Brian Murphy / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS — Desperation makes for great theater, so the Vikings should be master thespians on the national stage Thursday night with their season on the brink and the NFL's runaway train roaring into town. As the calendar flipped to December, Minnesota vs. Dallas was supposed to be an NFC championship game primer, where grievances would be filed away and postseason home-field advantage settled.
DETROIT — No one is safe on the Vikings' offensive line, not even durable center Joe Berger. The last healthy starting offensive lineman who played every snap through 11 games and the first 15 snaps Thursday suffered a first-quarter concussion that knocked him out of Minnesota's 16-13 loss to the Lions at Ford Field. Berger was not the only offensive linemen lost, however. Right tackle Jeremiah Sirles injured his hip in the third quarter.
DETROIT — Stick a fork in the Vikings, they have been caught and stuffed in the NFC North by the deadliest fourth-quarter marksmen in the league. It is the Lions' division to lose now, which seems a wholly unfair burden to place on a perpetually self-destructive franchise, except Detroit suddenly knows how to win when it matters most. Minnesota is free falling out of playoff contention with an unsustainable offense and a weakening defense, neither of which seem capable of putting away teams when the stakes are highest.
MINNEAPOLIS — Larry Fitzgerald Jr.'s march to Canton stops in Minneapolis on Sunday for what might be his final homecoming game against the team that indoctrinated him into the NFL as a teenage ball boy. The Arizona Cardinals' star receiver, Holy Angels graduate and universal good guy has accomplished so much in 13 seasons that his resume virtually has a comet tail.
MINNEAPOLIS — Alex Boone has lobbied to play left tackle; will coach Mike Zimmer buy in? Relentless intrigue on the Vikings' tattered offensive line hinges once again on the unit's most pivotal position after Jake Long tore his Achilles' tendon and was lost for the season late in Sunday's 26-20 loss at Washington. A career left guard, Boone wants to move over and protect quarterback Sam Bradford's blind side, which was Long's job the past three games.
MINNEAPOLIS — Ask any NFL head coach worth the barbed wire pinched between his cheek and gum and he will declare moral victories are for suckers in a cutthroat industry whose bedrock principles are winning and revenue. The moral defeats is an oxymoron, unless you are the reeling Vikings, whose three-game losing streak has Mike Zimmer playing shrink and pushing psychological buttons like a NASA mission commander. When he can see them.
MINNEAPOLIS — Paul Molitor walks like a lame duck, talks like a lame duck and will be paid next season as the lame-duck manager of the Minnesota Twins. But he approaches his third year in the dugout feeling free as a bird. Security is having the full-throated support of owner Jim Pohlad, the wisdom of recently turning 60, plus votes of confidence and pledges of collaboration from the ballclub's nouveau executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Panic for Detroit. David Bowie likely never heard of the Minnesota Vikings, but the English glam rocker sure loved apocalyptic stagecraft like the melodrama oozing out of Winter Park as the Purple prepare to play host to the Lions. The casualty list and intensifying crises over the past nine weeks are staggering even by jaded Vikings standards.
MINNEAPOLIS—Paranoia courses through NFL coaches like bone marrow, but sometimes it is only skin deep. Mike Zimmer wanted to un-ring the bell Thursday about a laughable motivational stunt that apparently drove people for the ethical treatment of stuffed animals to shame the charitable foundation of the Vikings' irritable head coach. So he poured a gallon of kerosene on a tea light.
ST. PAUL — Doug Burgum was too busy campaigning for governor earlier this month to bow hunt with North Dakota's most popular sportsman, Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. So the Republican front-runner and former Microsoft executive invited Wentz and his posse to stalk deer on his land along the Red River south of Fargo during the Eagles' Oct. 4-9 bye week. Burgum figured the excursion would last a couple days and he could catch up before the trail turned cold. Wrong.