Naming the Spectacular Play at the end of the Vikings-Saints Game
If you haven’t seen it, you need to go watch the ending to the Vikings-Saints playoff game from last weekend. With time running out the Vikings throw a desperation pass down the field to just try to get into field goal range to have a chance to win the game, and miraculously, wide receiver Stefon Diggs comes down with the pass, and somehow finds his way down the field into the end zone as time expires.
The stadium erupts in cheering, as the backup quarterback, and perennial league vagabond Case Keenum looks on in shock. That play wasn’t supposed to go that well, and there was no way he could have predicted it would have ended in a touchdown.
It’s a play that’s going to go down in history, as it perfectly combines an unexpected moment with a wild swing of emotion in bringing about what seemed at the time to be an unexpected victory.
According to an article run by the Dallas Morning News this morning, people are starting to propose names for the event, putting the play up there with events like the Hail Mary, and the Immaculate Reception. Proposed names include “Seven Heaven,” referencing Keenum’s number, and the “Minnesota Miracle.”
While Case Keenum deserves credit for throwing the pass, the end of the play was out of his control, and naming the event after him is somewhat disingenuous. And, while I like “Minnesota Miracle,” it’s a bit generic.
At this point, many people would probably try to make a pun on Diggs’ last name, but I’m not sure he deserves all the credit, either. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great wide receiver, and he made a good catch on the play, but the expectation for any NFL wideout, whether a star or a rookie, is that when you haven’t been touched by a defender, you should catch any ball that gets to you. And, the expectation is also that if you catch the ball and there are no defenders between you and the end zone, you should be able to get there.
Diggs didn’t have to make a great play to score the touchdown, he just had to do his job and not mess up. He deserves credit for not messing up, but that’s only part of the picture.
In fact, it wasn’t the throw, the catch, or the scamper into the end zone that was the most important part of the play. It was the Saints player missing his tackle. If he disrupts Diggs during the catch, if he doesn’t miss his tackle, if he doesn’t fall and take out the next nearest defender, who had a chance at making the play, the Saints win the game.
That’s why I believe the game should be known in perpetuity as “The Whiff.”
The Dallas Cowboys are Wasting Time
It’s weird to say this, but it’s horribly disappointing that a team that many predicted to finish 10-6 finished at 9-7 instead. Sure, they missed out on the playoffs, but the disappointment runs deeper than that.
2017 was thoroughly dissatisfying. The Cowboys won big, lost big, lost most of their close games, but also won a few ones too. Both the offense and the defense vacillated between looking unstoppable and looking utterly inept. Even the special teams had issues, as kicker Dan Bailey’s injury caused a normally reliable position to become somewhat sketchy, even after his return.
The real problem is that the Cowboys found themselves in a unique position: they were a good team that had a cheap, but high-quality quarterback. Dak Prescott finished fourth in total QBR for the season but was the second-cheapest starting quarterback in the league. To put that even more into perspective, he got paid around 1/5 of what Washington Redskins backup quarterback Colt McCoy made. The price of a quarterback with similar production is about $20 million per year, meaning that for the duration of his rookie contract, the Cowboys should have a lot of extra cap space to play with.
But, we don’t live in a better universe. Despite the fact that Tony Romo no longer plays for the Cowboys, they’re saddled with cap penalties from his massive contract. Last year, they lost more than $10 million in dead space and will lose an additional $8.9 million next year. That’s a couple extra free agents who didn’t get signed. Or, it could have been used as capital to re-sign Demarcus Lawrence before he hit the free agent market.
Ultimately, they will have to re-sign Dak Prescott, which will be profoundly expensive, and will limit the moves they can make in free agency. While this is a team that has dedicated itself to building through the draft, there was potential for a window in which they could keep their old method, but also spend money in free agency to get talent in areas where they lacked it. Failing to trade Tony Romo was a monumental failure, as it compounded the cap issue. If they had successfully traded him, his hit against the Cowboy’s cap would have been much less impactful.
While it’s hard to nail down exactly what was wrong this year, I think two position groups had an oversized influence on the season.
The offensive line, while featuring three pro-bowlers, suffered greatly because of Tyron Smith’s frequent injuries, and by playing the talented La’el Collins out of position. Could that extra cap space have been used to sign a real right tackle so that the line didn’t feel so patchwork at times?
And then the secondary, which saw a mass exodus to other teams after having a pretty good year, by Cowboys standards. And while Jeff Heath had arguably his best year, and both Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie showed a lot of promise, it always seemed like the wheels were about to come off this unit. Re-signing the departed Barry Church might have made a profound impact on the secondary. Additionally, A. J. Bouye, Stephen Gilmore, and Logan Ryan were all available at corner (It’s worth noting that all three of these players signed with teams that would make the playoffs).
Overall, the Cowboys were 7-4 against non-playoff teams and 2-3 against those that made the playoffs, suggesting that they were better than average, but not great. A player or two away, if you will. One has to wonder if that sunk cap space could have radically changed the nature of the past season.