There's something nice when the team you cheer for is facing an almost must-win situation and then goes out and does so in a convincing manner. I'll be honest, after the way the Vikings had played the last couple weeks combined with the fact that Percy Harvin was out, I gave the Vikings chances about 1 in 3 for a win.
From Christian Ponder's bounce back, to the defense once again playing well against the run, the Vikings 34-24 win wasn't as close as the score or Calvin Johnson's stats appeared, the Vikings are now 2-0 in the division.
That said, at 6-4, with 6 really tough games left, the last 6 games will tell us what we have in this team moving forward. At 5-2, maybe we were too optimistic on our expectations for this young team; maybe we thought they were better than they might actually be, which lead to some of the vitriol over the last few weeks. Maybe we should just enjoy the fact that this team is better than they were last year, and are getting better.
And that wasn't the Vikings fault, but mine. Because it's always our hearts on the line, isn't it, Mr. Mumford and Sons? (Some NSFW language in the video, but this song kicks some major ass, so it's okay)
But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn't I, my dear?
Your 6-4 SMR follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Adrian Peterson, RB/Cyborg Hybrid: 27 carries, 171 yards, 1 TD. One knee still coming back from getting Culpepper'd on Christmas Eve last year. I wouldn't trade Adrian Peterson for anyone in the NFL. Because you just can't quantify his kind of awesome.
Christian Ponder, QB/Punching Bag Hybrid: When I was a kid, I wanted to be the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. Let me now amend that. I want to be the backup quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, because he is the most popular guy in the state, and the starter, whoever he is, takes worse beating than the Iraqi army. This was a big game for Ponder after two or three really bad ones in a row, and he delivered in a big way. The stats weren't all world, but his performance, based on the local environment, was exceptional. Kudos, kid.
Blair Walsh, Mortar Team Leader: If Walsh had decided to go into the Army, he would've made a good artillery officer or mortar team leader. Seriously, his foot is a cannon that is deadly accurate and doesn't miss. Once again, he was 4/4 on field goal attempts, and although not all of his kickoffs went through the end zone, the ones that were returned didn't get Detroit past the 20. The Vikings lead the NFL in touchbacks and if they get to the opponents 40 there's a good chance they'll get at least three points, thanks to the Georgia Satellite. Georgia, because that's where he went to school. Satellite, because he kicks the ball into orbit. Georgia Satellite, get it?
Jarius Wright, WR: We've been wondering all season when the Vikings would unwrap the Arkansas rookie and let him play. After his impressive debut Sunday, my only question is--what the hell took so long? It seems that Wright and Harvin have a lot of the same skill set, but maybe...and here's a crazy thought...maybe the deep threat the Vikings have needed all season has been WRIGHT under our noses. Right...wright...get it? Oh man, I'M ON FIRE KIDS.
Kyle Rudolph, TE: So I went to the grocery store this week and got a carton of milk, among other things. On it was a picture of Kyle Rudolph, and it made me sad. Missing tight ends are a national tragedy, especially in a two tight end offense, and a little purple tear rolled down my cheek. But on Sunday, HE CAME BACK AND WE ALL REJOICED! Rudolph had 7 catches for 62 yards and a score, and on America's Most Wanted, John Walsh could proclaim the case of the missing Vikings tight end closed. Next week, he promised to focus on the other missing tight end, John Carlson. But at this point Carlson has been missing so long that the trail has gone cold. He's probably in a diner somewhere near Ypsilanti, MI, partying with Elvis.
Chad Greenway, LB: Chad Greenway is having a great season so far, and his early interception helped stake the Vikings to an early 2 score lead. Greenway is just a fundamentally solid football player, and his one weakness, pass coverage, has been as good as every other facet of his game in 2012. If he's not named to the All-Pro team, there really isn't any justice in this world.
Nobody: This was as cathartic a win, at least for me as a fan, as the 49ers game was earlier in the year. It could've been easy for this team to just say 'the hell with it' and start folding their tent. But they came up with a huge win to keep them in the thick of the the playoff hunt, at least for the time being. And they pretty much dominated a Detroit Lions team that has as much on the line for them as the Vikings did.
Buy: Josh Robinson's play at CB for 2 1/2 quarters. Robinson was money for the first 40 minutes or so matched up on Calvin Johnson. He had 4 catches for 36 yards at halftime, and most of that came on a 23 yarder.
Sell: The fact that you can shut down Calvin Johnson for an entire game. At some point, you just have to tip your cap (isn't that right Gardy?) and applaud one hell of an individual effort. The Lions got smart in the second half and just said 'screw it, we're throwin' to him', and it paid off in a big way. About the only thing the Vikes could do is hit him and hope he would cough it up...which he did on a big play by Jamarca Sanford in the fourth quarter.
Buy: Jarius Wright should see the field more. I'm not a coach, but like I mentioned above, I wonder what the reason was for Wright not playing earlier. I know he was injured early in the season, but it just seemed like he was a healthy scratch for the last few games. I think after today, the Vikings need to find a place for him.
Sell: But not at the expense of Percy Harvin. That's an obvious statement, isn't it? I mentioned earlier that it seems that Wright and Harvin have a similar skill set, but Wright's speed opened up this game early today for the Vikings. Harvin is used closer to the line of scrimmage to make plays with his ungodly speed, and I think Wright could start doing what
Bernard Berrian Jerome Simpson was signed to do. Since, you know, he actually did it today.
Buy: The run defense. A unit that had been gashed for an average of 166 yards a game over the last month stood up and said 'enough' today. They only gave up 60 yards rushing, and forced the Lions into the air early. By the time they found their passing groove, the Vikings had managed to build a lead that they did not relinquish.
Sell: The last quarter and a half of the pass defense: I mentioned Josh Robinson earlier, and his game pretty much mirrored the secondary play for most of the game. I thought Antoine Winfield had a good all around game, but Jamarca Sanford and especially Harrison Smith slumped in the second half.
Buy: Defensive third down efficiency. One of the big weaknesses of the Purple and Gold defense has been their inability to get off the field on third down. Against the Lions, they only allowed the Lions to convert 1/9 third downs, an 11% clip. That's a dramatic improvement over the rest of the season, which was an appalling 41% conversion rate coming into the Lions game.
Sell: Offensive third down efficiency. Kind of lost in the chaff of this win was the fact that the Vikes offense still struggles on third down. Against the Lions, they only converted 4/15 third downs (26%). It looked like the inability to convert would cost them dearly in the second half as Detroit got some momentum, but fortunately, they were able to dodge a bullet. On the season, they've only completed 34% of their third downs. That has to get better in the coming weeks.
Don Glover Quote Of The Week:
Third quarter, Vikes are driving. They get down to the 10, and on third and goal, Ponder dumps a pass to Gerhart at around the 7, and he gets stopped at the 5.
"What the hell was that? Muskrat must have mistaken the five yard line for the goal line. What a dumbass. Maybe the kid (Walsh) can break the net on his field goal. That would be fun, wouldn't it?"
Yes it would, Dad. Yes it would.
So the Vikings head into the bye with a much needed win, and they are very much in the thick of the playoff race. I was worried about these last 6 games back in August, and I'm still just as worried. 4 of the final 6 on the road with the only remaining home games against Green Bay and Chicago. It's going to be a daunting stretch run.
But that said, they'll have another week to rest Percy Harvin and figure out ways to get Jarius Wright more involved in the offense, and two weeks to prepare for what becomes the biggest game of the year to date in Chicago. A win, and they're 7-4 and 3-0 in the division.
Huge game in two weeks. Get ready.