Observations from the De-Frocking of the Saints

Did you ever have one of those feelings, a feeling that was screaming in your head despite facts/evidence right in front of you?  I’ve had one all offseason, and it was there all preseason, too.

Even when our starting offense looked mediocre at best and useless at worst, there was that tickling in the back of my head:

“it’s just preseason, this doesn’t count”.

For those of you old enough to have seen the movie “Heavy Metal”, it sounded strangely like, “relax, Charlie…I got an angle”.

Over and over and OVER; “…this doesn’t count”.  It may have made me more psychologically marginal than I already am.

That said…I listened, and believed.  I knew all the same stuff everyone else was reading:  massive QB year for the Vikings, will Sam step up?  Will Teddy heal in time to play?  Will the o-line get good enough to be competitive at the junior high level?  Will Zimmer get his eye replaced with one from a Terminator model T-800?  Will Harry, Xavier, and the rest of the D come out swinging after losing steam down the stretch?  Will I ever find a really good BBQ place up here?

The offseason was fraught with questions, but the voice in my head only got more smug and certain of itself.

If the next few games go like last night’s did, I’m letting it pick stocks for me.

“Well, they call him Drew Brees…cheated and won a Super Bowl!
Well, now, they call him Drew Brees…sure loves that Lombardi that he stole!
But in the Vikings’ new stadium…his head got stuffed up his…


I’ll just stop there.

I gotta tell ya…there’s just something doubly special about starting off the season with a win, especially a win against a powerful offense that’s part of a team we can never abuse enough!  Drew got knocked around, AP barely got out of his stance, and we saw what our offense looks like when Sam & co.  find their rhythm!  After what seemed like a dark and kinda torturous offseason, this was EXACTLY what this displaced NoDak needed!

On with the victorious babble!

QB- First, the tangibles:  27 of 32, for 346 yards and 3 TDs.  For those who tried (strangely, given his obvious long-ball talents) to dismiss Sam as a dink-and-dunk specialist, that’s an average of over 12.8 yards per completion…and better than an 84% completion rate.  Granted it’s just one game and the Saints’ D hasn’t been too impressive for awhile, but those are gaudy numbers and Gruden, in particular, was talking up the upgrades to the Saints’ defensive roster…so…I think it’s solid.  I believe that Sam, whose NFL career was kind of bizarre in terms of injuries, bad teams, and some truly whacko coaches (lookin’ at you, Chip), could finally be in his best-ever situation.  If he looks like this consistently this season, PAY THE MAN.

RBs/FB- Welcome to the NFL, Mr. Cook, and please make yourself at home in U.S. Bank Stadium.  Let’s see…22 runs for 127, including a 33-yard scamper?  Yeah, that’s a solid debut…especially right in front of the man being succeeded as the Vikings’ featured RB.  I expect that this kid will actually get a good bit scarier with a bit of experience.  The rest of the squad…eh…well, ex-Raider Murray fumbled on his first real game carry (albeit on and in a pile of players) and “Jet” McKinnon only had one really good carry…but he and Cook added another 42 yards in receptions, so I think this group will only grow as an offensive weapon.

WRs/TEs- I dunno if they’ll ever eclipse the Moss/Carter duo, but our Diggs/Thielen pair are truly, magnificently dangerous.  Diggs pulled down 7 passes for 93 yards and 2 scores (one that was astounding, in terms of ball and body control), while Thielen pulled in 9 passes for 157 yards…one pass alone for 44 of those yards.  The choruses of “can you DIGGS it!?!?” and “THIELEN that way, oooooh, any time that you want me” got loud in my place last night.  Add in another TD for Rudolph, and ridiculously tight 21-yard catch for Wright, and even a 7-yard catch for Treadwell, and we might have the makings of a truly impressive offense.  Damn, I love football season….

O-Line- You’re all FUGGIN’ FIRED…errr, wait, no, sorry.  Scratch that, just years of habit.  Our new O-line, which we hadn’t seen together until last night, gave Sam the kinds of time we see other top-tier QBs getting…and the results were obvious.  For a bunch that includes a rooking center, two “overpaid tackles”, and was built from the remnants of a truly awful bunch last season, the performance last night was mind-blowing.  Granted, the Saints are possibly a better warm-up than a real test, but Sam had more time and only was sacked once…so…I hope he bought this bunch a nice steak dinner after the game.

D-Line/LBs- This bunch must not have eaten all day, because they were seriously FUNGRY.  Barr, Griffen, and Kendricks were flying around, disrupting Brees and creating havoc all over the line of scrimmage.  Kendricks, in particular, seemed to be everywhere throughout the game: defending passes, stopping runs, and generally making the Saints’ offense miserable.  Barr showed the fire that was missing much of last season, which is a great indicator of things to come.  Newcomer Gedeon looked…well, young.  He’ll catch up.  Griffen was all over Brees, and his lone sack is a poor indicator of how many plays he disrupted.  In general, this group spent most of their night in the Saints’ backfield.  Bloody EXCELLENT.

CBs/Safeties- What is likely Zimmer’s favorite group managed to make an elite QB look awfully average last night.  Big props to Trae Waynes, who had as many tackles (some very impressive open field tackles, at that) as the next three defenders, combined.  This bunch made it difficult to catch anything, and doubly hard to secure a ball once caught.  While Brees did some damage in the seam (which he always does), this bunch shut him down similarly to the ways they shut Eli Manning down…and that’s brutal.

Special Teams- Memo to Kai Forbth: shanking kicks is currently a very sore point with Vikings fans.  Put in some extra practice, and you’ll feel the love.  Beyond that, the FGs were made, the kick coverage was good, and both Sherels and McKinnon had solid games.  All good, here.

Coaching- Maybe the biggest leap, even more than the offense, was the poise shown by Zimmer and his crew.  From the beginning of the game, it seemed like they had the intangibles covered and ended up calling one excellent outing.  While I hope Coach Z gets his vision all the way back, I can’t help feeling that he’s gonna take out all those surgeries on opposing QBs this season….

Officiating- The zebras had some “derp” moments, but not enough to keep the Vikings from dominating.  After some of the junk calls over the weekend (cough cough Seattle/Green Bay cough cough), the refs should be getting pretty jumpy.

Conclusion- SKOL VIKINGS!!  A long, dreary, difficult offseason ends with a great offensive performance, damned solid defense, and an elite opposing QB basically consigned to mediocrity.  It’s only one week and one game, but DAMN…way to go, and let’s take this show to Pittsburgh!!



Just a guitar-banging, politics-arguing, car-obsessed, lifetime Vikings fan lurking in the Great North Woods....