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Week 5: What We Learned


The Vikings suffered their third close, disappointing, heart-wrenching loss of the season in four games before most of the free world on Monday Night Football. Minnesota sits at 1-3, just a half game ahead of the lowly Lions and two and a half games behind the first place Bears. The freaking Bears!! While it’s not time to start jumping off any cliffs just yet, it’s safe to say that this week’s game against the Cowboys is a lot less NFC Championship Preview and a lot more the 2010 Panic Bowl. We’ll get into Sunday’s tilt later this week–for now, let’s focus on what we learned from the loss in New York.

NFL games consist of four 15-minute quarters. League rules allow you to score in all four of them.
This is blatantly obvious, but I’m not sure if the Vikings’ offense is aware of this fact yet. Minnesota has scored seven points in the first quarter this season. That’s one scoring drive out of ten first quarter possessions. They have failed to score first in any of the four games this year. In scientific terms, that ain’t good. The Vikings must set the tone early on in these upcoming games or the season is just going to get worse.

Randy Moss is still really Freak-ing exciting, and he’s going to help this team. A lot.
Moss made only four grabs in his Viking re-debut, but his impact was tremendous throughout the game. (Well, at least after the offense woke up a bit.) The touchdown grab that finally kicked off the scoring made me feel like it was 1998 all over again. It looks like Percy Harvin may be the main beneficiary of Moss’ presence after racking up 97 yards and two scores. Adrian Peterson racked up a rather quiet yet impressive 88 yards against one of the league’s better defenses even though the Vikings were throwing the ball and fighting to come from behind most of the game. I just hope we start winning real soon; as we all know, an unhappy Randy is no fun for anyone.

Brett Favre is going to be Brett Favre, for better or worse.
I’ve said this a ton of times already, but we simply cannot expect the 2009 Favre at any point this year. He’s going to make a lot of "oh my God!" throws–the good kind and the bad kind. He’s going to get way too much attention from the media no matter how the rest of this season goes. He’s still going to make us love him one play and loathe him the next. For me, the only alarming part of Favre’s play has been his inaccuracy on some of the easier throws. The way he sailed those passes to Harvin late in the fourth quarter before throwing the game-ending TAINT (Touchdown After INTerception…copyright Bill Simmons) has to make you think that maybe that elbow really is bothering him.

The defense has been outstanding without making many outstanding plays.
The Vikings have sacked the quarterback only six times so far–tied for 28th in the league. They have forced a mere five turnovers. So how the hell are they not getting lit up? To be honest, I’m not totally sure. I think it comes down to crisp execution and coming up big when they need to. The D was put in some pretty awful situations in the first two and a half quarters, yet yielded only four Nick Folk field goals. That said, Cedric Griffin’s season-ending injury is pretty devastating. Lito Sheppard was picked on quite a bit after Griffin went down. I think we’re going to need a lot more big plays in the upcoming games to help fill that void. And, you know, maybe even score a couple touchdowns while the offense is still trying to pull their heads out of their collective rear ends.

We ain’t dead yet.
Starting 1-3 is never a good thing–no arguing that. The 2010 season couldn’t have started much rockier both on and off the field. But there is another thing you can’t argue about this team–there’s still a Peter North-sized load of talent here. If the Vikings can finally figure out how to play like they’re capable of for 60 minutes–not 25, not 40–there’s no question that the Purple can go on a run and get into the playoff hunt down the stretch. And from the looks of it, nobody’s going to run away and hide in the NFC this year. There are a mere two 4-1 teams (one of which is the Bears, still a total fraud in my mind) followed by a heaping pile of parity. Nine wins probably gives you a great chance of making it to the dance this year. Does anyone doubt the Vikings’ ability to go 8-4 or better down the stretch? I certainly do not.

Yet, at least. I guess we’ll have to see what we learned after the Dallas game.