Woof. Absolutely nothing comes easy for this team, does it?
After dominating the majority of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs and pitching a shutout for three quarters, the Vikings held on by the skin of their teeth for a 16-10 win. This was a game that the Vikings "had to have" if they wanted to make a serious push for relevance this year. And they won. Yet I still probably feel a little worse about the team's future than I did before the game.
Why? Because there is only one way to describe this game. Take it away, Bubba Sparxxx!
It's gon' get ugly in here
Huh, in here
Huh, in here
It's gon' get
Ugly, ugly, ugly
Huh, in here
It's gon' get ugly in here
Huh, in here
Huh, in here
Good grief was this game U-G-L-Y. And no, it did not in fact have no alibi. Penalties, turnovers, and missed opportunities plagued both teams all day. The Chiefs are a pretty awful team right now and the Vikings barely beat them at home. But the ugliest of wins is always better than the prettiest of losses, and winning after the bye week for the first time in six seasons is a good result no matter how it comes. Let's get to the stocks.
Blue Chip Stocks
Stefon Diggs. Vikings fans, I just have one question for you:
Mr. Mankato has become Mr. Minneapolis. Diggs had himself a day, snatching 7 catches for 129 yards. It actually makes me furious that I'm already putting Diggs in this section. Why? Because it's unfathomable that someone this talented was a healthy scratch for the first three games of the season. I mean, he was Mr. Mankato! It's not like this came out of nowhere. Diggs has played all of two games in his career and might already be the best wide receiver on his team. He better be a focal point of the passing attack going forward.
Eric Kendricks. The man in the middle of the Vikings defense was the man in the middle. Kendricks picked up another sack and stuffed plays all day long, racking up a team-high nine tackles. At this rate the next Vikings jersey I pick up might be adorned with number 54.
This game obviously wasn't very aesthetically pleasing, but how bright is the future for this Minnesota Vikings team? The 2015 Minnesota Vikings draft may turn out to be the bizarro version of the 2005 draft. Kendricks, Diggs, T.J. Clemmings, and Danielle Hunter are already playing significant roles in their rookie campaigns. Just imagine if the guy the team chose first actually starts producing!
Blair Walsh. He did his job! He made field goals that were longer than extra points! He even made his extra point! Suddenly he's 9-for-11 on field goals this season and we might not have a complete train wreck on our hands like we feared we would about a month ago. Walsh has been a streaky kicker back to his college days; thankfully it looks like he's on one of the good streaks the past couple games.
Sharrif Floyd and the entire Vikings defensive line. When the news broke this morning that Everson Griffen was a late scratch, I had the same reaction as Ralphie when he spilled the lug nuts in A Christmas Story. But the entire Vikings defensive front ended up having an excellent day without him. They held the Chiefs to 57 yards rushing and kept Alex Smith uncomfortable for most of the game without needing to blitz. (Until late in the game of course, where they sorta disappeared.) Floyd was the standout with a half sack and a gigantic stop on fourth down to stuff Charcandrick West. (And yes, Chiefs fans, his butt was down, so don't complain about it.) Linval Joseph plugged up the middle throughout the game. Danielle Hunter had a very solid showing in his first career start, including a forced fumble when the Chiefs were driving for a go-ahead score late in the game:
There are lots of things that still need fixing with the Vikings, but the front four isn't one. It's still the most talented and deep unit on the team.
Captain Munnerlyn. I'll explain Munnerlyn's resurgence as simply as I can:
"Hi, I'm 2015 Captain Munnerlyn and I have DirecTV."
"And I'm 2014 Captain Munnerlyn and I have cable."
Munnerlyn is playing much, much better this season compared to last year. He had a couple nice open field tackles and his back-to-back pass breakups to stop a late drive were beautiful. Captain looks much more comfortable and confident these days, and it's producing results. Or, rather, a lack of results for opposing receivers.
Matt Asiata. He only had six touches but he did the most with what he got. He gained 27 yards on 5 carries on a day where Adrian Peterson averaged only 2.3 yards a carry, but his most impressive play was his reception in the second quarter. Asiata shook a couple tacklers and allowed the Vikings to go for it on 4th and short on their only touchdown drive of the day. It was one of those "hidden plays" that don't have much of an impact on the final stats but prove to be significant in the final score.
Jerome Boger and Mike Carey. I'm sorry, but there was no way that the holding call on the Chiefs in the first quarter wasn't in the end zone. Jerome Boger's bumbling explanation that the hold was in the field of play was far from convincing and patently incorrect. And then Mike Carey, former NFL referee and current CBS referee analyst, actually backed him up:
The hold started in the field of play, so therefore is no safety. #KCvsMIN— Mike Carey (@MikeCareyRef94) October 18, 2015
Quit lying to America, Mike. Just stop it. Every single player on both lines basically spent the entire play in the end zone. At least Mike Pereira still has some sense in him:
After looking at it again, it's clearly a safety. #KCvsMIN— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) October 18, 2015
If the Chiefs had scored late to win 17-16, Vikings Nation would be having a collective aneurysm right now.
UPDATE 10/19 8:42 AM: Here's a gif of the hold that was totally not in the end zone at all. [Rolls eyes]
Mike Wallace. It was a rough day for Wallace, who had at least two easy drops to go with only two receptions for 23 yards. He certainly didn't play like a #1 wide receiver today. I still think he will have a positive impact on the offense but he put up a clunker against a pretty weak pass defense.
Andrew Sendejo. Or should I say Andrew Sende-jo-jo-jo thanks to all those presents he gives opposing receivers? Sendejo seems too concerned with launching at the ball carrier like a missile to deliver the knockout blow instead of actually preventing them from getting the ball in the first place. Strong safety continues to be an oxymoron on this team. In an otherwise solid performance by the defense, the play at this position continues to be a sore spot. Getting beat deep by Jeremy Maclin on this play in the third quarter was simply inexcusable:
Sell: Teddy Bridgewater's decision making on the first quarter interception. Rudolph definitely didn't do him any favors going after the ball, but that was an indefensible throw. Bridgewater's first half was still pretty good overall, and to be honest that was the only thing keeping him out of the Junk Bonds section this week. Bridgewater was pretty lousy in the second half and didn't do anything with multiple chances to put the Chiefs away late.
Buy: Teddy learning his lesson on the next drive. It was third and goal, nobody was open, and Bridgewater threw it out of the end zone to secure the three points. Teddy is far from perfect but little things like that tell us he's at least learning from his mistakes.
Sell: The play design on Bridgewater's second interception late in the game. At first glance it looked like another bad decision by Bridgewater. At second glance it looked like a great play from Marcus Peters, who peeled off his receiver and jumped the Wallace out route. Until you realized that the receiver out wide that Peters was covering was Rhett Ellison. Not exactly someone you need to respect running the deep route, which meant Peters could keep his eyes in the backfield without worrying about getting torched deep.
Sell: Drafting Trae Waynes over Marcus Peters. So yeah, that may have been a bit of mistake. Waynes got on the field for a handful of plays today rotating in for Terence Newman and immediately got targeted several times. Peters has been a starter since day one and is making a good case for the title of "Defensive Rookie of the Year, non-Eric Kendricks Division". Of course we can't call Waynes a bust and put Peters in Canton after six weeks, but the early returns aren't promising.
Buy: The improvement of pass protection. The Chiefs aren't the Broncos but they still have a pretty formidable pass rush. The Vikings offensive line looked much better this week when it came to protecting Bridgewater. Not like it could have got any worse, but Teddy had a lot more time to throw today.
Sell: The run blocking. Yikes. When there are a lot of holes in a defense we call it "Swiss cheese". So what is the exact opposite of that? Some quick Googling tells me that Kalari is a very dense cheese. Therefore, I will say that Kansas City had a "Kalari" defense thanks to the lack of holes opened up by the Vikings offensive line.
Here's the play that I included in my preview from last week's game:
And here's the Chiefs' only touchdown on Sunday:
Look familiar? If you're going to allow a big touchdown to the Chiefs it better be because Jamaal Charles got loose or Alex Smith found someone deep. Since neither of those were possible today (Charles is out injured and Smith is...well, Smith), allowing a play like this to let the Chiefs back in the game was inexcusable.
Sell: Blaming Adrian Peterson for his poor performance. Peterson was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on the majority of his carries. There was absolutely zero room to run nearly every time he got the ball.
Buy: Blaming Adrian Peterson for his lack of ball control. He had another fumble and nearly had another carry punched out. The bounces went his way today but he can't keep putting the ball on the ground.
Sell: NORV~! going full NORV~! today. Turner had some curious play calls, most of which involved plunging Peterson into a wall of defenders when everyone knew that Kansas City's main weakness was their pass defense. I also thought that we established handing off to Peterson out of the shotgun wasn't a good idea but Turner still called it a few times. Sure, the Vikings were up most of the day and you have to protect the lead by running the ball. So how do you explain bombing a pass down the field on third and 7 very late in the game instead of running more time off the clock? All in all it was a poor showing for everyone on the offense not named Stefon Diggs.
Gemma Thompson Quote of the Day
My 2 1/2 year old daughter (and brand new big sister) had a very busy day of emptying her entire toy box, holding her baby sister, and having tantrums for no discernible reason. But she did watch about 30 minutes of the game with me, and one of the plays she watched was Floyd's fourth down stop. After I cheered and gave Gemma a high five, she shared this bit of wisdom with me as CBS showed the replay:
"Ohhh. He fall down. He crashed daddy. [Giggles]"
Let's hope the Vikings continue to make teams fall down and crash going forward.