For most of the Vikings, the bitter taste of the 2010 season is starting to leave their mouths, although the prospect of a Packers-Bears NFC Championship Game has to make them a little bit sick to their stomachs. However, it’s a different story for Cedric Griffin.
The Vikings star cornerback is two months into his rehab following surgery to repair a torn right ACL. The latest injury came on the heels of a grueling rehab process that began shortly after the Vikings lost in the NFC Championship Game to the New Orleans Saints less than a year ago.
He spent the entire offseason trying to get his surgically repaired left ACL back up to full strength and, just two games after his return, he tore the other ACL. Many players would have been despondent about seeing their careers derailed, but Griffin said he remains optimistic about his future and that he has come to the painful realization that when the lights go dim on the biggest stage, the hardest work of all begins for injured players.
“I wasn't discouraged by either one of them, to be honest with you,” Griffin said of his dueling ACL tears. “It's an injury. This is what I signed up for. Football players are supposed to come back from injuries and we're supposed to work hard to get back from them. That's what I've been doing and will continue to do.”
The one thing the two injuries had in common other than coming before a national television audience was that Griffin knew it was bad immediately. In both instances – at the Superdome and at the Meadowlands – it was clear there was something wrong by the way Griffin launched his helmet. He knew what had happened immediately, but said the experience from the first injury helped put the second in perspective – even if he lost his cool upon initial impact.
“There was no question, I was upset,” Griffin said. “But, at the same time, I
learned from that and I calmed down this time and I'm going farther (into his rehab prior to having to play again). That's probably why I'm a little ahead of schedule this time.”
For some players, seeing his backups take his spot in the lineup is often too much for injured players to endure. Many of them find it difficult to witness, but Griffin said that, while he expects to get his job back, seeing players like Asher Allen and Frank Walker get a chance to prove themselves has been motivation to help make the team better in the long run.
“It's not hard to watch,” Griffin said. “It's kind of encouraging to see the guys, some of the young guys get in there and get some experience and play. Because you never know when someone's going to go down. It's always good to have depth and backups. With me going down, it's allowed some young guys to step in, get some experience and live out their dream.”
With Green Bay’s win Sunday, even if the Bears lose today, the NFC North will have produced a team in the NFC Championship Game for the fourth time in the last five years. No other division has more than two, but Seattle could potentially make it the third time in the last five years the NFC West has put a team in the conference championship game.
The AFC East will match the NFC North by putting a team in the conference title game in four of the last five years, since today’s AFC Divisional Playoff finale will pit division rivals New England and New York. The Patriots made it to the conference title game following the 2006-07 seasons and the Jets were in the AFC title game last year.
Josh McDaniels, who met with the Vikings a week ago, interviewed with the Rams Saturday. Earlier in the week, the Rams lost offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to the Cleveland Browns, who named him as their new head coach.
It would appear that, while McDaniels isn’t likely to come to the Vikings, that the team has pretty much put their search for a potential replacement to Darrell Bevell on hold until McDaniels makes up his mind.
Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, but not only has the 14-year vet never been to a Super Bowl, he’s 0-4 career in the postseason – including two losses when he was playing for a team coming off a bye week.
The Eagles aren’t looking to reunite with Brad Childress, but they may have been a little upset that Leslie Frazier was retained as the Vikings head coach. On Saturday, the Eagles fired defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
The Metrodome reopened Saturday to in-line skaters that have used the facility for years to be able to distance skate indoors. The skaters buzz around the outer concourses.
BEARS-SEAHAWKS BY THE NUMBERS
Perhaps the hardest part of the Seahawks making the playoffs is that they’re there at all. Offensively, Seattle is 28th in total yards (4,765), 29th in yards per play (4.9 yards), 31st in rushing yards (1,424), 29th in average per rushing attempt (3.7), 26th in sacks per pass attempt allowed and tied for 26th in points scored (310).
They aren’t much better defensively, ranking 27th in yards allowed (5,897), 27th in passing yards allowed (3,994), 29th in interceptions (12), 24th in third-down efficiency (39.5 percent) and 25th in points allowed (404).
The Bears finished 30th in total offense (4,631 yards), were 28th in yards per play on offense (4.9 yards), were 22nd in rushing (1,616 yards), 28th in passing yards (3,015 yards), dead last in sacks allowed (56), 27th in third-down conversions (32.8 percent) and 21st in points scored (334).
How did the Bears earn a first-round bye? In a word – defense. Chicago was ninth in total defense (5,029 yards), fifth in yards per play (5.0), second in run defense (1,441 yards), sixth in third down efficiency (34.7 percent) and fourth in points allowed (286).
Last weekend’s win was the second straight win by Seattle – tying their longest winning streak of the year.
In all nine of their losses, Seattle has been beaten by 15 points or more.
Seven of Chicago’s 11 wins came by seven points or less.
The Seahawks have scored more than 24 points just four times all season, while allowing 31 or more points eight times.
The Bears allowed 20 points or fewer 12 times and scored 20 points or more 10 times.
Chicago has won seven of its last nine games, with its only losses coming to New England and Green Bay.
Seattle has one of the worst time-of-possession marks in the league, holding the ball for just 27:33 on average – a disparity of almost five minutes per game.
In the first half of games, Seattle has been outscored 230-128.
The Seahawks have thrown just 14 touchdowns, while allowing 31 passing TDs.
The Bears have thrown 23 touchdowns, while allowing opponents to throw just 14.
Leon Washington may be the team MVP, having returned three kickoffs for touchdowns – the most in the NFL in 2010.
Devin Hester led the league in punt return average with 17.1 yards per return. He would have led the league in kickoff return average (35.6 yards), but didn’t have enough returns to qualify.
Seattle was 29th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on just 21 of 50 drives (42 percent).
Seattle is surprisingly good in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns on just 30 of 65 opposing drives (46.2 percent) – good enough for seventh in the league.
Seattle finished tied for 27th in giveaway/takeaway ratio at minus-9 – 22 takeaways, 32 giveaways.
Both teams have explosive kickoff return games. The average starting position in the league following kickoffs was the 26.8-yard line. The Bears, thanks to Hester and company, were second with an average start on the 31.5-yard line. Seattle was third with an average start at the 30.2-yard line.
Matt Hasselbeck finished 28th in passer rating at 73.2. The only quarterbacks with enough attempts to qualify that were worse were Brett Favre (69.9), Derek Anderson (65.9) and Jimmy Clausen (58.4).
While Jay Cutler’s interception numbers improved from an awful 2009 season, he still ranked 16th in passer rating (86.3), thanks in large part to 16 interceptions, which ranked 24th in the league.
Marshawn Lynch finished 28th in the league in rushing with 737 yards (573 of that coming with Seattle) and wide receiver Mike Williams’ 751 yards was 20th best in the league.
Matt Forte finished 15th in the league with 1,069 rushing yards, but got shockingly little help from former Viking Chester Taylor. Taylor, who was a key component of the Vikings offense for four years, had just 112 carries for 267 yards – a dismal 2.4-yard average.
Johnny Knox and Forte tied for the team lead with 51 receptions, which only tied them for 62nd in the league, but the Bears had five players who caught 40 or more passes. Williams was the only Seattle player with more than 40 receptions (65).
Opposing quarterbacks threw 31 touchdowns against Seattle, while throwing just 12 interceptions for a combined passer rating of 89.7.
Seattle had only two road wins all season, but one of them came at Soldier Field with a 23-20 win over the Bears.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.