So I think it's safe to say we all the Vikings being at 9-6 with wins over Houston and San Francisco after 15 games, right?
No, so maybe not. I'm always a Vikings optimist, but in even the best scenario I saw the Vikings maxing out at 8 wins, and considering where they were this time last year, I was more than content with an 8-8 season and an upward trajectory for next season.
But after today, I'm beyond giddy. The only song that makes sense is this one:
Happy Happy Joy Joy
Your SMR of exuberent happiness follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
The Defense: The Vikings defense was simply dominating in a way that I haven't seen in a long time. They've turned in good performances this year, don't get me wrong. But that performance, against that team, on the road, with that much at stake? Dominating is the only word that fits today. They held the Texans, who came into the game averaging 28 points per contest, to 6 points. The front seven was playing on Houston's side of the ball all day, and everyone on the front four was disruptive all day long. How good was this performance? Houston was 1/11 on third down conversions, averaged 2 yards per carry, and had under 200 total yards. It was the first time Houston had been held without a touchdown since 2006. Arian Foster, the AFC's leading rusher, was held to 45 feet on 10 carries. Matt Schaub was sacked 4 times, and Andre Johnson was held to under 100 yards receiving. He got his catches, but the defenders were exceptional at limiting his yards after catch.
Blair Walsh, K: Adrian Peterson might be chasing history, but Walsh made history. He set an NFL record with most field goals longer than 50 yards in a season, and his 56 yarder in the second quarter that set the record looked like it would have been good from 66. When his first two or three kicks didn't go out of the end zone, I was actually angry. That's how much he's changed the outlook towards the special teams.
J.J. Watt, DE: I normally don't talk about the opposition, but Watt impressed the heck out of me. Just a great performance from him for most of the day. Hat tip to you, sir.
Christian Ponder, QB: Ponder had a good game today, and when he needed to make a play to keep a drive alive, he did that. Not consistently, but he made plays with both his arm and his legs. He only had one WTF moment that I can think of off the top of my head, and he had that lost fumble,but overall, Ponder looked good today.
The Much Maligned Receiving Corps: Each receiver had a big play today, and showed growth and potential. Michael Jenkins had a big 34 yard gain on the opening drive, Jarius Wright had 5 catches for 53 yards, and Jerome Simpson had a ridiculous sideline catch that went for a big first down. Ponder was under a lot of pressure, and his receivers bailed him out numerous times today.
Harrison Smith, S: Smith just seems to be all over the field. He is becoming a fierce hitter, he forced a fumble, and also registered a sack. Smith should get serious consideration for defensive rookie of the year.
Toby Gerhart, RB: Gerhart has been quiet all year, but Gerhart went TOBSMASHTOBYCRUSH to ice the game in the fourth quarter on their final TD drive.
The Offensive Line: The fact that Adrian Peterson got 86 yards today was a testament to Peterson as opposed to the offensive line. There wasn't much daylight, and Ponder was under a lot of pressure in the second half. To their credit, the line did a good job in the first half, but overall it wasn't their best day.
Buy: Jerome Simpson's Ridiculous Sideline Catch. It was a 17 yard catch on 3rd and 13, and kept the Vikings offense on the field. It didn't result in any points being scored, but it did help the Vikings flip field position. Chris Kluwe eventually punted and pinned the Texans on their own 1.
Sell: Jerome Simpson's Ridiculous Miss On An Easy Slant Pattern. And that's the rub about Simpson. That was a very catchable pass that would've been a first down, but it lead to a Vikings punt. It was a good, but not great throw from Ponder. It was slightly behind him, but still very catchable.
Buy: The Goal Line Stand: It was 16-3, and late in the third quarter. A 12 yard pass to Kevin Walter gave Houston a 1st and goal from the one. A TD there makes it 16-10 with a full quarter to play, and at that point it was anyone's game. Schaub threw an incomplete pass on first down, Ben Tate got stuffed on second down, and Fred Evans broke through with a HUGE sack on Schaub that went for a loss of 14 yards. It negated any chance to go for it on 4th and 1, and the Texans settled for a field goal. That completely changed the complexion and momentum in the game. It just felt Houston gave up at that point.
Sell: The Offense Settling For Field Goals. This was a huge win, and the offense played pretty well, considering who their opponent was, how focused they were in stopping Adrian Peterson, and that the game was on the road. But this game could've been a blowout. The offense, for all their improvement the last few weeks, still has a penchant for not being able to finish drives.
Buy: Bill Musgrave's Play Calling, For The Most Part. When Bill Musgrave is on top of the situation, the Vikings offense is varied and unpredictable. The first Vikings drive was a thing of beauty, capped off with a slick play action roll out to Kyle Rudolph, who was all alone in the end zone. And even though Peterson wasn't getting a lot of yards, he still ran him, forcing Houston to respect the run. That opened things up top for the passing game, and the offense looked good.
Sell: Any Of Those Plays Directed Towards John Carlson. I'm ready to move on to someone else in this position next year. For all the good picks and free agent signings Rick Spielman and company have nabbed over the years, this is probably one of the worst ones so far.
Buy: Jarius Wright As A Solid NFL Receiver. After not playing for most of the season, Wright has really come on in the last month, registering a team high 5 receptions against Houston. Looking ahead to next season, Percy Harvin and Jarius Wright strike me as a good foundation to re-build the wide receiver corps around.
Buy: The Fact That Brian Setzer Is A Vikings Fan. Was anyone else surprised as I was to see Brian Setzer on the Fox pre-game show? I thought he had died years ago. No, seriously, I did. So not only was I glad to see him still on this side of eternity, but he's also a Vikings fan. Which seemed to blow Curt Menefee's mind. Of course, that probably isn't the most difficult thing to do. But anyway, hooray celebrity Vikings fan!
Sell: The Vikings Needing Help To Get Into The Playoffs: As I write this, the Giants have lost to the Ravens, and the Cowboys lost to New Orleans. The Vikings now control their own destiny to get in to the playoffs.
No one saw the Vikings controlling their own playoff destiny heading into the last weekend. This team has proven to be a resilient bunch, and will be guaranteed a winning record and a .500 record in the division regardless of how next week turns out.
Beat the Packers and get in to the playoffs. It's that simple. I wouldn't want it any other way.
So it's Packer week with the playoffs on the line. Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards Men will have to wait.