For me, the defining moment of the Vikings’ 34-28 loss to the Eagles on Thursday night came after Justin Jefferson’s fumble, near the end of the first half. Jefferson, trying to score on a long pass, attempted to reach the ball for the end-zone pylon while being tackled; instead, the ball flew from his grasp, over the pylon, and out of bounds. On review, the referees awarded Philadelphia a touchback.
Jefferson, looking abashed, patted himself on the chest, as if to say, “My bad. My bad, guys.” No kidding! Who were you worried we were going to blame for this? You don’t need to take responsibility for something that literally everyone knows was your fault!
Anyway, Jefferson wasn’t exactly alone, in needing to take responsibility; he was one of four Vikings to fumble the football. Brandon Powell had the second-dumbest one, returning a punt 20 yards deep into Eagles territory, but then fumbling the ball right back to Philly. Kirk Cousins fumbled again, his third fumble in two weeks; he needs just 20 more in the final 15 weeks of the year to tie Daunte Culpepper’s team (and NFL) record. And Alexander Mattison fumbled too, on the team’s first play after Powell’s fumble.
At that point of the game, the Vikings had run five plays, gained one yard, and handed the ball to the opposition three times - once on a punt and twice by fumbling.
Among the things the Vikings cannot do are hold onto the football, run the ball, protect the quarterback, or stop the other team from running the ball. Their interior line struggles to do anything, and tackle Christian Darrisaw and backup tackle Oli Udoh are now hurt. I don’t know who is behind Udoh on the depth chart, but that’s not a good place to be.
The Vikings also commit very dumb penalties, like Harrison Phillips jumping offside on third-and-three in the second half, which is the kind of thing that junior-high nose tackles get taken out of the game for.
This is like having Mike Tice back. If Kevin O’Connell starts challenging meaningless plays in the first quarter, you’ll know: the Tice Era is back!
The Twins, meanwhile, were riding Kenta Maeda to a 10-2 pummeling of what my friend Stu calls “the godless Chicago White Sox.” Maeda pitched seven strong innings, allowing only a two-run homer in the seventh, while the Twins bashed out three homers - from Edouard Julien, Royce Lewis, and Kyle Farmer.
Minnesota also scored four runs in a ninth inning in which Chicago did what you’d have to say were Vikings-style dumb things, including letting Farmer reach first on a strikeout, walking in a run, and a play on which Farmer scored from second on a ground ball to the shortstop.
The Twins have 15 games left this season, and 12 of them are against the White Sox, Angels, Athletics, and Rockies. They also have an eight-game lead in the AL Central. Even if they put all 28 active players on the injured list and replaced them with the entire roster of the St. Paul Saints, they’d still be the favorites to win the division.
Speaking of the Saints, they got bombed 9-3 by Iowa. Randy Dobnak gave up six runs on nine hits, and will never not be the guy that started a playoff game for the Twins in Yankee Stadium; he’s the Joe Webb of Twins history. He did also set a Saints franchise record with his 107th strikeout of the season.
Jair Camargo got three hits for St. Paul, including his 19th homer of the year, and Brooks Lee went 2-for-5 as well.
As expected, the Gopher volleyball team pummeled High Point. What wasn’t expected was that they dropped the first set on the way. High Point had 11, 20, and 17 in the final three sets, so it wasn’t like the game was that close, but dropping a set to High Point is one of those things that just worries you a little bit, even if they did immediately come back and deal with the setback.
Lydia Grote was once again a standout, hitting .550 with 13 kills and four service aces. Mckenna Wucherer led the Gophers with 15 kills.
TWINS at Chicago White Sox, 6:40pm
SAINTS at Iowa, 7:08pm
LOONS vs Sporting KC, Saturday
GOPHER FOOTBALL at North Carolina, Saturday
GOPHER VOLLEYBALL vs Creighton, Saturday
LYNX at Connecticut, Game 2, Sunday
VIKINGS vs Chargers, Sept. 24