3-1. First place.
Let that soak in for a minute. Three and one. First place in the NFC North division.
I'm fully aware that the Vikings are a flawed football team, and that the last seven games of the schedule are going to be a brutal march that will make or break their season, but right now, I don't care. I'm diggin' the fact that our Minnesota Vikings have, at least for the first quarter of the season, dragged themselves out of the muck and abyss of NFL suckitude and made their way to the front of the pack.
I'm also jumping for joy that the Vikings won a big road game and a big division game, and we'll welcome them home to one of the best home field advantages in the NFL, the dilapidated Metrodome...where the faucets drip at night, where the screen door don't hang right. Welcome home.
And where Percy Harvin can take it to the house, take it to the house takeittothetakeittothetakeittothe house from any damn place on the field he pleases.
Your 3-1 First Place SMR, after the jump. Wait, there is no jump anymore. I'm still getting used to the new SB Nation, too.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Percy Harvin, WR/KR: There's only two guys in the NFL that I would feel comfortable with returning kicks 5 yards or more in the end zone are Harvin and Devin Hester of the Bears...and I would put Harvin above Hester. Honestly, every time Percy touches the ball and gets a head of steam, I am 51% certain he's gone. If he is a receiver and breaks a tackle, or if he's returning kicks or running it out of the backfield and gets through the first wave of defenders, that feeling jumps to a 87.3% certainty. He is, hands down, the most exciting player in the NFL when he is running with the ball.
Adrian Peterson, Cyborg: In the world of special operations, one of the techniques we use to destroy the will of the enemy is Psychological Operations, or PSYOPS. PSYOPS can be a number of things, like dropping propaganda leaflets, using radio and TV programming, or in the case of the Vikings, sending a soulless, mechanical running machine into the teeth of you defense, over and over. You can pile 6 guys on him, and he still gets 4 or 5 yards. And he will get up and LAUGH at you. And then he will go for 6 yards, and then10, then 18 deep in his team's territory, and before you know it, you've been beaten and are crying uncle. Only Adrian Peterson isn't your uncle, he's your daddy, and he shows no mercy. Ever. Because machines don't know emotion, and they don't care about your 'feelings', or your 'schemes'.
Defensive Line, Every Single One: The Vikes d-line played their best game to date. They were consistently pressuring Matthew Stafford, and the Lions running game was non-existent, thanks to a level of penetration I haven't seen since John Holmes porno films, HEY-OH. Seriously, the defensive line consistently won their one on one battles and wreaked havoc on the Detroit side of the line of scrimmage all day long, and completely took away any serious running threat by early in the third quarter.
Antoine Winfield, CB: Winfield is still bringing it, 14 years later. He broke up a couple of passes, made some big tackles, and was part of a secondary that held Calvin Johnson to 5 catches for 55 yards. Winfield is still a beast, and has played a large part in the Vikings early season defensive turnaround.
Josh Robinson, CB: How about a big hand for the rookie? One of the big problems the Vikes secondary had the last couple years, other than the, you know, terrible coverage thingy, was an inability to make sure tackles when receivers did catch the ball. He had a LOLWUT moment when he got faked out of his jock early in the game and missed an open field tackle, but Robinson has been a solid pick up so far. He's a good cover guy, is aggressive, and makes plays. You really can't ask for much more.
Harrison Smith, S: Hey, speaking of rookie defensive backs, how about #22? This kid reminds me of a hard nosed, old school football player. He's very good in run support, is light years ahead of what the Vikings had in deep, over the top pass coverage from last season, and just brings the pain when he hits people. If the Vikings have a lot of on the field success in the next few seasons, people will look back at the 2011 and 2012 draft classes as the turning point.
Jerome Simpson, WR: The Vikings finally showed a vertical passing game today, and it was effective. Sure, he only had 50 yards receiving, but he drew two big pass interference calls and his presence allowed the Vikes to open up their playbook a little bit more.
NOTE: There are three, count 'em three, defensive backs listed as 'solid investments'. No, I don't believe it, either. Heck, throw Jamarca Sanford in there, too. Coming in and starting for an injured Mistral Raymond, Sanford looks like a completely different player. He's hitting hard, forced and recovered a big fumble, and has played pretty good football, all things considered. So yeah, four defensive backs are solid investments. Go figure.
The Right Side Of The Offensive Line: Through three games, you could make an argument that RT Phil Loadholt had been the most improved player on the Vikings offense. You couldn't make that argument today. Both him and RG Brandon Fusco had issues all day long, putting pressure on Ponder and the young offense. It was the first time this season Ponder had been harassed for most of the game, and the offensive results were predictable. Let's hope it was just the exception to the rule, as the Lions have a very good defensive line.
Buy: The Defensive Effort. If I wanted to I could probably put every defensive starter down as a blue chip stock or smart investment. Heck, even DT Christian Ballard had a kickoff return after Percy Harvin made Detroit pee down their leg. This was the kind of defensive effort we have longed for for over two years, and Alan Williams has this defense playing at a high level right now. From the line, to the linebackers playing sound in the gaps and in short and medium routes, to the defensive backs making big play after big play, it's been a heckuva start.
Sell: The Offensive Effort. We know that the Vikings offense isn't explosive, and won't generate a lot of big plays. But they do have some great pieces to work with, namely Harvin and Peterson. But the Vikes got too predictable today, running bubble screens and rollouts to the point of nauseating. I get that those plays are effective when the defense isn't looking for them, but at this point the Vikes call those plays on just about every series. Let's mix it up, boys.
Buy: Winning On The Road Against The NFC North. The Vikings have been awful on the road and even worse against the NFC North, so this win was especially sweet. For the second week in a row, the Vikings were the more physical football team, and never let the high powered Lions attack get into sync. Great effort.
Sell: Relying On A Kick And Punt Return To Win. Look, a win is a win is a win, but the Vikes can't expect to get a punt and kick return TD every week. The offense doesn't need to score on every drive, but they need to do more than contribute a couple of field goal drives to the effort.
Buy: The Hard Hitting Vikings Defense. I don't know who replaced the 2011 Vikings with this hard nosed bunch, but I like it. It starts with a hyperactive defensive front, and ends with the hard hitting rookie safety Harrison Smith, but I like the makeup of this defense so far.
Sell: Chad Greenway's Hit On Calvin Johnson. C'mon Chad, you know better. You left your feet and went helmet to helmet. That's going to get called every time, and as a veteran and leader of the defense, you're not supposed to make those kind of mistakes.
Buy: The ballsy throw to Jerome Simpson on Third Down Late In The Game. Great throw, great catch, great first down, and I thought it was the dagger. Alas, it wasn't, but I liked the aggressive play to win philosophy as opposed to the play not to lose philosophy
Sell: The Seemingly Ultra Conservative Play Not To Lose Philosophy That Permeated The Second Half. I get that when you're up 20-6, you want to run the ball and kill the clock. And when you have Adrian Peterson, that makes even more sense. HOWEVAH...when the Vikes went up 20-6 and forced the Lions to punt yet again, a TD drive would've ended the game right there. Minnesota went into a real conservative shell after the Sherels punt return, taking one deep stab at Harvin. The rest of the plays were short passes or runs. A TD there, and the game is over.
Buy: Christian Ponder. All that said, and all those offensive issues aside, I'll take Ponder. He's a smart football player, and he doesn't make many mistakes. Those are pretty important qualities to have for a quarterback, and I think the intermediate and deeper stuff will come to him. He took more shots downfield today, and as he matures, he'll take a lot more.
Don Glover Quote Of The Week: "Son, if the Vikings keep playing the way they have after these two games (Detroit and San Fran) maybe Frazier doesn't need to be fired."
Dad (goofy grin on his face): No, he should still be fired.
Me and Dad: Laugh like 5 year olds
So at the quarter turn, the VIkings find themselves at 3-1 with an excellent chance to be in sole possession of first place if the Bears lose their game tonight, and a great opportunity to go 4-1 against Tennessee next week. It's always good to be a Vikings fan, but right now, it's great to be a Vikes fan.