Before I get to recapping the ups and downs of a football game, a little perspective. Minnesota sports lost one of the great ones today with the passing of Timberwolves Head Coach and GM Flip Saunders from cancer. He was only 60 years old. Saunders coached 17 years in the NBA, most of them with the Wolves, but he was making an impact on Minnesota basketball long before that. He played for the University of Minnesota and was an assistant coach for five years at his alma mater.
Kevin Garnett posted this heart-wrenching image on his Facebook page Sunday that says more than I ever could. Our thoughts and prayers are with Flip's family. Rest in peace, Flip. You will be missed.
At first, it looked like the typical Minnesota Vikings road game we have grown accustomed to over the past few years. The defense allowed touchdowns on the first two drives while giving up acres of space. The offense petered out and answered with field goals. I was all but set to put Dixie Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces" as this week's theme song because I figured this was going to be an all day thing.
But then, something we weren't used to happened. The Vikings bounced back. The defense kept Detroit out of the end zone for the rest of the day while likely giving Matthew Stafford a severe case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The offense faltered at the end of drives but they moved the ball effectively enough to score on nearly every drive. And, of course, a certain rookie kept the unbelievable start to his career going. Hit it, Booker T!
Let's see how the stocks fared in this week's report. Can you dig it, sucka?!
Blue Chip Stocks
Stefon Diggs. How could we start anywhere else? Diggs had another 100 yard day, including his first career touchdown that came in absolutely gorgeous fashion:
I know we're only three games into his NFL career but it's hard to avoid talking about Diggs in hyperbole. We might have something truly special with this kid.
George Edwards and Mike Zimmer. The Vikings allowed a season-low 274 yards on Sunday. Over half of those yards came on the first two drives. Minnesota didn't force any turnovers yet they were still able to stymie the Lions offense the rest of the day thanks to dialing up some excellent defensive calls. The Vikings racked up seven sacks and a good portion of them were by players that were completely unblocked. Kudos to the game planning of Edwards and Zimmer despite the flat start.
Teddy Bridgewater. The statistics were certainly good enough to land him in the Blue Chip section. Bridgewater was 25/35 for 316 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. However, I had to keep him in the Solid Investments section because he's still missing some of the little things. He was under pressure fairly often and was sacked four times. It could have been worse; Bridgewater got a few passes away that could have easily become sacks. For instance, the touchdown to Kyle Rudolph took some great reactions (and an equally great snag from Rudy):
The sack number could have been less too. Bridgewater only lost a yard on this play but there's no reason to take a "sack" here. The result wasn't that bad; the decision making was.
The other three sacks were on third down in Lions territory. Two of them could have been avoided by throwing the ball away and might have knocked the Vikings out of field goal range if Blair Walsh wasn't on his game.
Overall it was a good game from Bridgewater. Perhaps even very good. It's nice to be able to pick nits like this instead of bemoaning how bad our quarterback is. But if the Vikings want to beat the teams on their schedule that aren't busy beating themselves most of the time he's going to have to be occasionally great.
Blair Walsh. Usually going 5-for-5 on field goals including two over 50 yards would get you in the Blue Chip section. But Blue Chippers don't miss extra points. Still, Walsh has made his last ten field goal attempts. If the offense keeps crapping out in scoring range, Walsh will need to keep making his kicks like this.
Jerick McKinnon. Adrian Peterson was one play away from having an awful day. He averaged 1.3 yards per carry on the 18 carries that didn't go for 75 yards. Jet didn't put up huge numbers (37 yards on 10 touches) but the offense looked noticeably better when he spelled Peterson. Maybe it's because defenses focus only on Peterson when he's in? Maybe Norv Turner gets more creative when he isn't worried about feeding his bell cow? Either way, it's nice to have McKinnon out there as a change of pace. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing him get the ball more going forward.
Andrew Sendejo. A gif tells a thousand words, and this one of Eric Ebron's touchdown sums up how most of Sendejo's season has gone so far:
The phrase "he looks lost out there" gets thrown around a lot when talking about NFL players, but it applies to Sendejo way too often. I honestly don't know what Antone Exum Jr. needs to do to get a few looks at strong safety in the next couple weeks.
Cordarrelle Patterson. Eleven different Vikings caught passes today. ELEVEN. Cordarrelle Patterson was not one of those players. He isn't getting a ton of opportunities these days but Sunday was just another example of why we can probably start throwing around the word "bust" when it comes to Flash. It's a shame that he and the Vikings haven't figured out a way to unlock all that raw athleticism. But hey, he had a cool hurdle on one of his average kick returns today--that's something right?
Sell: Chewing tobacco and/or shellfish. The FOX team reported before the game that Adrian Peterson had gutted some chewing tobacco on the team flight, causing the illness that downgraded him to questionable before the game. Peterson insisted that he had been swallowing chew spit for "ten years" (something to be super proud of) and it was actually the shrimp he had that made him sick. You know, something that has already caused him to be severely sick in the past. Either way, what the hell Adrian?!
But that wasn't the only chewing tobacco related incident of the game. After the Vikings had sealed the game, Zimmer took his headphones off and the camera spotted him doing this:
Skoal Vikings, indeed.
Buy: Jeff Locke not punting until there was 8:52 left in the game. Seven of the eight drives before that punt ended in points. However...
Sell: The Red Groan offense. The Vikings are still pretty abysmal once they get within scoring range. Norv Turner and company need to figure out how to end more scoring drives with touchdowns than field goals. It will make for a lot less stress late in games once they do.
Buy: Eric Kendricks getting after the quarterback. The rookie linebacker picked up another two sacks from superbly timed A-gap blitzes and tallied six tackles overall. Kendricks has an excellent knack for getting to the ball carrier with amazing efficiency. If playing linebacker was only about getting sacks and stopping the run, Kendricks would have been in the Blue Chip stocks again. However...
Sell: Eric Kendricks in coverage. Much like Anthony Barr last year, the way to get to Kendricks is with crossing routes. On the 55 yard pass to Ebron late in the first quarter, you can see Kendricks getting turned around and Chad Greenway imploring him to get where he was supposed to be in coverage:
Kendricks is great at what he does well. To take the next step he has to learn how to improve what he doesn't do well.
Buy: Taking a safety at the end of the game. It was good presence of mind by the coaching staff make the 11-point lead a 9-point lead with time ticking down and give the Lions a longer field on their next drive. I only hope the injury Adam Thielen suffered on the play isn't severe.
Buy: Being 4-2 is good no matter how you get there. All four wins have come against teams that are currently 2-5 or worse. But they're only 2-5 or worse because they lost to the Vikings, right? Road wins, especially within the division, are great 100% of the time regardless of the opponent.
Sell: The Vikings are playing like a playoff team right now. The standings might say so, but my eyes don't. Not yet at least. Playoff teams finish drives with touchdowns. Playoff teams don't tempt fate and let lesser teams hang around. However, the Vikings are close, and they're still winning while they're learning to get better. Like Bill Parcells said back in the day, you are what your record says you are. And the Vikings are in pretty good shape with ten games to go.
Gemma Thompson Quote of the Day
When Stefon Diggs scored his touchdown, it was afternoon nap time at the Thompson household. My two daughters were comfortably snoozing away when Diggs made the incredible catch. Naturally, I stood up from the couch and shouted in satisfaction. My outburst woke up both of my daughters, including Gemma, who was all the way in her room upstairs. I heard this reply shouted down to me:
"Daddy you wake me up! What happened? You loud daddy."
Let's hope the Vikings keep screwing up nap time like that the rest of the season.