As I sit here at approximately 6 AM local time. . .time differences are a real pain when you're trying to cover the National Football League. . .I'm surprisingly calm even after watching the Minnesota Vikings absorb another thrashing at the hands of the Green Bay Packers. Yes, losing to the Packers sucks. . .losing to the Packers like that sucks even worse. . .but much like we did after the beatdown the Vikings took against the New England Patriots in Week 2, it's time to step back and look at the bigger picture a little bit.
When the schedule first came out back in April, a lot of folks had the Vikings pegged for a 1-5 or even an 0-6 start through their first six games of the year. With a win in Week 6 against the Detroit Lions at TCF Bank Stadium, which is definitely do-able with a healthy Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, the Vikings will finish that hellacious stretch at 3-3. And that's with everything that this team has gone through over the opening part of the season, from the Adrian Peterson fiasco to losing Brandon Fusco and Kyle Rudolph (I'm not even counting Matt Cassel at this point. . .it appears that Bridgewater should have been starting from the get-go) and attempting to transition to new offensive and defensive schemes, a 2-3 record at this point isn't anything to sneeze at.
This team is going to continue growing and developing as this season moves forward. Eventually. . .hopefully. . .we're going to see a transition to more of Jerick McKinnon and less of Matt Asiata in the running game, and we've seen the difference that a quarterback like Bridgewater can make with his ability to go through his reads, keep plays alive, and make all the throws. Eventually Rudolph will be back, too. . .and Norv Turner might even figure out a way to actually get Cordarrelle Patterson involved in the offense. Patterson again didn't have a carry as a runner on offense, and hasn't had one since he rushed for over 100 yards in the season opener, and for all of Norv's pedigree as a play designer/play caller, that's one thing I just can't wrap my head around.
The defense is going to continue to improve as well. Just a week after the Packers went an entire game without punting against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, the Vikings. . .who had been atrocious on third downs the past couple of weeks. . .held the Packers to a 4-for-11 showing on third downs in this one, including forcing numerous three-and-outs in the first half of play. They were simply put behind the proverbial 8-ball too many times thanks to offensive miscues. Anthony Barr continues to be a bright spot on defense for the Vikings, and Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, and Josh Robinson have performed at a high level thus far as well.
How this team bounces back from this is going to be one of the more critical points in Mike Zimmer's first year as a head coach. He clearly wasn't happy with the team's performance on Thursday night, and said that he's going to re-evaluate a lot of things during this pseudo-bye that the Vikings have coming up after this short week. Unlike past regimes we've seen, I'm guessing that Zimmer is going to get the proverbial ship righted by the time the Vikings take the field at TCF Bank Stadium again on October 12.
Yes, this loss hurts. But there are still 11 games left in the 2014 NFL season, and the Vikings are, at worst, right where we thought they'd be at this point. I don't think it's going to be a 32-point stomping the next time these two teams get together in November, and I think that this team is going to continue to improve as this season wears on. This team certainly isn't dead yet, and it's kind of foolish to think that they are. After all of the optimism that the debut of Teddy Bridgewater brought just five days ago, there's no way that we should be shoveling dirt on this team at this point of the season.
Record-wise, this is pretty much what we expected. Personnel-wise, there is progress being made. The season has been a roller coaster thus far, and even though this team may have hit the bottom of the hill tonight, that just means there's another rise coming up. Hopefully the upward climb will start next Sunday.