Winning ugly in the NFL has gotten a lot prettier and far less appreciated in the NFL the last 50 years.
On Nov. 14, 1971, Vikings coach Bud Grant had this to say after his team beat a bad Packers squad in perhaps the ugliest game in 61 seasons of Vikings football:
"We made a lot of big plays. They didn't make any."
The Vikings won 3-0 on a windy, 45-degree day at Met Stadium. Gary Cuozzo completed five of 11 passes for 42 yards. The Vikings had 87 yards and five first downs. The Packers ran for 245 yards but turned the ball over four times.
The Packers would have won, too, if quarterback Scott Hunter hadn't brain-burped and thrown the ball from the Vikings 8-yard line instead of adding to John Brockington's 169 yards rushing in the closing minutes of a scoreless game.
Charlie West intercepted the ball. The Vikings mustered some yards. Fred Cox kicked the winning 25-yard field goal in the final minute. People were happy, as they used to be pre-Twitter.
Yes, the game has changed massively since then. A game like that wouldn't fly in today's world, which is why the league started changing rules in 1978 to give us the wide-open product we see today.
But winning ugly is still a thing. It's just prettier to some of us who don't spend October looking at losses as valuable tools to get everybody fired and rise higher in the draft.
On Sunday, the forever-kicking-cursed Vikings won a game when a man's right foot launched an oblong ball 54 yards between two yellow posts. Not wide left. Not wide right. Down the middle to win the game as time ran out. Weird, huh?
Before that happened, Kirk Cousins did exactly what the Vikings are paying him $33 million a year to do — grab a game by the throat and win it while imitating Tom Brady, the G.O.A.T., and Aaron Rodgers, the reigning league MVP making $33.5 million a year.
And that's not hyperbole.
Week 1, Brady was down one point with 1 minute, 24 seconds left and one timeout. He completed four of nine passes for 54 yards to march the Buccaneers 57 yards in 11 plays for a winning 36-yard field goal with two seconds left.
Week 3, Rodgers was down one point with 37 seconds left and no timeouts. He completed two passes for the 42 yards the Packers needed to kick a winning 51-yard field goal as time expired.
Week 5, Cousins was down one point with 33 seconds left and two timeouts. He completed three passes for the 46 yards the Vikings needed for Greg Joseph's winning 54-yarder to beat the Lions 19-17 as time expired.
Pretty similar stuff by the greatest ever, the greatest now and a guy who is pretty good and capable of more.
Asked if coming back after inexplicably blowing a 10-point lead to a winless team at home felt like a win or a loss, center Garrett Bradbury said: "Well, it was a victory. It was a win. Greg made an unbelievable kick, and it was celebrated."
Initially, yes. The U.S. Bank Stadium crowd erupted. Cousins and coach Mike Zimmer literally launched into what has to be the weirdest, most physical coach-QB celebration in NFL history.
But the ensuing chatter seems to have focused solely on the ugly and how the winning part only got in the way of getting Zimmer fired.
The general feeling is the season is over anyway because the Vikings now play at Carolina (3-2), home against Dallas (4-1) after a bye, at Baltimore (4-1), at the Chargers (4-1) and at Green Bay (4-1).
And projecting NFL wins and losses always works out, right? Like everyone assuming a loss to Seattle. Or a win at Cincinnati.
Carolina has lost two in a row. Dallas has to play a road game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Halloween night. Baltimore needed a record 66-yard field goal to beat the Lions by the same 19-17 score. The Chargers have no home-field advantage. The Packers lost at home to a Vikings team playing seven rookie defenders a year ago.
In other words, who the heck knows what will happen? Let the wins, losses and coaching/general manager statuses sort themselves out. Enjoy the suspense and, oh yeah, ask any Lions fan from the past 60 years if they'd take winning ugly over losing ugly.