where fans from both sides of the river need to chill out and stop tormenting themselves.
Because the reality is, fellow Vikings fans, Minnesota got outclassed on Monday night. Sometimes the defense was awful, and sometimes it was fairly strong. Occasionally the offense showed sparks of life, but mostly it was quite bad. Special teams, thanks for showing up. There’s no reason beyond wishful thinking to assume that a brief shift in the winds would have prevented the Vikings from getting totally blown over. You can’t watch that whole game, or as much of it as you could force yourself to sit through, and tell yourself they were the better team.
And lest you think I’m wallowing in hometown self-pity, let me point out: Packers fans are just as delusional with their Christian Watson Truther theories. Green Bay flat-out didn’t look ready in Week 1, and the Vikings consistently executed well-conceived plays in all phases of the game. Birthday wishes and fairy dust weren’t going to make Romeo Doubs suddenly start running the correct routes or keep the Packers’ O-line from folding under the pressure from Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith.
In Week 1, the Vikings well and truly whooped-up on the Packers. And in Week 2, the Vikings summarily got whooped-up upon themselves.
Who is the better team in the NFC North? Well, the Chicago Bears are likely pretty bad, and the Eagles are likely pretty good, so it’s hard to say right now based on Minnesota’s and Green Bay’s matching 1-1 records. But it’s silly to think that a little vibe shift would have either of them sitting at 2-0.
The great pop chanteuse Aimee Mann once sang, “Oh, for the sake of momentum/I’ve allowed my fears to get larger than life.”
It’s silly to over-weight one drop, be it from Smith or Watson. It’s even sillier to subscribe to the unproven theory of momentum. The real question is, who will ultimately persevere? The answer lies not in the drops of the past but the catches of the future.