This has been a really disappointing season for me, in many respects. After seven games, I thought the Vikings would be above .500, not sitting at 2-5. And after last week's last second loss to the Bills, I was beginning to believe that no matter who the coaches and players were for my favorite football team, they'll always be the 'same old Vikings'.
You know--mistake prone, inconsistent, and then just when you think they had done enough to beat an inferior opponent, they lose in the last minute. And today, against what is arguably the worst team in the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings were the 'same old Vikings'--and if the feeling on Twitter was anything like the rest of the feelings in Vikings nation, the Mike Zimmer era was about to turn a bit ugly.
And then Anthony Barr moved to the front of the Defensive Rookie Of The Year Line with an amazing strip, fumble recovery, and then fumble return for a touchdown. It gave me newfound hope going forward for the rest of the season, and if my 83 year old father wasn't hamstrung with old age and arthritis, he would've jumped up and down, just like me.
Isn't that right, Mr. Roth:
I get up, and nothing gets me down.
You got it tough. I've seen the toughest around.
And I know, baby, just how you feel.
You've got to roll with the punches to get to what's real
Oh can't you see me standing here,
I've got my back against the record machine
I ain't the worst that you've seen.
Oh can't you see what I mean ?
Might as well jump. Jump !
Might as well jump.
Go ahead, jump. Jump !
Go ahead, jump.
Your SMR that might need some overtime to get the job done follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Alex Lohein and his Grandpa, super heroes: Alex is eight years old and suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which is a brutal disease that has no cure. He wrote the Vikings a thank you note after being able to watch them practice, and said more in 19 words than most of us could say in 19,000. And no, Arif, that's not a challenge:
My grandpa said to expect good luck for you because you have used up all your bad luck already.
After the Vikings won today, both Alex and his grandfather were awarded game balls by Mike Zimmer and the team. I can think of no more deserving game balls in team history.
Anthony Barr, LB: Until the first minute of overtime against the Buccaneers, Anthony Barr was probably the most overlooked first round pick in Vikings history. This wasn't Barr's fault, mind you. He has played very well, it's just that he was overshadowed by Teddy Bridgewater. But after today, no more. Barr moved to the front of the line for Defensive Rookie of the Year for the NFL with today's performance, because he is forcing people to sit up and take notice. He's making plays all over the field, and his natural athletic ability is the best I've seen at linebacker for the Vikings since Matt Blair. His game winning strip/fumble recovery/touchdown run was something maybe half a dozen linebackers in the NFL can make, and he came through when the Vikings needed it most.
Shariff Floyd, DT: Floyd is a guy fans were starting to get down on after a disappointing rookie year, but he has steadily improved, and he had arguably his best game as a Viking against Tampa Bay. Floyd consistently helped collapse the pocket and force Mike Glennon to hurry a throw or roll out into the waiting arms of somebody else. He also helped shut down Tampa Bay's running game before it could really get untracked. They only rushed for 66 yards as a team, and that was due in large part to Floyd.
Everson Grifffen, DE: After a slow start, Griffen had another sack against the Bucs on Sunday, giving him eight for the year. At one point, the only way he could be defended was by either holding him, or the turf tripping him. Seriously, in the third quarter TB was deep in their own territory, and they dropped back to pass. Glennon set up about two yards in the end zone, and Griffin was closing in like a Great White Shark on a wounded Sea Lion. Honestly, the theme song to Jaws was playing in my head (although it could have been Law and Order: SVU--they do sound kind of alike) and it looked like Griffen was gonna straight up murder Mike Glennon's ass. But the turf gave way as Griffen rounded the corner, he slipped, and Glennon got the pass off. Basically, Griffen almost killed a guy, probably with a trident. It would've been cool. Oh, and is anyone still wishing the Vikings had re-signed Jared Allen and let Griffen walk? Anyone?
Jerick McKinnon, RB: For a guy that's never really played running back until he got to the NFL, McKinnon has been one of the more pleasant surprises for the Vikings. He had another 83 yards rushing on 16 carries, once again averaging over 5 yards per carry. His vision as a runner keeps getting better and better, and as the season goes on, the Vikings are turning to him more and more. He's won the job as the Vikings main running back, and I expect him to get more and more work as the season goes on.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR: After a month of relative hibernation, Patterson made an appearance against Tampa Bay. He had 6 catches for 86 yards, including a 28 yard reception that looked, for a moment, like it might get overturned. And after battling a hip issue that seemed to slow him, Patterson looked as healthy as he has in three or four games. Hopefully, now that he's healthy, or getting healthy, the playmaker we all expected is close to returning.
Chase Ford, TE: Since Kyle Rudolph went down with a sports hernia, the tight end position has been kind of a void for the Vikings, until today. Chase Ford stepped up with a good game, ending up as the Vikings second leading receiver behind Patterson, with 6 grabs for 61 yards, including a huge 12 yard reception to get the Vikings into gimme field goal range on the game tying drive to force overtime.
Greg Jennings, WR: Jennings is making some plays for the Vikings this year. He had the only offensive touchdown, and a first down grab on the last drive. He's getting open, and when Bridgewater has time to throw and looks in his direction, Jennings will make the grab.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB: Teddy's getting better. In successive weeks, he's gone from no TD's and three picks, to one TD and 2 picks, to one TD and no interceptions. His deep ball is still off, and although he's checking down a fair amount, he's also getting more confident and starting to throw more intermediate range stuff. 24/42 for 241 yards, a TD, and a pretty impressive two minute drill to tie the game and send it to overtime are tangible signs of maturing and getting better.
Matt Asiata, RB: Asiata is a guy, that when put in a position to succeed, can do well. He had a long pass reception nullified by a penalty, but for the most part, he really didn't see the field much. When he did, he put the Vikings in a worse hole than before he touched the ball.
Jeff Locke, P: Locke had an opportunity to pin the Buccaneers deep several times, and was unable to do so. In a game that turned into a puntfest, Locke averaged a net of only 35 yards on 8 punts...and that included a 59 yarder with a very minimal return.
Buy: The defense collapsing again is disheartening. When the Buccaneers got the ball back with 5:40 left, I knew, sure as I was sitting watching the game, that the Vikings defense would give up the go ahead score. They had played a whale of a game, but it was late in the game and they had been on the field for most of the second half. You could just sense the collapse coming.
Sell: The defensive collapse was all on the defense. The offense failed to protect the defense, by being unable to sustain drives. All they needed to do was generate just one score, or sustain one more drive, and they would have iced the game. They couldn't, until they needed to kick a field goal to tie the game. Better late than never, I guess, but still, the offense could have been better, earlier.
Buy: The Vikings have two running backs with good skill sets. Losing Adrian Peterson set this offense back; that can't be denied. Losing the best running back in football for non-football reasons (heck, or even injury) was unexpected, but for the most part, the Vikings have made lemonade out of the lemons. When used properly, both McKinnon and Asiata have definite roles in the Vikings offense, and although neither of them are Peterson, they both can do the job.
Sell: Using Matt Asiata's skill set in the shadow of their own goal line. As good as the Vikings have been at incorporating McKinnon into the offense in recent weeks and increasing his workload, Asiata's has dropped. And the Vikings really haven't done much to put Asiata in a position to succeed. Against the Bucs, in the third quarter, the Vikings started a drive on their own seven yard line. Up until that point, McKinnon had been having a good game, yet the Vikings brought out Asiata. Okay, cool, he's a between the tackles guy, I thought. Bull rush him between the tackles, get some distance for the offense to maneuver, and then let's see what happens. But instead, the Vikings ran him wide, they lost five yards, and whatever hope they had for a first down were gone. Two things made no sense in that sequence--putting in Asiata and not McKinnon, who had the hot hand, and then running Asiata on a sweep. That whole sequence was mind boggling.
Buy: The Vikings game tying drive to force overtime. There's a reason Teddy Bridgewater was known as Two Minute Teddy at Louisville, and that was his penchant for playing his best in the clutch. He did it again Sunday for Tampa Bay, driving the Vikings 61 yards in 1:54 to tie the game and send it in to overtime. Bridgewater has five career starts, and has a game tying or go ahead fourth quarter drive in two of them.
Sell: Scoring 13 points on that defense is acceptable. It's not only unacceptable, it's borderline criminal. I love the fact that Teddy and the offense came up big when they absolutely had to, but Bridgewater shouldn't have had to. This was the 32nd ranked defense, and the Vikings managed one first half field goal, and one offensive touchdown. They could not sustain drives, and when they had several fourth and shorts, Minnesota chose to punt. Yes, they won today because of the offense in the last two minutes, but you can make just as strong of an argument that the Vikings won in spite of the offense for the other 58 minutes.
Buy: NFL referees are worse than the replacement referees from a couple years ago. Honestly, the referee crew for this game might have been the worst yet, and that's saying something. It's not that I felt that the Vikings were unnecessarily jobbed (they weren't), I just feel they don't have a basic understanding of the rules. For example, when the Vikings were driving to tie the game late, Greg Jennings caught a first down pass at midfield, and clearly...OBVIOUSLY...stepped out of bounds past the first down marker with 1:12 left on the game clock. Initially, the side judge waved for a timeout, stopped when Jennings handed him the ball, and then motioned for the clock to continue running. Mind you, Jennings ran out of bounds on the play. It was obvious as being out of bounds and stopping the clock as you could get. The next time the Vikings snapped the ball there was :46 seconds left in the game. When a team is running a good two minute drill, and the Vikings were, that might have been the difference between winning and tying the game. Yeah, so maybe the Vikings did get jobbed somewhat.
Secondly, after Anthony Barr had ended the game with his fumble recovery and the ensuing run back for a touchdown, the referee crew was insistent on kicking the extra point. No kidding, the game was over, the ref announced that they would kick the extra point, the game went to commercial, and they were still sorting it out when they came back before ol' boy realized that 'oh, the game is over and an extra point is not necessary'
I get that refs are human and make mistakes, and that throughout the course of a game calls generally even out. But these were mistakes high school referee crews don't make. Terrible.
Sell: Not taking a shot at the end zone during that drill. Maybe it was because of the timing snafu we talked about, but when Bridgewater hit Ford to get the ball to the 20, the Vikings still had one timeout, and when Ford was down there was still :15 left on the clock. Use the timeout there, and you have one, maybe two shots in the end zone. As long as Teddy doesn't get sacked, they have an opportunity to win it in regulation. But instead, they spiked the ball with three seconds left and played not to lose.
Don Glover Quote of the Week:
So, the Vikings had won and my Dad and I were just kinda laughing, to be honest. I was on my computer relaying some scores of other games, and then the Vikes game came back on, and they were still looking to kick the extra point. Then the ref announced that no, they weren't, and the game was indeed over:
Dad: What the Hell is wrong with this ref crew?
Me: I don't know, Dad.
Dad: They have their heads so far up their ass they're shitting stupid.
Me: What? That makes no sense. None.
Dad: Then maybe you should be an NFL ref. You seem qualified.
Me and Dad: Laugh like 10 year olds.
Hey, an ugly win is still a win. We'll take it. Next week is the Redskins at home, and a chance to get within one game of .500. A win here can build momentum, so let's see what happens next week.