Hi kids. This past week was a pretty rough one for me as a Vikings fan. I don't know why, exactly. Well, I know why (bad Bears loss, AP news), but I don't know why those two things affected me like they did. The Vikings have had worse losses, and have dealt with worse off the field news. Maybe not in the same week, but in the Pantheon Of Viking Disappointments, these two things were fairly minor in the grand scheme of things.
Still, it set the tone for the coming week, and for me that tone was as depressed and uninterested in a Packers game that I've been in awhile. It also led us into believing what most of us thought was going to be an all time embarrassment against our arch rivals, the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were rolling, the Vikings were suddenly foundering, and it just felt like this was a game that was going to be over by halftime.
Only it wasn't. And we saw some pretty encouraging performances from several players, and that leads you to believe that although this year isn't going to be one where we see the playoffs, you can see the foundation for a pretty good football team in coming seasons. I hate moral victories, don't get me wrong, but yeah...there's something happening here. What it is, ain't exactly clear. Wouldn't that be right, Mr. Springfield?
There's something happening here
But what it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop
Children, what's that sound?
Everybody look - what's going down?
Your SMR that's going to be a lot better in 2015 and 2016 follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
The Vikings Secondary: Yes, there were a couple of breakdowns, but the bottom line is that the Vikings held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers explosive passing attack to 209 yards. All in all, you can't ask for a performance much better than that, and Xavier Rhodes led the way with I would argue his best game. He blanketed Jordy Nelson early, breaking up two passes, and although I'd have to go back and re-look, it seemed the Packers quit throwing his direction in the second half. Rhodes was the guy that stood out the most, but this was a team effort, and one where everyone deserves recognition. It's a complete 180 degree turn for this unit from this time last year, and it's largely the same guys.
Mike Zimmer: One of Zim's mentors is Bill Parcells, who famously said 'you are what your record says you are'. The Vikings are 4-7, but is there any question in anyone's mind that this team is better than they were last year? And had this been last year, there's no doubt in my mind this game would have been over by halftime. There's still a ways to go, but I like this coach, and I like the attitude he's bringing to this football team. Good things are coming, that I firmly believe.
Kyle Rudolph, TE: Rudolph made an impact early, and although you could tell he was still hampered by his sports hernia, he still made a couple of nice catch and runs that got the Vikings big yards at opportune times. If Rudolph can stay healthy, he's going to be a big factor in the remaining five games.
Joe Banyard, RB: Banyard's stats aren't eye popping (19 receiving yards, 26 rushing yards), but he made a couple of plays to get a first down where he just flat out wanted it more than the defender, and took it. I don't know that he's an upgrade over Matt Asiata...but I'd kind of like to find out over these next five games. Wouldn't you?
Teddy Bridgewater, QB: Teddy had some ugly throws early, but he also made some very good throws, and wasn't helped out by a receiving corps that dropped at least four passes that I can think of off the top of my head. His backfoot throw that became a pick was terrible, but damn it, the kid never gives up, and is pushing the ball down the field. He's also doing a much better job stepping up in the pocket, and running the ball and getting something out of nothing. All in all, I'll take it, and he's getting better.
Jeff Locke, P: We've been fairly critical of Jeff Locke here at the SMR, but today he had, arguably, his best game as a Viking. Solid punting all day that combined with good punt coverage.
The rush defense: When the Vikes pulled within 24-21, you got the feeling that if the Vikings could hold Green Bay and get the ball back in Teddy's hands, they had a good chance to win the game. But the Vikings defense couldn't stop Eddie Lacy on that final drive, which if nothing else, was consistent. That's because they couldn't stop Eddie Lacy all afternoon. Lacy has rushed for 100 yards twice this season...both against the Vikings. I'm sure part of that had to do with Shariff Floyd out, but still, it was a disappointing performance from a unit that's been much better this season.
Matt Kalil, T: Yeah, not much more to say with Kalil. His two holding penalties and a facemask call negated some positive plays, and that wasn't even the worst part of his day, if some eyewitness accounts of Kalil's encounter with a fan after the game are accurate. A tough season just got tougher, it looks like, and the Vikings as an organization will need to make some hard choices about Kalil and the offensive line this off-season.
Anthony Barr, LB: I'm not sure if Barr is hitting the rookie wall, but he missed a couple of tackles today that he makes earlier in the season, and on a 34 yard catch by Andrew Quarless that got the ball down to the Vikings one yard line, Barr made the most hapless slap at the ball I've seen in awhile. His hand actually hit Quarless in the numbers and had it been one hand touch above the waist football---perfect form, man. Buuuut, it's tackle football. Didn't count.
Buy: Charles Johnson has the size and speed to be a legitimate NFL wide receiver. Johnson has come on in the last few weeks, getting 87 yards receiving against the Bears last week, and another 52 and a touchdown this week. He's a big guy, and is a matchup mismatch against most opposing defenders the Vikings will play.
Sell: Charles Johnson has the hands to be a legitimate NFL wide receiver. Yet, there's a reason Johnson wasn't drafted until the seventh round by Green Bay last year, got cut, then latched on to the Vikings practice squad. He has hands that you can't rely on, especially with a young quarterback. I get that size and speed is important, but, you know, the position is called 'receiver', not 'sprinter' or 'guy that gets separation'. He had two or three easy chances that he flat out dropped. He was also targeted 11 times. He had three receptions. Just sayin'...
Buy: The Norv Turner back to back identical call that got a TD and 2 point conversion. 4th quarter, late in the game, and the Vikings are driving. NORV! calls a misdirection out pattern that leaves Greg Jennings WIDE open for the TD, and comes back to what looked like the exact same play to get the two point conversion to Johnson. Great play design, great play call, great execution.
Sell: Not trying an onside kick after the two point conversion. I understand that there was still over three minutes to go, but on the two point conversion, Green Bay got called for roughing the passer, which put the kickoff on the 50. The Packers had been running the ball down Minnesota's throat all day, and if they tried to sell out to stop the run you just felt Aaron Rodgers would make the Vikings pay. In a nutshell, I thought the defense would have a tough time getting the ball back, so an onside kick seemed to be a defendable call there. The Vikes kicked it out of the end zone...and never got the ball back.
Buy: Zimmer going for it--twice--on fourth down. On Minnesota's first TD drive, they were faced with two fourth downs on the drive. They converted both (one was a penalty), and the gamble paid off later with a TD pass from Bridgewater to Johnson. Stones, man. Stones.
Sell: Not using the hurry up offense more often. The Vikings offense really seems to click when running out of the hurry up, and there always seems to be a point in the game where the offense seems to stall. I don't think running the hurry up all the time would be beneficial, but would it hurt to break it out mid second or third quarter to try and snap the offense out of a funk? I don't think so.
Don Glover Quote Of The Week:
So before the game, I picked my Dad up and we both felt like it was goingto be a long day. After the game was over, he turns to me and says:
"Well son, at least we didn't get our butts kicked. That Brickwater has a lot to learn, but I think he'll be a good one."
So another season, another sweep at the hands of the Packers. It's old, and I'm sick of it, but at least I say a ray of hope moving forward. And if it's any consolation, I know this is how the Packers fans felt in the 70's. So there.