Nothing like a Vikings’ game to put a guy through 80% of his available emotions. I’m definitely gonna be putting some bartenders’ kids through grad school this season…but on with the nattering!
QB- You have to feel for ol’ Shaun Hill, nowadays. He signs on as a backup, rides the pine for 99% of his first season in support of a young, popular, and improving QB…only to be thrust into a starting role when the kid’s knee collapses, then to have the starting status iffy at best with the arrival of Bradford. In the game, he did exactly what was asked-management-and got us some nice completions and yards for his efforts. No TDs, but no INTs, and 236 yards sounds like a prototypical “backup QB” kind of game. At least the o-line kept him (mostly) clean.
RBs/FB- Welcome to a new season of Vikings football, where our league-dominating running game was barely a factor in yesterday’s game. AP had a completely forgettable outing (19 for 31, long run of 9), and the same was basically true of our backs in general. Granted, every opposing defense will be watching our ‘backs first and foremost…but I can’t remember the last time our running game was so marginalized. I also can’t remember when our run blocking was so…nonexistent.
WRs/TEs- Diggs is the MAN. 7 grabs for 103 and some very important chain-moving plays made him a joy to watch, yesterday. Similarly, Rudolph was earning his money, making some big grabs over the middle…often in traffic. Thielen continues to grow in our offense, which got more joyous shouts of “THIELEN THAT WAY” (yes, the old Journey reference continues). We even had some signs of life from Patterson, though one area of concern was the complete lack of chemistry/timing between Hill and CJ. Here’s hoping that’s just Week 1 jitters or something.
O-line- So…did I miss something in the offseason? Yes, we shuffled some players on the line and changed coordinators, but our long-embattled line kept an aged, pocket-planted QB pretty clean while failing to open running lanes…all game long. I know Zimmer, Turner, and co. wanted some changes from this bunch…but wow, what a personality flip. The question is whether the line will be able to help our backs and still keep our QB(s) mostly upright this season…?
D-line/LBs- These guys just about gave me a coronary during the game. Initially, they seemed unable to stop or even slow down the Titans’ running attack whatsoever, and Mariota seemed more than able to find space and time to pick us apart. As we all saw, the front seven got things figured out and brutalized two TDs out of the Tennessee offense…which was GLORIOUS. After the Kendricks pick-6, I was joking with other Vikings fans at the bar that if we can just keep our offense off the field, we’ll be fine. That was both more and less funny when Hunter ran in the fumble recovery. All in all, I think this group will be very scary as the season progresses and they gel a bit more.
CBs/Safeties- Yep, this is largely going to be about Trae Waynes, and I give him a B-/C+ grade for his efforts yesterday. He played off more than I expected, and got a ton of tackles by bringing down guys that made largely uncontested catches. That said, he had a great run-stuff moment in the open field. I think he’ll play tighter as the season progresses…and as Zimmer chews his ass for allowing too many receptions. Sandejo got a fumble recovery, and I just hope this bunch (with or without Rhodes) gets it together for our home opener against the cheesehounds on Sunday.
Special Teams- The game was a complete “meh” performance by our ST players. The Titans got more return yards than I’d prefer, we had one good return from CP84, the punting was forgettable, and the Blair Walsh Project looked like the playoff shank was large in his mind…again. I hope Zimmer and co. fixed whatever was broken in his skull (he did go on to make 4 FGs and an XP), because…we need him right. It’s pretty late to find a replacement.
Coaching- I’ll admit, I was pretty pissed at our coaches when this game started. Our D wasn’t slowing Tennessee down much, our offense couldn’t run and never got a TD, and Walsh couldn’t kick anything but wide left. However, we actually have coaches that make adjustments, now…and it’s an amazing thing after the Childress/Frazier debacles. The offense never got a TD, but did manage to move the ball consistently…the defense would end up dominating the second half…and Blair got over himself. I have to call that an impressive set of adjustments.
Officiating- Not a huge amount of these for either team, but it did seem like the Titans got away with a ton of holds and interferences…however, I’m gonna feel that way about every game against the Vikings.
Conclusion- Some wins are rough to watch, and I admit that our QB situation was a big distraction for me throughout the game. Hill is functional and serviceable, but we have a slew of tough opponents ahead and the prospect of shootouts when our offense was held without TDs is…yeah, pretty unfortunate. Here’s hoping HUGE adjustments are coming for the home opener.
However…it was still a win, and as a guy that loves defensive football, I did shout myself hoarse with both turnover scores…so, here’s hoping we decimate Green Bay Sunday night!!