Sunday, October 10, 2010
Vikings: Giddy and hoping for magic
By Kevin Seifert
Favre, Moss and Peterson comprise one of the most dangerous QB-RB-WR trios in recent memory.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- When he heard the news, receiver Percy Harvin grabbed his phone and called his mother.
Cornerback Antoine Winfield refused to believe it, even after seeing "Minnesota Vikings acquire receiver Randy Moss" on the ESPN news ticker scroll a few dozen times. "I didn't think it was possible," Winfield said.
Tailback Adrian Peterson was speechless. "I feel like words can't even express right now," he said. "It's like Christmas over and over again."
Even tight end Jimmy Kleinsasser, a stoic 12-year stalwart who has lived through some of the wildest days in franchise history, was shocked.
"Every year I say I've seen it all," Kleinsasser said. "I've been saying it for the last 12 years here. I've seen it all. [But] this is it. I've seen it all now."
Grown men felt compelled to make emotional calls to their mothers. They rubbed their eyes in disbelief while staring at the television screen, rushed down the stairs at the crack of dawn and raised their expectations for what is truly possible. Internal reaction to the Vikings' acquisition of Moss this week offered a preview of what Vikings fans -- and much of the sporting nation -- will feel Monday night when Moss joins Peterson and quarterback Brett Favre to form arguably the most accomplished quarterback-receiver-running back trio in recent NFL history.
"The sky's the limit," said Moss, who will open his second tenure with the team Monday night against the New York Jets.
Yes, at some point early at the New Meadowlands Stadium, the quarterback who has thrown for more yards and touchdowns than anyone in NFL history will stride to the line of scrimmage. He'll have his option of throwing to the receiver who has caught the second-most touchdowns in league history, or handing off to the running back who holds the record for the single-highest rushing total in a game.
The Vikings' offense has struggled to finish drives this season and entered Week 5 averaging 14.3 points per game, the third-worst mark in the NFL. Can Moss offer a universal remedy? It's hard to imagine one receiver making a 180-degree impact, but the Vikings hope that his presence will elevate their already-substantial cadre of weapons into an unstoppable team offense.
"He obviously brings a different dimension to any team," Favre said. "I've seen it so many years against him. You just shake your head. He doesn't have to catch the ball. ... It's what he does to defenses."
After watching their first practice together this week, the normally reserved Winfield was gushing.
"If you're a defense, it's 'pick your poison'," Winfield said. "You can stop [Moss] or stop Adrian Peterson. ... Brett wants to get the ball down the field and now he has the best [downfield] receiver in history to do it ... We have that dual threat now."
For years, defenses have been playing at least one safety close to the line of scrimmage to slow down Peterson. But if there were ever a player who could draw that safety away, it's Moss.
Peterson already is off to the best start of his career, averaging 130.7 yards per game this season, but this week he acknowledged the new opportunities in front of him.
"His presence out there is really going to shake things up and make guys play honest," he said. "It's really going to help this offense be more productive. ... I feel like a kid in a candy store."
Randy Moss by the numbers
Source: ESPN Stats & Information
Sometimes a cliché actually provides a precise description. In different ways, the Vikings' new offensive trio has always dreamed of playing together.
Peterson was 13 years old when Moss entered the NFL in 1998. "He was my favorite receiver to watch," he said, probably because Moss' freakish athletic abilities came to mirror his own.
Moss and Favre, meanwhile, have been engaged in a 13-year mating ritual that dates to Moss' first game against Favre's Green Bay Packers on Oct. 5, 1998. In that game, a Monday night affair at Lambeau Field, Moss caught five passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
"We played Cover 2 and you should never get beat in Cover 2 over the top," Favre said. "But it just happened over and over again. And we were not the only team that happened to. I've seen it way too many times."
Favre lobbied the Packers to acquire Moss in 2007 and 2008, and was deeply disappointed when they failed.
"How could you not want to play with a guy like that?" Favre said. "It can't do anything but make us better and make the guys around us better."
Favre was not the only fan in uniform during that 1998 game, however. Moss offered a similar recollection.
"They wanted all the offensive guys to come sit down," he said. "[Coaches said], 'Everybody come and sit down and rest your legs.' I said, 'No, I want to watch Brett Favre and see his magic.'"
Indeed, both Moss and Favre used the "M" word to describe their hopes for this union.
"I hope that there is still some magic left with me, with him, with this team," Favre said. "Absolutely."
So let us add another cliché to the mix. Christmas came early for the Vikings -- and they're hoping for an extended stay.