Son of a...
When the Vikings play in Chicago, I always need to drink when the game is over, because 'Soldier Field' is Latin for 'place where wins, love and good feelings die on a terribly maintained turf'. I'm not going to recount the ways the Vikings have found to lose on the shores of Lake Michigan, because they have been varied, and very painful. They usually play well, yet somehow, they find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in agonizing, soul crushing manner.
BUT NOT TODAY KIDS, THE VIKINGS WON. IN CHICAGO. DRINKS FOR EVERYONE WOOOOOOO!!!!! For about 55 minutes, you got the impression that the Vikings were going to piss around and lose in yet another Soldier Field heartbreaker. And when Jay Cutler took the best Harrison Smith had to offer on the goal line, and pushed the ball over for a score, the 'here we go again' feeling was as pervasive as puddles on the street after a downpour.
Twitter was so full of hot takes my eyes burned.
But no, not this year, and not this team. The Vikings found a way to win, thanks primarily to Stefon Diggs, and I was literally jumping and jiving at the end. Spilled my beer on our newly finished floors, too, because I was shakin' and dancin'. You can try to hold me down and hold my hand, but I am gonna dance and shake my body with a victory dance, baby!! Tell 'em what we're talking about, Mr. Rateliff...
I'm gonna need someone to help me
I'm gonna need somebody's hand
I'm gonna need someone to hold me down
I'm gonna need someone to care
I'm gonna writhe and shake my body
I'll start pulling out my hair
I'm going to cover myself with the ashes of
you Soldier Field
nobody's we all gonna give a damn
Son of a bitch, give me a drink
One more night escaping me
Son of a bitch
If I can't get clean I'm gonna drink my life away
Your Breaking The Soldier Field Curse SMR follows. Man, I love that song, by the way.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Stefon Diggs, WR: Okay, I think it's safe to say we can put words like 'fluke' and 'lucky' aside when talking about the electrifying rookie. He had been the only receiver to make any money through the air for the first 55 minutes of the game, and then damn near willed the Vikings to win it at the end. Playing through what was described as a knee injury, Diggs took about a ten yard hitch route and turned it into a ridiculous, game tying 40 yard catch and run. Before the season, I kind of felt it was really important for the Vikings to re-integrate Cordarrelle Patterson's speed and game breaking ability into the offense, because reasons and stuff. Thanks to Diggs, Patterson is officially an afterthought, and a mediocre kick returner.
Matt Kalil, LT: Matt Kalil has played well this season, and against the Bears, he seemed to be back to the dominant, franchise LT the team thought he would be when drafted in 2012. I will have to confirm the stats when I can see them, but I only remember the guy Kalil was lined up against get one pressure on Teddy Bridgewater, and no sacks. If you're not back on the Matt Kalil train, you need to be, because Kalil is the least of the problems along the Vikings offensive line.
Harrison Smith, S: Harrison Smith is the hardest hitting defensive back in the NFL, and today was no different. He knocked Matt Forte out of the game, and I initially thought he had killed Jay Cutler on the goal line...my father was almost praying he did. Anyway, Smith played another great game, both in coverage and run support, and he has emerged as the best safety in football.
Blair Walsh, K: Whatever the yips issue was for Blair Walsh that plagued him last year and early this year, I think it's safe to say he has that behind him. He's now 14/16 on the year in field goal attempts, had a tough 48 yarder, and the game winner as time expired. Although Robbie Gould makes SOldier Field look easy to kick in, it isn't, and that 48 yarder was as tough a field goal you'll ask a kicker to make.
Marcus Sherels, PR: Our Fearless Leader had the most accurate statement about Sherels earlier this year, and it will stand the test of time. When the world ends in an apocalyptic fireball, the only things that will survive will be cockroaches, Twinkies, and Marcus Sherels. Sherels was a significant contributor again today, giving the Vikings an early lead on a big punt return for a touchdown. He's as solid a punt returner and special teams player that there is in the NFL, and he can make a big play, either as a returner of coverage guy. He did that again today, and does almost every week.
Adrian Peterson, RB: Peterson has been dogged by most runs for losses and led the league in that category heading into this game. Although he was caught for no gain or worse a few times, he ran with intensity, violence, and purpose today. The Vikings offensive line did a great job of opening running lanes for Peterson, and he took advantage of them. He tailed off in the second half and didn't find the end zone today, but he ran for over 100 yards against the Bears again, a team he has historically been pretty good when he faces them.
Charles Johnson, WR: I don't remember seeing Charles Johnson in a lot of three receiver sets, nor do I recall the TV announcers calling his name when the Vikings broke the huddle, but he made the absolute most of his limited opportunity, making a spectacular catch on a questionable throw that set the Vikings up to win the game.
Everson Griffen, DE: Griffen was once again a presence on the outside, and it looked like he was playing a good part of the game with some kind of muscle pull or stinger in the neck or shoulder area. He is so good pursuing laterally, I'm surprised that teams attack his side. Of course, when they run the play away from him, he still pursues and stops the play before it has a chance to do much of anything.
Terence Newman, CB: Newman has found a bit of a career revival with Mike Zimmer in Minnesota, and had two or three open field tackles that prevented a four or five yard gain from beginning an explosive play. The veteran has been a solid addition to this secondary, and he's arguably the Vikings best CB right now.
Andrew Sendejo, S: Other than a couple of Alshon Jeffery catches where he was being covered by a CB, it seemed that every time a Bears receiver was wide open for a 15 or 20 yard gain, Sendejo was there. Notice I didn't say 'right there', because he wasn't within five yards of his assignment. And by 'not within five yards', I mean Sendejo was at a deli in Schaumberg, ordering a pastrami on rye, with a bag of chips. In an unrelated note, I think a pastrami on rye, a bag of chips, or a human being that can fog a mirror when put under their nose would be a better option than Sendejo right now. But that's none of my business.
Cordarrelle Patterson, KR: Yeah, I think we're done here. Patterson doesn't even have the explosiveness that made him the most dangerous kick returner in the NFL for two years.
Buy: Finding a way to win. In years past, it seems the Vikings would keep finding new and agonizing ways to lose games like this, and now, they're figuring out ways to win. Somebody steps up, every week, and this team seems to will itself to victory. I don't care that this was against a bad Bears team, I don't care that they were outplayed for most of the game (well I do, but you know what I mean), and I don't care that they were hot garbage in their own personal house of horrors for most of the day. They won a game that they essentially had no business winning. I haven't seen a win probability chart, but with five minutes left and almost 90 yards to go to tie on the road, it had to be around 90% for the Bears, I would think.
Sell: The Vikings pre-Mike Zimmer would have pulled this game out. I mentioned this briefly, but other than Denny Green and Saint Bud, name a coach and a team that would have pulled out this win. Mike Tice, Brad Childress, Daunte Culpepper, Zombie Brett Favre in 2009, Bridgewater and Zimmer last year, hell, mix and match coach and QB if you want. The Vikings would have lost, by either a pick, a sack, a potential TD that would have been called back on a penalty, a missed extra point...name the nightmare scenario and it would have happened to the Vikings, and they would have lost. Mike Zimmer has brought an 'eff you' attitude to this team, and they never stop playing, and I love it. Love. It.
Buy: The Vikings are 3-0 in the division. The last time the Vikings were .500 or better in the division was in 2012, this early in the season probably 2009 (not gonna look it up), and before that...I don't know. Beating division teams on the road and going at least .500 in the division are essential if you want to be taken seriously as a good team, and if you want to be a playoff team. Check, and check on winning on the road and going .500 in the division. The rest should play itself out.
Sell: The three division wins are 'only' the Bears and Lions. I don't care that the Bears and Lions are bad this year. Last year, the Vikings lost to both the Bears and Lions on the road, and finished 7-9. Beating the Bears in Chicago was a HUGE mental hurdle this team had to jump, and they got over it in dramatic fashion. This is one more step this team had to take from bad to good, and from good to something potentially better than good, and they took it today.
Buy: Teddy Bridgewater in the last five minutes. That was one of the more impressive comeback victories you'll see from any team or any quarterback anywhere. After a sack on first down that turned an 84 yard drive into a 91 yard drive, Bridgewater slipped away from pressure on second down and lumbered for 18 yards and a first down. He then found Diggs for 20 yards, and Diggs for 40 for the touchdown at the end of the drive. All of a sudden, with 1:49 to go the Vikings were tied. After the defense forced a three and out (aided by a big drop by Chicago on third down OH HI SENDEJO), Bridgewater once again drove the Vikings down the field, highlighted by Johnson's bail out catch. I think it was a questionable throw, and when he chucked it I said 'oh no', but credit to him for throwing it. Bridgewater from last season would have checked down, gotten five yards, and the chance for a game winning field goal would have been greatly diminished. Hell of a last two drives, Teddy.
Sell: Teddy Bridgewater in the first 55 minutes. As awesome as the last five minutes were, Teddy Bridgewater was horrible for three quarters. Well, two quarters, and we'll say patently mediocre for most of the third quarter. On a day when Adrian Peterson was running with authority against a bad defense, it felt like there would be several opportunities for the Vikings to get big yards through the air. And time and again, Bridgewater failed. He missed an open Mike Wallace in the end zone twice. Once in the first half, when a poorly thrown ball was high and wide. In the third quarter he missed an incredibly wide open Wallace deep in the end zone for what would have been the easiest touchdown for either one's career. Just before halftime, he threw a horrible pick that the Bears immediately converted into a game tying touchdown, and that sequence changed the entire dynamic of the game, until the end.
Buy: Winning in Chicago was a huge win for this team. The Vikings are still in 'prove it' mode for a lot of fans and experts, and that's okay. There are a lot of things they need to do to reverse years of bad play and impressions of fans that the Vikings can't get over the hump. For a lot of us fans, winning in Chicago was the biggest hump or hurdle they needed to get over, next to beating Green Bay and winning the division. This was a big win for the team, obviously, but psychologically, I'd say it was just as big of a win for the fans.
Sell: This team can't compete with the elite teams in the NFL. I still hesitate to call this team 'elite', but I think they can play with and beat anyone on a given Sunday. They still need to not pee down their legs on prime time games, but this team is growing up before our eyes and learning how to win, against good teams, average teams, and bad teams. One of the marks of a good team is beating the teams you're supposed to, or finding a way to win when you're not playing your best. The Vikings found themselves in both of those circumstances against the Bears, and they got it done.
Don Glover Quote of The Day:
If you follow me on Twitter, you know how much my father hates Jay Cutler. It's a sports hate that is pure and good and everything that's right with the world. He doesn't even call him by his name anymore, he just calls him crybaby. My father does not tolerate whining; never has. He has no patience for whiners, so obviously, Cutler is public enemy #1 for my father. Throughout the game, he called him crybaby, but we both had shutup until the Vikings tied. As they were getting ready to line up for the game winning field goal, I looked at my Dad and said...
Me: So, does Walsh make this you think?
Dad: I don't want to look
//kick is good, Vikings win, camera briefly cuts to Cutler at some point
Dad: GO AHEAD AND WALK BACK TO THE LOCKER ROOM AND CRY ALL THE WAY THERE, YOU DAMN CRYBABY. GO CRY TO YOUR MOMMY YOU BIG DAMN BABY!
Man, I love my Dad. He's awesome
So, the Vikings are 5-2, breathing the rarefied air of a playoff contender. These are heady and good times to be a Vikings fan, kids. Let's enjoy this ride and see where it takes us, shall we?