There's nothing quite like a series of miniature heart attacks on an otherwise gorgeous Fall afternoon.
The wins never come easy for the 2015 Minnesota Vikings, but fortunately they keep on coming. Our beloved purple and gold have won four on the trot after taking out a tough St. Louis Rams squad by a score of 21-18 in overtime at TCF Bank Stadium.
Well, "tough" would be one way to describe the St. Louis. The Rams proved that they are a young, talented team with a bright future. They lived up to the hype they had been getting leading up to the game. Unfortunately, a few bad apples tainted what was an otherwise hard-fought game between two very closely matched opponents. "Tough" quickly morphed into "dirty".
I could spend about 3,000 words griping about how I hate a certain Defensive Coordinator that runs a dirty operation on a new team. I could lament the fact that the health of our quarterback was put in jeopardy by an obvious cheap shot. But that won't change anything.* Instead I'll take the high road and focus more on what the Vikings did.
(* = Don't worry. I'll still bitch about it a little.)
Because when you're facing the upcoming schedule that's ahead of the FIRST PLACE MINNESOTA VIKINGS, there ain't no rest for the wicked.
Oh, there ain't no rest for the wicked
Money don't grow on trees
I got bills to pay
I got mouths to feed
And ain't nothing in this world for free
No I can't slow down
I can't hold back
Though you know I wish I could
No there ain't no rest for the wicked
Until we close our eyes for good
And now it's time for the fourth consecutive victory Stock Market Report.
Blue Chip Stocks
Linval Joseph. That was some Defensive Player of the Week stuff from Joseph. Check that--it was some Defensive MVP stuff. Todd Gurley was held in check on Sunday largely because he was wearing Linval Joseph for most of the game. Nick Foles will see a giant purple #98 jersey closing in on him when he closes his eyes tonight. All the talk heading into the game was about the dominant St. Louis defensive line; nobody that set foot on the field Sunday afternoon was more dominant than Joesph. The big man in the middle racked up ten tackles, three tackles for loss, half a sack, two quarterback hurries, and some sweet dance moves.
Blair Walsh. The preseason seems like a thousand years ago. For the second straight week, Walsh was perfect and hit a walk-off field goal. In September we wanted him cut; in November we want him in Hawaii. Keep up the good work, Blair.
The offensive line. In a league full of crap offensive lines, the Vikings' front line has been decidedly not crap over the past two weeks. The Rams' vaunted defensive line was kept in check for most of the day and Adrian Peterson had more space to run than he has in past weeks.
Mike Harris deserves special recognition for having another stellar game. Coming into the game Harris had allowed seven total pressures on 240 pass blocking snaps according to Pro Football Focus. I'll need to watch the game film to make sure, but I didn't notice any today. And look at the space he cleared out on Adrian Peterson's touchdown run:
It's very encouraging to see weekly improvement from a unit that was considered one of the team's biggest weaknesses.
Chad Greenway. With Eric Kendricks out this week, we knew that Greenway would be called upon more on Sunday. And if you were like me, you probably cringed at the thought. But you know what? The crafty old vet still has a little something left in the tank. Greenway tied with Joseph for the team lead in tackles (10) and blew up a couple Rams plays before they could get started. It was easily the best game Greenway has played this season, and it came right when the Vikings needed it the most.
Adrian Peterson. AP won the ballyhooed battle of the backs, racking up 125 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries while chipping in 2 grabs for 18 more yards. If it wasn't for his back-to-back fumbles that took at least eight years off my life, he'd be in the Blue Chips section. Either way, the champ isn't ready to give up the title just yet.
Trae Waynes. The first round pick acquitted himself well after Terence Newman went down with an injury. Foles and the Rams went right after Waynes when he came in but he was equal to the task. Waynes had a great tackle in punt coverage as well. This 2015 Vikings draft class is shaping up to be something very special.
Tom Johnson. Joseph stuffed the stat sheet but Johnson made the sting of missing Sharrif Floyd again barely noticeable. Johnson remains one of the best backup defensive linemen in the league.
Audie Cole. Football can be a cruel game. Cole was the starting middle linebacker at the beginning of camp only to be relegated to third string due to the emergence of Kendricks and Gerald Hodges. Cole was undoubtedly disappointed but you never heard a peep of dissent from him. But then Hodges was traded and Kendricks was ruled out and suddenly Cole was starting again this week. He did himself proud on Sunday up until suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Dammit. Get well soon, Audie. You'll be back to your "OMGAUDIECOLE" self in no time.
Gregg Williams, Jeff Fisher, and Lamarcus Joyner. In my Week 9 preview I made this very prescient joke:
And remember, the Rams defense is run by Gregg Williams, whom Vikings fans should be intimately familiar with thanks to the 2009 NFC Championship Game. (Fun fact: the extra G in Gregg stands for GODDAMN CHEATER.)
And boy was I proven right. Every time the Vikings go against a Williams defense, something bad happens to their quarterback. There's a line between playing hard and playing dirty, and Williams' defenses habitually cross that line. He will forever be coordinator non grata in these parts and it's a well-deserved reputation.
Jeff Fisher didn't help matters by shrugging off the hit as no big deal:
It is not the first quarterback that has been hit while going into a slide.
Sure, Jeff, but most of the time it doesn't result in the quarterback being knocked out cold. And now this is not the first time your team will finish right around 8-8 and miss the playoffs.
We can blame the coaches all we want but it's still up to the players to carry out the dirty plays. And before you even think about defending Joyner by saying he didn't have time to react to Bridgewater's slide, take a look at this gif:
Joyner was practically doing the limbo to make sure his elbow connected with Bridgewater's head. Joyner tried to explain that he is buddies with Teddy and would never intentionally knock him out, but that's not going to prevent him from getting a hefty fine handed down during the course of the upcoming week.
Cordarrelle Patterson. He had one decent kick return in the second half, but that might be the last we see of Patterson for a while. Marcus Sherels handled the final kick return and I don't think anyone would complain if he took the rest of them going forward. Patterson has exactly one job on this team and he isn't very good at it anymore. He lollygags around and moseys halfheartedly up to the 15 yard line before falling down at first contact. I take faster cuts on the elliptical machine at the gym.
Buy: Everything about Mike Zimmer. Every week the Vikings fan base falls more in love with their head coach with good reason. Once again the Vikings made great halftime adjustments, holding the Rams to only three points after the break. The choice to defer in overtime was a vote of confidence in his incredible defense as well as a smart strategic choice to make sure Walsh kicked with the game winner with the wind at his back. And Ted already covered Zimmer's post-game brilliance in his Zim Tzu article. "If we were out on the street, we probably would have had a fight," and there is no coach in the world we'd want on our side more in that fight.
Sell: Thinking the Vikings would have won any of the last three games with the old regime. Zimmer and his staff have given the Vikings the testicular fortitude needed to win these close games that the Vikings have fallen short in so many times in recent years. The Vikings are tied atop the NFC North because of the man in charge on the sidelines.
Buy: The Vikings against the screen pass. The Rams had some success moving the ball with misdirection and end arounds with Tavon Austin. They had very minimal success with screens despite trying many, many times. Anthony Barr and Captain Munnerlyn have been screen destroyers all season, which was a big part of holding St. Louis to only 160 yards passing on the day.
Sell: Teddy Bridgewater's deep ball. Once again, Teddy missed a bunch of throws downfield that he needed to make in order to maintain drives. The Rams are a solid team, but the opponents only get tougher in the next month. I hate to sound like a broken record, but he'll need to make those passes in order for the Vikings to keep winning and make the postseason.
Buy: Bridgewater spreading the wealth. Nine different players caught passes Sunday, to go with seven different pass catchers last week and eleven the week before that. The gaudy passing numbers still aren't there but he's still finding enough guys open to keep the ball moving.
Sell: The Teddy Bridgewater to Mike Wallace combo. I don't know what it is about these two, but they aren't even on the same chapter, much less the same page. When Teddy's accurate, Wallace half-asses his route. When Wallace get open, Teddy does his best Donovan McNabb impression. They need to be simpatico before the Vikings offense can take the next step.
Buy: Aaron Rodgers a new Surface tablet. Because he apparently didn't like this one! I guess that's what happens when you realize that you missed a wide open receiver.
And when you realize your division rivals just caught you in the standings.
Gemma Thompson Quote of the Day
My wife let me get out of the house today for the game as I met a buddy at Joe & Stan's just down the road from my place. (Great Vikings bar, by the way. Cheap beer, lots of TVs, and free food at halftime.) So I didn't get any good quotes during the game. However, I was able to get a new Twitter avatar picture before the game with myself, Gemma, and her little sister dressed in Vikings garb:
And when I returned home after the game, Gemma ran to meet me and exclaimed:
"The Bikings won Daddy! Yayyyy! Now we watch PJ Masks?!"
Of course we can, little one. After a Vikings win like that, I'll put up with any amount of mundane kids shows. SKOL!