By VikeFans.com Member Zanary
Y’know that look of concern, of worry, of fear that Eli Manning wears when playing against the Vikings, especially in Minnesota?
All the uncertainty, the insecurity, and the crippling anxiety all over his face?
That look of terror when facing our d-line and linebackers just before the snap?
AIN’T IT GRAND?
So, the Vikings are 4-0 after facing 2 Superbowl-winning QBs and a couple of previous league MVPs over the last 3 games. This with two of our most notable offensive players down and our o-line still a constant work in progress…
…obviously, our team is just gonna get meaner this season. But hey, let’s talk about the latest brutality inflicted on Eli’s little club!
QB- Sam Bradford continues to be everything some of us hoped for, including tonight’s solid performance (26/36, 1 TD, no INTs). He hasn’t shown the fragile tendencies that plagued him early in his career, and he has yet to turn the ball over…while showing poise and accuracy that we’ve largely lacked for many years, now. He had some near misses and a couple of throwaways, but he also hit some sneaky stuff underneath and found CJ for some good yardage…so now, opposing defensive coordinators really do have to worry about more than Diggs and Rudolph. Still, tonight seemed kinda…conservative.
RBs/FB- Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a running offense again! Granted, the combination of McKinnon, Asiata, and Line aren’t striking fear into opponents like Peterson did, but this bunch got to answer the call repeatedly tonight, and racked up two of the team’s 3 TDs in the process. I actually watch these guys with a ton of interest, because I believe that their overall role could be barely emerging…and that they will be a more important facet of the offense as the season goes on. In fact, I think tonight may have been something of a demonstration…more on that later.
WRs/TEs- If anyone picked Charles Johnson in this week’s VELSPAR, you’re a freakin’ prophet. He only had 2 catches, but his 70 yards was a good bit in front of the totals contributed by Rudolph (5 for 55) and Diggs (5 for 47). We also saw a fair amount of Patterson tonight, seemingly working his way out of the doghouse and getting some passes. We got a little out of Thielen, Pruitt, and Ellison, and Sam seems very happy to spread the ball around. CJ had the “hero catch” of the night for 40 yards on a single grab.
O-Line- You’re all FUGGIN’ FI…well, hold on a sec: Sam had decent time, didn’t get sacked, and some running lanes got opened up for a change. Also, this largely happened with Smith out early…and I just noticed that the interior o-linemen didn’t give up a single pressure tonight. OK, then, maybe this bunch is gonna get out of my doghouse.
D-Line/LBs- I think it’s a massive statement that this bunch can have something of an “off” game and still smother a multiple SB-winning QB. Unlike the last couple of games, they didn’t get sacks and they really didn’t get the same amount of pressure that we’re used to, but that seems to have been less important than keeping Eli & co. confused and off-balance throughout the game. With that accomplished, NY’s 3 rushers managed just 78 total yards and one short-yardage TD. I have continuing concerns that Kendricks lacks the stength/mass to be a true match for stronger ‘backs, but he’s fast and always around the ball…and damned near had another INT tonight. All in all, these guys helped keep Eli spooked enough to throw grounders all night.
CBs/Safeties- I gotta admit a tiny amount of disappointment, here: I really did think these guys were gonna make OBJ lose his mind again and attack their Gatorade cooler. This bunch did limit the Giants to a single big pass play, and got Eli and OBJ so off-kilter that Rhodes had a long INT thrown to him. Kudos to Munnerlyn, who had a busy night and was our leading tackler. Andrew “almost” Sandejo almost had a pick of his own, while Harry the Hitman was his lovable, chaotic self.
Special Teams- I think it’s officially time to start the pool on when Zimmer will bring in some other kickers for workouts, as the Blair Walsh Project missed a field goal again, though he seemed to get reset after that. Patterson and Sherels are turning into a pair of truly dangerous “gunners” on special teams, causing a muffed punt and resulting turnover. Locke seems to be finding his way (finally), and the Giants’ returners were largely contained by this bunch.
Coaching- It’s tough to be very critical after a victory, especially another prime-time victory (our first MNF win in years) and one that came with a smothering performance by the defense. That said…I have suspicions that tonight’s game was something of a demonstration/statement game by our coaches. I think that the running game was prioritized at the expense of some passing offense, and that them showed that it could play at something less than full intensity and still win. The team seemed a bit less vicious than in previous weeks, but I never doubted their control of the game. I may be over-analyzing this, but it felt like a 3-hour demonstration of how many ways our team is dangerous.
Officiating- Not a big fan of the zebras tonight, as they missed some big holds and interferences committed by the Giants…but I’m homer enough to know that I may have missed some things we got away with.
Conclusion- I can’t shake the feeling that the coaches reined in the team a bit for this one, whether to break our MNF curse or to give Eli some new issues to worry about. The Vikings looked like themselves, just more…controlled? I dunno, maybe I was seeing things (and suspect I’m coming down with a bug, to be honest), but the near-feral bunch that took it to Carolina looked almost eerily calm, collected, and simply determined tonight.
Whatever the case, we remain un-de-f***ing-feated after 4 games, and that includes some that were projected as our toughest of the season…so I ain’t complaining!