Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
After Minnesota’s 27-17 loss at Pittsburgh, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
Vikings coaches and players are just a wee bit upset about the fourth-quarter tripping penalty on tight end Jeff Dugan; it wiped out a touchdown reception by Sidney Rice. Coach Brad Childress said Sunday that Dugan executed a legal and textbook cut block, and on Monday, Childress spoke with NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira. Childress’ opinion was unchanged afterward but he said: “I’m satisfied that I was able to tell my side of it and he could see my side of it.” I’ll have more on this play Wednesday in our Dirty Laundry feature, but for now I’ll say I don’t think Dugan intended to trip linebacker James Harrison in the true sense of the rule. But you also have to consider the way the play happened at full speed: Dugan’s feet were in the air when Harrison fell down. Discuss among yourselves and we’ll meet back here Wednesday.
I’m not sure if receiver Bernard Berrian (leg injury) will be ready for Sunday’s game against Green Bay. But it’s pretty clear that quarterback Brett Favre’s favorite receivers at this point are Rice and Percy Harvin. Favre targeted them on 24 of the 31 passes he threw to wide receivers Sunday. Rice caught a career-high 11, while Harvin had three. I’ll be interested to see how Green Bay defends Rice, who has taken huge steps as a physical downfield receiver since the teams’ last meeting. In his past two games, in fact, Rice has caught 17 passes for 312 yards. The Packers have two big, physical corners in Al Harris and Charles Woodson. Perhaps they should let Harris match up with Rice in a test of strength and leverage.
Sunday’s loss was the 1,000th game in both the history of the Vikings and the career of team icon Fred Zamberletti. That’s right. Zamberletti was the team’s first athletic trainer and has worked every game in team history. Zamberletti, 77, retired from the team’s medical staff earlier this decade and is now a consultant/team historian. Speaking with a small group of reporters Sunday morning, Zamberletti emotionally recalled his years with the team and said: “I’m the luckiest man alive.”
And here’s one question I’m still asking:
Who is your rookie of the year? Harvin has to be considered a top candidate at this point. He ranks second among NFL rookies with 23 receptions for 285 yards and two scores, and is leading the entire league in kickoff returns with a 29.8 average and another pair of touchdowns. Indianapolis receiver Austin Collie (24 receptions) and Chicago’s Johnny Knox (four touchdowns) are also in the mix. But Harvin has added a level of playmaking to the Vikings’ offense and special teams that simply wasn’t present before his arrival.