In a season that’s already been an extreme roller coaster-even for Vikings fans that are used to high drama-today’s game was far more important than any visit to Jacksonville should be.
However, when you’re dealing with a team that has been as ridiculously injured and maligned as the 2016 Minnesota Vikings, today’s game was something of a milestone, regardless any playoffs potential: could our team, one that come within a score here and a play there of having 4 more wins, get out of their own way and beat a dangerous trap team?
Obviously, yes…but it sure as hell wasn’t easy….
Yeah, I know…I’ve been slacking on these…life got a bit more complicated and let’s face it: one can only repeat “our 0-line sucks, our running game is dead, and our final drive choked” so many times. Happily, not something I have to worry about, today…!`
Welcome to “Which Team are We, Anyway?”, where the players are injured and the points hard to find! Today, our battered-but-determined Vikings played two opponents: the Jaguars and their own weak-tea offensive mistakes! In something of a dramatic turnaround, the Vikings remembered how to finish a game, and win! This required all phases to get involved:
QB- Sam Bradford seems to have this kind of game nailed down: 70% accuracy, between 250-300 yards, 1 TD, and another generally solid performance. I particularly liked him recovering his own fumble recovery for a pass and a solid gain. That said, it seems like the line between “good” and “great” lies in intermediate pass ball placement: a few missed passes were just-barely-off-enough to be too high or too far behind…and either ended up missed or with the player unable to continue the play after the catch. This is serious nitpicking on my part, as Sam is arguably the best and most consistent member of our brutalized offense…but it seemed to take all day for him to get on the page with Rudolph (happily resulting in Sam’s lone TD pass). How much of that comes from disjointed rhythm resulting from our junkyard o-line, only Sam could tell you. Damned good effort, but it looks like a great one is attainable.
RBs/FB- Just as something is infinitely better than nothing, some bits of running offense progress keep popping up…as well as some brutal disappointments. In today’s game, Asiata brought about a moment of victory (his TD) and some of extreme frustration (impotency at goal line, fumble/touchback). They added 52 yards in receptions (McKinnon for 38, Asiata for 14). He and McKinnon only combined for 68 yards rushing, but Asiata did break one of his for 23 yards…so…hope?
WRs/TEs- Whatever else is said of this season, Adam Thielen must be seen as a VERY solid counterpart to Diggs going forward; today he hauled in only 4 passes…but one for 41 and 101 yards overall. Rudolph also had 4 for 60 (44 on 1 pass) and a TD, Diggs added 3 for 55 (45 on one pass), and the rest of the cast and crew added bits here and there. Charles Johnson had one short completion before disappearing again, and Patterson had 3 plus one really good kick return. Targets…Sam has ’em, and is finding ’em.
O-Line- YOU’RE…er…still awful, but here’s something I hadn’t noticed: Sam wasn’t sacked today. The complete collapses in red zone offense still have this group on my continuing s**t list, however…and I can’t imagine that changing this year.
D-Line/LBs- Our maulers are unlikely to be on Bortles’ Christmas card list, especially Griffen (2 sacks), BRob, and Hunter (1 apiece). Blake was under pretty serious pressure much of the game, and their running game barely outperformed ours…so our front-line defense was all over their offense. These guys are, and remain, the heart of our team. It was also great to see some brutal stops by Greenway, Barr, and Kendricks.
CBs/Safeties- These guys are probably STILL pissed after some very iffy calls today. Hitman Harry’s understudy Harris was our leading tackler, and the coverage was generally pretty tight. I saw that Waynes reportedly went out with a concussion, XR had one dumb interference penalty, but I saw at least one corner get called for interference or holding despite being pushed-off in his face…so…yeah, not good.
Special Teams- Not a stunning day, but a solid one. Forbath hit 4 FGs but shanked one of his XP attempts…and looked very confused. Better that than grimly resigned, the Walsh expression. CP84 had a 53-yard return, Morgan had one for 18 (when they kicked well short of Patterson), and Locke was…eh…forgettable.
Coaching- The Dread Pirate Zimmer looked like his typical self, eye bandage notwithstanding. The calls seemed solid overall, but our offense will be hamstrung behind its line. Period.
Officiating- Granted, the TV at the bar wasn’t the one with sound, so I missed some things…but the missed call on the stiffarm that kept an eventual TD drive alive for the Jags was not appreciated.
Conclusion- It’s a win at crunch time, and I’ll always take a Vikings win. It seemed important to me that the team got past its own mistakes and inability to close out games, and I hope that extends for the rest of the season (and beyond). I expect that Sam’s bootlegging ability (and decent running speed, or so it seems) will get utilized going forward, and our defense can focus on making sure the Colts have very “bad Luck” next week.