The Vikings Stock Market took a beating again Monday, and Viking investors worldwide are perched on the metaphorical windowsill, ready to jump. I’m not a trained suicide prevention person expert guy, so if you’re thinking of jumping (metaphorically, of course-- If you’re really suicidal, well, you should get help…and not be on a sports blog of one of the most tortured fan bases in all of professional sports) let me channel my inner
Senator Al Franken Stuart Smalley and try and help you out:
Jump. Get out. Kill yourself, from a fan perspective. You’re not smart enough, you’re not good enough, and everyone hates you. It’s time to cull the herd, anyway, and I don’t want a bandwagon full of Debbie Downers. So I’ll slow down to about 10-15 mph, edge over to the side of the road, and you just jump right the hell out and wait for the next Bandwagon bus that comes along. Ready, ready….JUMP!
Okay, for those of you who are left, lean in, because I want to let you in on a little secret:
This team is going to the playoffs. There, I said it.*
I’m all in.
*What I said in the post game thread doesn’t count. The Leinenkugel Brewing Company influenced my thought process. As a matter of fact, I’ll go delete any incriminating evidence right now while you read. Carry on.
I don’t know how, I’m not sure if they even deserve to, but they’re going, and it’s going to be freaking EPIC. The NFC North is about the worst division in football right now, and in many ways the Vikings still control their own destiny. They have yet to play the Packers or Bears, and have beaten the Lions once already. They have to sweep both the Bears and Packers, but it’s eminently doable. The Bears are the worst 4-1 team I have ever watched, and it isn’t going to last. Green Bay is an injury train wreck right now, and Aaron ‘I can’t get it done during crunch time’ Rodgers might miss a game due to a concussion. Detroit is still learning how to win, and even though they had a convincing one on Sunday, it was against the Rams. Yes, the Rams are improved, but it’s still the Rams. Do that to the Steelers and you have my attention.
On to the report.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Defense: Once again, the defense kept Minnesota in a game a lot longer than it deserved to be. This unit has been taxed early and often so far this season, and they have answered the bell time and time again. Unlike the offense, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has this technique that we like to call ‘making halftime adjustments’, and the runs that were gashing the Vikings in the first half were pretty much non-existent in the second half. I’ll talk more about the linebackers in a minute, but they were money last night in keeping the Jets out of the end zone until very late in the game.
Percy Harvin: THAT’S the Rookie of the Year from 2009 we’ve been waiting to see. And if Favre makes that late throw on second down right before the game ending interception, I think Harvin is still running. There was NO ONE around him, as he completely pwned Darrelle Revis on that play. With Harvin back in his natural slot position and Randy Moss attracting the focus that a true #1 receiver demands, this offense is ready to explode. After last night, I feel it starts next week against Dallas, and Harvin will be a catalyst.
Chris Kluwe: Punter Chris Kluwe was once again Minnesota’s most dangerous offensive weapon for three quarters, and his ability to change field position helped the Vikings stave off disaster early. It’s tough to score on this defense, and it’s hard to drive the field consistently against them. You can make a case for Kluwe being a borderline Pro Bowler right now, as he is doing all that is being asked of him.
Leslie Frazier: I worry about 2011 for a number of reasons. Pat Williams and Brett Favre will retire, there are a lot of contract extensions that need to be worked out for several key players, and Leslie Frazier will almost certainly get a head coaching job somewhere. Yes, Frazier has talent to work with, but he makes the most of it, and has this defense playing at a very high level. The Vikings are championship=caliber on Frazier’s side of the ball, and put the Vikings in position to win again last night.
Zygi WIlf: What more can you say about someone who I think is the best owner in the NFL? He cleaned house after the Tice era and brought in a new coach and a new philosophy. When the staff has said they need player X, Wilf allows them to go get him. The latest was the stunning trade for prodigal son Randy Moss, who looks great in purple, by the way. Wilf has done everything in his power to give the coaching staff the players needed to compete and win. The coaching staff and players need to start returning the favor against Dallas, or this could end horribly.
Jon Cooper: A couple of weeks ago I lauded the play of C Ryan Cook, and thought he did a good job overall as an injury substitute for John Sullivan. With Sully inactive again last night, Cook started, and the Vikings offense was downright offensive in the first half. At halftime, Cook was replaced by Jon Cooper, and the offense came to life late in the third quarter. Coincidence? Yeah, to a point it is, but consider this. The center is responsible for audibling the protection scheme, and in the first half the Vikes offensive line was out of position and not correctly identifying who was rushing and who had the pickup responsibility. It got much better in the second half, but I imagine altering the playcalling had some effect on that as well. Did Cooper? We'll see, I'm sure.
The Linebackers: Ben Leber, EJ Henderson, and Chad Greenway all made big plays when the defense needed a lift, and helped to keep the Vikings in a game that could’ve easily morphed into something we haven’t seen since early 2005. Greenway made some big third down stops on short passes over the middle, Leber was solid in coverage and made one or two key stops, and EJ Henders on absolutely launched himself to take on Shonne Greene and put the Jets in a 3rd and long situation. I love these guys, and they all bring a different skill set to the table, and they all complement each other well. I personally think this is the most under rated LB corps in the NFL.
Ray Edwards: In a season where Jared Allen has disappeared, Ray Edwards has stepped up. Edwards has been a force from the left defensive end position, and he got a sack and brought consistent pressure all night long. Ray is one of the guys looking for a contract extension, and I hope the Vikings pay him. He has come a long way since the Vikings took a fourth round flyer on him, and he seems to get better and better every week.
Brad Childress and Darrell Bevell: I have three words for you two: What…the…hell. There is absolutely no excuse in the world for that kind of offensive ineptitude for that long of a stretch. You have a HOF QB, RB, WR, and a guy that was the offensive Rookie of the Year, and you forced me to sit through 3 quarters of what can only be described as something a little less painful than the standup comedy of a Dane Cook-Janeane Garofalo love child. Yes, it was in fact that bad, and that unfunny. The Jets defense is good, and I expected a relatively low scoring game, especially when you add in the deluge that they played in. But that looked like a day 1 training camp practice, and for that much talent that the Vikings have, it was a flat out embarrassment. It’s like Chilly and Bevell went in the Not-So-Wayback machine to the 2006 script of run, run, screen pass, punt, except they didn’t even draw up a screen pass. Hello?! The Jets blitzed constantly in the first half. Maybe a screen pass, which is…here, let me look it up in my ‘Football 101’ book…yep here it is, page 1, right after ‘players must wear a helmet’…which is designed to neutralize a blitz…might’ve worked once or twice. It’s either stubbornness or stupidity at this point in terms of play calling, and it’s got to stop. Now.
Cedric Griffin’s knee: When Cedric Griffin went down, he knew right away that something was wrong, really wrong. It wasn’t a look of pain, it was a look of ‘SON OF A…’, like he had been there before. The word coming out of Winter Park is that it doesn’t look good, and he’s having an MRI today. It’s a damn shame if it’s the ACL or something as significant on his right knee this time. He really busted his rear end to get back to playing, and considering he was rehabbing all through training camp, he was playing at a very high level. We saw a glimpse of how good the secondary could be with Ced, Chris Cook, and Antoine Winfield all in the secondary at the same time, and it was a sight to behold. Unfortunately, it looks like we might have to wait until next season to get another glimpse. Hang in there, Ced. We’re all pulling for you, and hoping it’s not serious.
Jared Allen: If I could channel my inner Simon and Garfunkel for just a second…ahem…’Where have you gone
Joe Dimaggio Jared Allen, oh, Viking Nation turns its lonely eyes to you. What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson, Joltin’ Jared has left and gone away? Hey hey hey…hey hey hey. Jared Allen’s wife Delilah Mrs. Allen made him cut his mullet, from whence all power and ability to sack the quarterback apparently came from. It’s a secret, mystical power that should not ever be messed with, kind of like what jersey to wear, where you sit to watch the game, pre-game rituals, etc. In all seriousness, D’Brickishaw Ferguson had Jared’s number last night, and his early season slump continues. He’ll snap out of it, but someone keep the scissors away from Mrs. Allen, okay?
Favre to Moss: A thing of beauty. Highlight of the season, and came at a time when I thought the Vikings were just about dead in the water, and it completely changed the complexion of the game. It energized Favre, the Vikings, and the fans, and we were on our way. Coverage on Percy loosened up, and it was setting up nicely for a great win until…they didn’t win. Still, I’m very encouraged by last night, and they’ll only get better.
Moss to Favre: I don’t care if that was ad-libbed or not, it was awesome. THAT kind of play calling is absolutely kick ass. The run into Cook’s ass, run into Cook’s ass again, and run into Cook’s ass AGAIN and then punt is NOT.
Run Blocking: Maybe I’m looking at this line with purple colored glasses, but the ‘woe is me’ attitude a lot of folks have towards the line I just don’t see. The pass protection was bad in spurts, but the run blocking has been pretty good all season. Adrian Peterson had 88 yards on only 18 carries, and was generally effective in first and second down at giving the Vikings a decent down and distance advantage.
Chris Cook: Get healthy soon, Mr. Cook. It looks like you’ll be starting for awhile.
The Fourth Quarter: Now that was the offense we saw last season, and it gives you a glimpse of what this offense is really capable of.
Bernard Berrian: The last receiver to challenge the head coach about his role in the offense was Marcus Robinson, who was promptly cut on Christmas Eve. Bobby Wade was asked to restructure his contract, which he did. He was cut a few days later. The point is that Chilly doesn’t tolerate mouthiness from wide receivers. He doesn’t even tolerate receivers that do what is asked of them. Bernard Berrian is a Dead Man Walking. It’s stupid, but it’s true. Berrian is a good #2 guy, and could contribute in a meaningful way. A dime gets you a dollar says Berrian gets cut when Sidney Rice comes off the PUP.
The First Three and a Half Quarters: It was the most inept play calling I have ever seen. Can you, or anyone, tell me what the hell Bevell and Childress were thinking? The players sure didn’t. Said Percy Harvin:
"If we had come out and had some of the play calling we had in the second half, I think it would be a different outcome."
Said Favre (pulled from Kevin Seifert’s excellent NFC North Blog on ESPN):
Favre said he was "thinking aloud" when he suggested that Childress and Bevell were trying to find something that worked. "Sometimes you go in with a plan and it doesn't really work out that way," Favre said, noting the Vikings found a "happy medium" during a second half in which he threw for 233 yards.
So I go back to my point that I made earlier about Childress or Bevell: It’s either stubbornness or stupidity at this point. They’re not dumb guys; at least they don’t come off as such. So it must be stubbornness. Either way, the maddening inability to change gameplans on the fly will doom this team if they don’t get it fixed. I’m all about just letting Favre play sandlot football, and see what happens. It can’t be any worse than that craptastic game plan we saw last night, can it? Can it?
Favre’s Tendinitis: Yeah, it was bugging him, but Favre with tendinitis is still better than any option currently on the roster. No, I don’t think Tarvaris Jackson should start, like a lot of you on the game thread last night, and Mike Florio today.
Going For Two: Again, Childress incompetence laid out for all the world to see. You go for one until you absolutely, positively, have to go for two. There was almost 10 minutes left at that point, and a one point deficit translates to an 8 point deficit if New York scored again. Which they did, making the pick-6 a backbreaker. Had Chilly not gone for two, the Vikings still would’ve had a tall order to score a TD and make a two point conversion to tie, but the game wasn’t out of reach. And he couldn’t even decide what to do, because he first sent the FG unit out, then the offense, then called a timeout. And it was a timeout the Vikes really could’ve used late in the game. It was just a dumbass move all the way around.
Game Ball Goes To: Percy Harvin and Randy Moss. Harvin had two TD’s and almost 100 yards receiving, and finally looked like the electrifying playmaker that he is. Moss had the first TD catch that ignited the offense, and it made the Jets re-calibrate and focus on Moss, freeing up Harvin.
I think the Vikes will get to the midway point at 4-4, and then Rice returns. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but it’s going to be a helluva show at the same time.
Keep the faith, Viking Nation, and SKOL!!!