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Powers: Vikings loss a story of 'What if?'

'WHAT IF?' ... Blair Walsh's 27-yard 'chip-shot' field goal didn't hook left in final seconds. ... Adrian Peterson's latest fumble didn't lead to Seattle's game-winning kick. ... NFL's third-coldest game ever didn't end with Vikings' latest soul-...

Tom Powers

‘WHAT IF?’

… Blair Walsh’s 27-yard ‘chip-shot’ field goal didn’t hook left in final seconds.

… Adrian Peterson’s latest fumble didn’t lead to Seattle’s game-winning kick.

… NFL’s third-coldest game ever didn’t end with Vikings’ latest soul-chilling loss.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite all odds, the Vikings found a way. Somehow, some way, they reached through the arctic air, stretched and twisted their iced-over, seized-up muscles, grunted one last time … and tore your heart out.

Skol.

“It’s a chip shot,” Mike Zimmer said in disbelief. “He’s got to make it.”

He didn’t. In a kick that will go down in infamy - right up there with Gary Anderson’s misfire in the 1998 NFC championship game - Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field-goal attempt with the game on the line. Twenty-seven yards. That’s roughly the distance from which lucky ticket holders get to try their luck in an effort to win a $100 gift certificate during pregame promotions. A lot of fans make that kick, too.

Not Walsh. Not for the apparently forever-cursed Vikings.

“I never felt like there was any, ‘Here we go again,’ ” Zimmer said. “We missed a field goal, and we lost the game.”

He’ll learn. Sunday was his baptism of fire as a Vikings coach. His team should have won. It deserved to win. But in the upside-down Vikings universe, that doesn’t mean a thing.

In a game that might best have been viewed on an old black-and-white television set, the Vikings and Seahawks played well in a Canton Bulldogs vs. Rock Island Independents sort of way. They blocked and tackled and occasionally inched the ball forward. Always they were hampered by their own frozen breath clogging their field of vision.

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Minnesota’s 9-0 lead in the fourth quarter appeared quite safe in the TCF ice chest. The 52,000 maniacs on hand, most encased in frozen slobber, no doubt had visions of the Promised Land. Oh, there were tell-tale signs that all was not right with the universe.

For example, Seattle’s Russell Wilson recovered his own fumble and then threw for a 35-yard completion on the same play. You don’t see that every day. Soon it was 9-7. And then, as he is wont to do in big games, Adrian Peterson fumbled. Perhaps his fingers froze together and he was playing with stumps. In any case, Peterson is the master of the untimely bobble. That one set up the field goal that put the Seahawks up 10-9.

Yet this team is not easily flustered or discouraged. Minnesota eventually moved into excellent position to win it with just a chip shot of a field goal. There were just 22 seconds left. But these being the Vikings …

“It’s a game we should have won,” Everson Griffen said. “It’s a game we should have won.”

“I’m not taking anything away from Seattle, but I felt like we had that game dead to rights,” said Brian Robison.

They did. They did everything they were supposed to do. They didn’t get beat, they blew it, and an opportunity was lost. Until that missed kick, everything had been breaking right for them. (The kick broke left.) The Vikings had momentum entering the playoffs. And they caught a break when it was announced that Seattle’s star running back, Marshawn Lynch, was ruled out.

There was no telling how far they might have gone in what was looking like a charmed season.

“We’ll never know,” Zimmer said, fighting back emotion. “We did a lot of things that a lot of people didn’t think we could have done. And I think that’s what hurts the most. We don’t get an opportunity to continue to do that.”

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The Vikings’ locker room was like a morgue afterwards. There was none of the gallows humor that accompanies most run-of-the-mill losses. Instead, guys appeared to be in shock. Some were checking fingers and toes for frostbite. Others dragged their battered bodies to the warm showers.

“We were in perfect position to win the game,” said Trae Waynes.

“It’s kind of hard to swallow and really hard to explain,” said Peterson.

“It is shameful, and I have to do better,” said an exceedingly sorry Walsh.

Well, Gary Anderson was sorry after his miss, too. So were all 12 men in the Vikings’ huddle during the 2009 NFC championship game. In fact, the franchise’s history is cluttered with regret. And broken hearts.

“You do sit back and say, ‘What if?’ ” said Teddy Bridgewater. “What if we had won this game and got to face an opponent next week. But today we just didn’t finish the deal.”

Somehow, a season full of pleasant surprises came to a close in excruciatingly predictable fashion.

The Pioneer Press is in a media partnership with Forum News Service.

Related Topics: MINNESOTA VIKINGS
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