MINNEAPOLIS — Funny, how memories tug on your mind and make you long for the past.
But memories can do something else. They can clear your mind and give you a better view of the present, too. And that brings me to what happened on Sunday afternoon, as the Minnesota Vikings beat the Detroit Lions on a last-second field goal, 19-17.
Yes, another last-second field goal.
Unbelievable. But at least this one didn’t need a bounce.
I always get nostalgic when I go to Minnesota because I covered the Vikings as a beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press when Randy Moss was starting out in the league.
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The 1998 Vikings team was incredible. The Vikings were exciting and explosive, setting an NFL scoring record and going 15-1. The Vikings had talent all over the field, including a pair of future Hall of Fame wide receivers in Moss and Cris Carter.
Now, that was a freakin’ football team.
And that’s what I was thinking about on Sunday afternoon, sitting in the press box at U.S. Bank Stadium, as fake snowflakes fell from the roof.
Everything about this felt fake and left me longing for real football.
This product the Lions are putting on the field?
Ugh. It’s just a tease.
This is like watching a kid go to the playground and play with broken toys.
You almost want to celebrate when they — woo-hoo! — actually complete a pass.
Or force a third-down stop.
Of course, the Lions didn’t do that very often against the Vikings. They scored a whopping six points through the first 57 minutes.
And the Vikings, bless their hearts, kept hurting themselves with penalties.
This was two bad football teams.
Playing bad football.
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That’s not surprising, really.
Everybody knows the Lions are going through a rebuild.
Actually, no. I’m sorry.
The term “rebuild” suggests this team was recently great. And that is, ahem, not exactly the truth.
So let’s call this a construction project — oh, for the last half century or so.
When you keep that in mind, it helps explain what happens when you have holes all over a roster.
So I tried to change how I watched the game.
I stopped looking at the whole — and longing for the past — and tried to focus on the parts.
Derrick Barnes, a fourth-round draft pick, made some nice plays. But then he made a colossal mistake. He had a chance to tackle Alexander Mattison right at the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter.
But Barnes completely missed and Mattison scampered for 48 yards.
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Penei Sewell, the Lions’ first-round draft pick this year, has offered encouraging signs at tackle.
But he also gave up a pair of sacks, including one where quarterback Jared Goff was crushed, causing a fumble.
Quintez Cephus, a young wide receiver, made a nice play. Then he got carted off with an injury.
KhaDarel Hodge, a fourth-year receiver, made a fine catch. But it was wiped away because of a hold.
Of course it was.
So there were glimmers of hope, mixed with the stark reality that these are young players, who make mistakes and need to grow.
Surprisingly, the Lions even managed to grab a lead in the fourth quarter.
But that’s only because the Vikings couldn’t get out of their own way.
So what can we say about these Lions?
They play hard. That’s encouraging.
They don’t give up — another positive.
Hey, I’m trying here.
But there are just so many holes that I wonder how general manager Brad Holmes will evaluate these guys after the season.
How can you evaluate Goff based on the wide receivers he’s working with?
How can you even evaluate coach Dan Campbell?
Those evaluations will have to wait.
They need wide receivers. They need defensive backs. They just need — ahem — more talent everywhere.
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But most of all, they need more time.
To win a game like this.
Because it did get exciting in the last two minutes.
There was Jalen Reeves-Maybin ripping the ball loose. There was D’Andre Swift scoring a touchdown.
There was Campbell risking everyth … OK, nothing really. But he went for the two-point conversion, got it and took the lead.
Only to watch it disappear in the final seconds.
The Vikings won with a field goal as time expired, and fake snowflakes fell from the roof, as Vikings fans celebrated and the Lions walked off.
Still searching for their first win.
But leading the league in heartbreaking losses.
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Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.