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The lilt in Case Keenum’s voice was missing as he spoke about the end of the Minnesota Vikings’ season in a softer-than-usual tone.
His eyes misted over [url=http://www.officialbruinsproonline.com/authentic-adidas-danton-heinen-jersey]Danton Heinen Jersey Kids[/url] , Keenum carefully maintained enough composure to keep his voice from cracking. There was no hiding the hurt from the shellacking in Philadelphia, though, that left the Vikings again one victory short of reaching the Super Bowl.
”You go to bed and don’t sleep, and you wake up early and don’t go back to sleep,” Keenum said on Monday in a largely empty locker room at team headquarters on the heels of the shocking 38-7 defeat by the Eagles . ”That’s the what-if, could-have, should-have, would-have, but I did everything I could during the week. I prepared the best I’d been prepared. I just didn’t make the plays, and the ball didn’t bounce our way.”
Keenum committed three turnovers on Sunday night, after only nine giveaways in his previous 16 games. The Eagles turned those into 14 points on top of what the Vikings could have scored on the possession that ended with a sack-fumble deep in Eagles territory. The game was still within reach then, in the second quarter, but after halftime it was well out of hand.
”We believed that we were going to win that game, just like we believed every week prior to that that we could win the game that week,” running back Latavius Murray said. ”We were capable of it. We believed in everybody in the locker room, and we had the guys to do it. We just didn’t play well, and they played really well.”
The defense that was the stingiest in the NFL this season was scorched by backup quarterback Nick Foles and a bunch of receivers who appeared to do whatever they wanted to up and down the field.
”I could’ve called a lot better game, obviously,” coach Mike Zimmer said. ”Point the finger at me before you point it at the players.”
Becoming the first team in history to play in a Super Bowl on home turf was the dream scenario that didn’t materialize, but the Vikings were primarily stunned by how poorly they played on the next-biggest stage and disheartened by how, after 4+ months of such strong performances, they were ultimately left without the chance to play for a championship like the 29 other teams eliminated before them.
Instead, after a sixth NFC championship game loss by the Vikings since their last Super Bowl appearance 41 years ago, the Eagles will take on the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium on Feb. 4.
”I’ve never had so much fun coming to work in my life [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-matthew-stafford-jersey]Matthew Stafford Jersey White[/url] , never had so much fun playing football in my life, as this year. That’s not cliche. That’s the honest truth,” wide receiver Adam Thielen said. ”So I think that makes it a little tougher, too, because you really don’t know what’s going to happen year to year, as far as a group changing and things like that, and that’s why you have to take advantage of those opportunities because you never know when you’ll be back.”
The offseason uncertainty starts at quarterback, where Keenum is the consensus favorite to return after a breakout performance that altered his career narrative following five years as a backup. His contract is scheduled to expire along with Sam Bradford’s and Teddy Bridgewater’s, though, leaving no guarantee for any of them.
”I have an inkling that all those guys are going to be starting quarterbacks in this league for someone, and they’re going to win a lot of games,” Thielen said, ”because they’re that type of character guys, they’re that type of football players, they’re guys you want on your team, and they’re guys you want to play for.”
Bridgewater was inactive for the two playoff games, with Bradford the backup, a development that didn’t bode well for his future in Minnesota. Asked whether he sees himself as a starter in the league somewhere in 2018, Bridgewater replied, ”Definitely, yeah. Without a question.”
Bradford was not in the locker room when it was open to reporters. Keenum, though unwilling yet to speculate about his pending free agency, made clear he would prefer to remain with the Vikings if it’s up to him.
”Just the attitude and the character and the culture they have around here is awesome,” Keenum said [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-matthew-stafford-jersey]http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-matthew-stafford-jersey[/url] , ”and not to mention Minnesota itself. The people here have been great. My biggest fear coming here was the snow, and I didn’t even shovel that. So it’s been a great year.”
Luke Weaver seemed to regain his old form. It just took a while.
He settled in after a shaky first inning to win for the first time in eight starts and Jose Martinez hit a three-run homer to pace the St. Louis Cardinals to an 8-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.
Weaver (4-6) allowed two runs, both in the first, on five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out a season-high nine and walked two for his first victory since May 11.
”I think it means a lot for him to right the ship,” Matheny said. ”The first inning, you could tell. It was once again, like, `Here we go.’ Got into the second, that was better. Gave up a walk and at that point he turned it around.”
Martinez’s 11th homer capped a five-run fourth when St. Louis erased a 2-1 deficit. Dexter Fowler, who entered hitting .163, doubled twice and scored twice, and Harrison Bader reached four times, scoring twice for the Cardinals, who won the final two games of the series to salvage a split.
Fowler snapped an 0-for13 streak with a double to open the fourth and Bader walked. Both runners advanced on Kelton Wong’s fly out to right. After Weaver struck out, Matt Carpenter lined a two-run single to center to put the Cards up 3-2.
Jhoulys Chacin (6-3) issued his fifth walk to Greg Garcia and Martinez then drove an 0-2 pitch over the wall in center to make it 6-2.
”That pitch ran into my bat 100 percent,” Martinez said. ”He actually caught me off-guard, got my off my timing. I just reacted to the ball. I got the barrel 100 percent. It was good for me that it actually happened like that. It was a good hit for us in that inning.”
The Cardinals extended it to 8-2 in the fifth. Fowler again led off with a double and Bader followed with an RBI single. Wong singled Bader to third and Weaver laid down an RBI sacrifice bunt.
Chacin allowed a season-high eight runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings, striking out five and walking five. Chacin dropped to 0-7 with a 6.90 ERA in nine career appearances, including eight starts, against the Cardinals.
”When you walk five guys in four innings, you can’t have much of a good game,” Chacin said. ”Just trying to battle from the first inning. I got runners on base every inning. Just battling with control with my pitches. You pay for it.”
The Cardinals pushed across a run in the first when Carpenter walked, Garcia doubled and Marcell Ozuna lofted a one-out sacrifice fly to the wall in right-center.
Milwaukee answered with two runs in the bottom half. Christian Yelich tied it with his 10th home run, a one-out solo shot into the second deck in left. Ryan Braun followed with a double to right and scored on Hernan Perez’s two-out single. Jonathan Villar doubled Perez to third [url=http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-golden-tate-iii-jersey]Golden Tate Jersey White[/url] , but Weaver escaped by retiring Erik Kratz on a hard-hit liner to right.
”Being able to get out of that inning with just two runs, it’s obviously not ideal, but the way we’ve kind of been swinging and getting hot, I knew we were going to score some runs,” Weaver said. ”It was just about putting up zeroes from there.”
Cards: OF Tommy Pham was not in the lineup after feeling ill before the game. ”He is just under the weather,” manager Mike Matheny said. ”It has been going through our clubhouse. Different guys are passing it around. Unfortunately when you spend this much time together, is this kind of space, on flights, it is going to run its course.”
Brewers: 3B Travis Shaw left in the third inning after re-aggravating his sore right wrist on the second swing of his at-bat. The extent of the injury was not known, Counsell said. . RHP Matt Albers (10-day DL, right shoulder discomfort), could start a throwing program next week, but his return is still a ways off. ”I think we’re looking post-All Star break for Matt,” Counsell said. . IF Nick Franklin (10-day DL, right quad strain) is in Arizona and still experience soreness. ”He’s not over the injury,” Counsell said. . IF Tyler Saladino (10-day DL, left ankle sprain) continues to progress. ”We’re closing in on looking at setting a date to send him out on rehab.”
Cards: RHP John Gant (1-2, 4.39) opens the three-game series at home against Cleveland on Monday. Gant, filling in for injured Michael Wacha, was sent down to Triple-A Memphis on May 31 and recalled on Thursday.
Brewers: After an off-day Monday, rookie RHP Freddy Peralta (2-0, 2.30) makes his fourth start of the season to open a two-game series at home against Kansas City. Opponents are batting just .113 against him.
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