I can't remember a Vikings season where I've gone from wildly optimistic to wildly pessimistic in about two games. Besides the ongoing legal situation with Adrian Peterson, key veterans Matt Cassel, Kyle Rudolph, Brandon Fusco, and Chad Greenway have been limited or taken off the field due to injuries. Oh, and Jerome Simpson.
Jerome, Jerome, Jerome. Ohhhh, Jerome.
The last time my thinking about an individual Vikings team flipped so dramatically was in 2009, after the San Francisco game, but obviously it was in the other direction. I was all on board the Favre train, and thought if he was healthy, maybe. I was kind of unsure after the first two games, but after the Favre to Lewis TD, I was all in.
After everything that's happened to this team since about the Friday before the Patriots game, I've been shaking my head and wondering what the hell just happened, to be honest. But after a fairly decent defensive performance against the EFF THOSE GUYS, and the debut of Teddy Bridgewater, I'm feeling better.
As good as I was before the season began? I'm not there yet, but better than I was midweek between the Patriots and the EFF THOSE GUYS game. So is there a reason to think the Vikings have a shot against the high powered Falcons offense? Yeah, I think there is. Let's review the situation:
You gotta run the ball. Effectively, I mean: I'm sure Matt Asiata is a good guy. Seems pleasant enough from what little I've seen of him at training camp and such. And it's not fair to Asiata...hell, to anyone really...that he has to come in and replace one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game, especially under the circumstances in which that transition took place. But that said, Asiata is a non-factor as a running back. Yeah, two or three yards between the tackles has a place in the offense, but that can't be your 'go to' running play. And right now, it is. I would think and hope that the Vikings might try and get Jerick McKinnon more involved with the running game, and his speed can be an asset on the perimeter. He has legitimate breakaway ability, and the Vikings must...MUST...find a way to get him involved if they're going to have a running attack that is anything other than terrible. It's that simple.
DO NOT KICK TO DEVIN HESTER OKAY GUYS? I'M REALLY SUPER CEREAL: I know this staff is new and they don't know the tortured history of Devin Hester and the Vikings, when he seemingly returned every kick for a score against the Vikes when he played for Chicago. But they are smart guys, and they should know by now that if you want to win this game, you DO NOT KICK THE BALL TO DEVIN HESTER, EVER EVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EVER EVER. With the way he's performed against Minnesota, I'm half surprised Hester didn't break the NFL return record against the Vikings instead of the Buccaneers, and do the Deion Tribute dance down the TCF Bank sideline. That would've sucked, but he did it against the Bucs, so it was cool.
Seriously, kick the ball out of bounds, squib it, onside it, tell them you can't find one in the ball bag, poop on it and get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty...I don't care. As long as the end of the math equation doesn't equal Devin Hester, we'll be good. And seriously, if Blair Walsh drops trou and poops on the football...at this point in the season with everything that's happened, would anyone be surprised?
Field position is life for the offense: Why? Because the running game is suspect right now, Rudolph is out, and defenses are scheming to stop Cordarrelle Patterson, so I don't know if the Vikings have the capability to go the length of the field four or five times. With Atlanta's offense, the Vikings are going to need to score somewhere in the 20's to win, I would think, say 24 or 27 points. To do that, they'll need a short field for Teddy Bridgewater to work with, so when the Vikings start with good field position, like on Atlanta's side of the 50, they'll need to convert.
Field goals won't win this game: When the Vikings do get into the red zone, they cannot settle for field goals and expect to win. We saw that first hand last week with the EFF THOSE GUYS, along with a couple other things. Look, had the Vikings scored TD's on two of those three possessions, it's a 20-17 game when the Saints score, not 20-9, and the outcome could have been different. Yeah, and if my aunt had a pair of testicles she'd be my uncle, I get it, but I point that out to show how important it is to put seven points on the board as opposed to three when you have an opportunity. And for all we love about Teddy, he struggled a bit in finishing scoring drives with TD's in the pre-season, and it carried over to the EFF THOSE GUYS game. That has to change, and it needs to start against the Falcons.
Bring the heat, and don't stop bringing it: Last Sunday was a tale of two defenses. It was the best of defenses, it was the worst of defenses. It was the age of incredulity, it was the age of enlightenment, blah blah blah. When the Vikings opened the game fairly cautiously on defense, Drew Brees picked them apart, and before you could say 'Bud Grant' the Vikings were down 13-0.
But the Vikings regrouped, and started bring pressure from multiple looks at multiple places, and Drew Brees looked about as average as I can remember him being for about two quarters of play. Matt Ryan is a good QB, but I'd still take Brees, and Ryan looked terrible against a Zimmer-like defense in Cincinnati a couple weeks back. The Falcons are a different team on the road than they are at home in the Georgia Dome, and if the defense can replicate what the Bengals did, this team has a shot.