So, we come to the end, and another long, cold winter awaits us. For the Vikings, I thought today was important for a couple reasons. I'm not a big believer in a season finale to get to seven wins as a 'momentum builder' or anything like that for next season, because there's so much turnover in the NFL from season to season. I do believe, though, that this was important for a couple of other reasons:
1) Mike Zimmer needed...needed ...at least one divisional win in his rookie season.
2) WOOOOOOOOOOOO AUDIE COLE THE FUTURE IS NOW WOOOOOOOOOOOOO
And to be honest, winning always beats losing, always. I don't care if it costs a spot or two in the draft, I like it when my team wins. And although I made kind of a bad Audie Cole joke, it's a window into what the roster might look like next season, as a guy like Chad Greenway is probably moving on, and a lot of decisions need to be made moving forward.
But for now, we celebrate a season ending win. Many of you guys know that Bruce Springsteen is my all time favorite artist, and if you disagree, we probably can't be friends. Unless you buy me beer. And not Grain Belt, fergodsakes, that stuff is awful.
Anyway, for years, Springsteen's curtain call song was Rosalita, and since I've wanted to use it in the SMR forever, I can't think of a better time to use it. Could I, Mr. Springsteen?
Now, I know your mama, she don't like me, 'cause I blog about the purple and gold
And I know your daddy, he don't dig me, and he never will be sold
Your papa lowered the boom, he locked you in your room-- I'm comin' to lend a hand
I'm comin' to liberate you, confiscate you, I want to be your man
Someday we'll look back on this and it will all seem funny
But now you're sad, your mama's mad
And your papa says he knows that I don't have any money
Your papa says he knows that I don't have any money
Oh, your daddy says he knows that I don't have any money
Well, tell him this is his last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance
'Cause the Daily Norseman, baby, just gave me a big advance
And my tires were slashed and I almost crashed, but the Lord had mercy
And my machine, she's a dud, out stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey
Well, hold on tight, stay up all night, 'cause Rosie, I'm comin' on strong
By the time we meet the morning light, I will hold you in my arms
I know a pretty little place in Southern California, down San Diego way
There's a little cafe, where they play guitars all night and all day
You can hear them in the back room strummin'
So hold tight, baby, 'cause don't you know Daddy's comin'
Rosalita, jump a little higher
Senorita, come sit by my fire
I just want to be your lover, ain't no liar
Oh Baby, you're my stone desire
The SMR that's building for the future follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
ZOMG WOOO AUDIE COLE WOOO, LB: Loved, loved, loved seeing Cole have a career game today. 11 tackles, one for a loss, a pass defended, and a pick that was nullified by a penalty combined for a career game for Cole. The SMR has been a fan of Cole since his two pick six performance in the pre-season a few years back, and hopefully, with a lot of changes coming at linebacker in the off season, Cole will find himself sitting in a chair when the music stops at the end of training camp next year.
Also, WOOOOOOOO ZOMG AUDIE COLE WOOOOOOOOO!!!!!11!!!!!!
Adam Thielen, WR, Special Teams: Adam Thielen is a guy you love cheering for. Undrafted FA, makes the practice squad, does whatever he has to make the team, and contributes in a big way when given an opportunity. His 44 yard TD catch was a big reason he led the Vikings with 68 yards receiving, and he also had a TD saving tackle in the fourth quarter that would have tied the game. The fact that Thielen is making plays shouldn't be a surprise, and I think he will be a solid special teams 3/4 WR for the near future.
Xavier Rhodes, CB: Okay, everyone thought Xavier Rhodes had a chance to be good...but seriously, did anyone think he's be this good? He regularly shut down the opponent's best receiver, and once again, he did the same thing against the Bears. He limited Alshon Jeffery to only two catches on five targets, for a measly 34 yards. Rhodes' leap is a direct result of Mike Zimmer's coaching (well, and of course Rhodes) and the Vikings have found themselves a legitimate #1 CB that they can match against the best the opponent has to offer. And Rhodes is going to win more of those battles than he'll lose. A lot more.
Blair Walsh, K: After a late season slump that saw Walsh miss five of six kicks, to include a blocked field goal attempt, he's rebounded nicely in these last two games, and was 2/2 on field goals against the Bears, in conditions that weren't optimal for kicking a football. The level of concern I had for him has dropped substantially, and I think he'll be all right.
Matt Asiata, RB: So here's the deal, and it's not Asiata's fault. Every time he breaks into the second level, and he gets anywhere from 7-15 yards, I think to myself 'man, AP would've busted that one wide open.' Still, when you rush for 91 yards on 19 carries, you're doing something right, regardless of who you're being compared to. Still, I can't make him a blue chip, because when you're as big as Matt Asiata, and you're a guy that's known for getting tough yards down on the goal line...and you don't get those tough yards...yeah. TD there on that goal line stand by the Bears puts the game away.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR: So, coming into 2014, who would've thought that between the three first round draft picks in 2013 (Patterson, Rhodes, Shariff Floyd), that it would've been Patterson that had failed to make any progress? And if we're being honest, Patterson regressed, dramatically and surprisingly. How far was his fall from grace? Charles Johnson and Adam Thielen, have passed Patterson on the depth chart. That's cool and all, because the best players need to play, but consider: Johnson was a 7th round practice squad guy last year, and Thielen was an undrafted practice squad guy last year. Patterson was a first round pick that led the NFL in receiving the last month of the season. Today? He bobbled a very catchable ball that turned into a Chicago interception, and set the Bears up first and goal on the Vikings nine yard line. Yet, the Vikings coaching staff isn't going to give up on him, yet:
Long pause from Zimmer before answering a Patterson question. Said he's got a plan for him this offseason, but "it's up to Cordarrelle."— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingESPN) December 28, 2014
Still, it would appear that Patterson is at a cross roads, and the ball is in his court. He's proven he can play in the NFL at an elite level, so the question remains--will he follow the plan?
Buy: Teddy Bridgewater is the long term answer. I love Teddy. I mean, who doesn't? The guy doesn't get rattled, his accuracy has been the best in the NFL the last month, and the Vikings finally have a guy that is going to stabilize the QB position for the next decade in Minnesota. He's thrown more strikes in the last month than the Minnesota Twins pitching staff threw all of last season, and this has become Teddy's team. Period.
Sell: Teddy played a great game today: For all of his accolades, he didn't have the best game today. The Bears defense is terrible, and the fact that the Vikings only scored 13 points is unacceptable, and it's the second bad performance against this team this season. He took a couple of bad sacks, and for as clutch and GUMP as he can be, that 51 second drive right before halftime was pretty awful.
Buy: The refs got the Jeffery TD catch call correct on replay. After the Bears picked off Bridgewater (well, plucked a Patterson bobble out of the air), Chicago scored what appeared to be a touchdown when Jay Cutler hit Alshon Jeffery for 8 yards. Yet, on replay, Jeffery was out of bounds, the call was overturned, and the Bears had to settle for a field goal.
Sell: Seriously, you needed replay to make that call. When you looked at the replay, Jeffery was so far out of bounds that I'm not sure his feet have still come down. I mean, there's calls that need to be reviewed, don't get me wrong, but how in the blue hell can three guys watching the same play watch that sequence of events unfold and call it a score? And we thought the replacement refs were worse? Really?
Buy: Mike Zimmer had one hell of a unique first year as a head coach. Between the end of the Kluwe sage and Priefer suspension, Adrian Peterson, Jerome Simpson, and all the injuries, I think 7 wins with a roster short on talent in some key areas was a pretty decent accomplishment. Zimmer held this team together when it would have been very easy to pack it in early and try again next year. They lost a couple games they should have won, but they also won a couple games that in the past they most of certainly would have lost. I like the direction this team is heading, and I'm already excited for next season.
Sell: The Vikings were a playoff team even without Adrian Peterson. As soon as AP was lost, this team was essentially done for, at least as a playoff threat. When you build a ball control offense around a running back that is suddenly gone for 15 games, and the guys you have behind him are a poor man's Leroy Hoard and a rookie...and then the rookie gets hurt...yeah, it's going to be tough to get to the post season. Still, the Vikes played hard every week, and put up some good efforts against some quality defenses.
And that's you bullshit referee call of the week, even though they got it right.
Don Glover Quote of the Week:
Christmas week was pretty hectic, and Dad wasn't feeling great. He wanted to stay home and rest. And no one puts Don Glover in a corner, so Dad stayed home.
So, the Vikings finish 7-9, but have a lot of positive things going for them. They have a young roster with a good amount of talent, and while they still have some holes to fill, they have cap space and a high enough draft position to fill a lot of needs.
And that will put a bow on the 2014 season. Thanks for reading these weekly rants and gripes, and sometime this week, I'll do a tally of everything and see who had the most blue chips, junk bonds, and everything in between.
On to the draft!!!