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The One Where We Recalibrate Our Expectations For The Minnesota Vikings

Everything about the game last night sucked. Everything.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last night's game was classic Vikings, wasn't it?  We had an entire offseason of raised expectations, optimism and hope.  Adrian Peterson was returning. Teddy Bridgewater was growing into a franchise quarterback. A top 15 defense from a year ago made some key draft additions and looked to be even better. We were getting a ton of players back from injury. National pundits were actually picking the Vikings as a dark horse playoff team.  Things really haven't been more positive about our team since 2009.

And then, BAM, the Vikings came out life-less and ill-prepared against a stout 49ers team to break our hearts, like they always do. Did anyone see it coming? Have we really forgotten that we root for the Vikings, the one team that has honed disappointment into an art form? Ted has recapped the game very well in his Stock Market Report, so I don't need to rehash everything yet again. But it wasn't just the Vikings players that were terrible, the Vikings coaches made their fair share of mistakes too. It looked to me like they didn't game plan for the 49ers very well. The defense looked lost, confused and played on their heals all night. The offense couldn't handle the blitzes of DC Mangini (like they didn't know it was coming??). But it wasn't just the Vikings either.  The refs missed some obvious calls, and the announcers were missing simple name calls. Hell, even the video feed listed "49ers #55 Anthony Barr" at one point. It was a shit-show in every single possible way. The game should have been a blow-out with the 49ers winning 50-0, but even the 49ers couldn't do that right picking up penalty after penalty.  The game was terrible.

Could this be a simple case of "Week 1 Overreaction Monday"?  Maybe. But this loss looked deeper than that to me. And it should cause us to re-calibrate our expectations for the Vikings in 2015. This loss reminds me of an article I made during the off-season where we looked at our schedule and determined that we had one of the hardest schedules in the league. It made me remember that Matt Kalil and this offense will be facing the toughest slate of defenses in recent memory too. Do I think this team is a playoff team anymore?  No, not if they continue to play like they did last night.  Here is why.

1. The offensive line was manhandled. Yes there were a lot of blitzes, but the interior line could not get any push up front in the run game. Without that, it allows the defense to tee off and is why Teddy faced constant pressure all night.

2. We don't have a good enough O-line to run 4-wide sets often enough. We need more than a single TE or a single RB in for pass protection, because we couldn't handle Mangini's blitzes. Every opponent from here on out will be doing the same thing.

3. Our defense is a combination of too old and slow (Greenway + Robison  + Newman) plus too young and inexperienced (Barr + Hodges) and that's a terrible combination.

4.The game-planning on defense was embarrassing as they weren't ready for an up-tempo, smash-mouth, read-option attack. Did they not pay attention to anything from the San Francisco media?  All they've been talking about all off-season is this new look offense.

5. The offensive play-calling was an embarrassment. You have the reigning MVP in Peterson, and after a crucial field position swap, you don't even give him the ball one time? In crucial moments in the 4th quarter when you desperately needed something on offense, Peterson is on the sideline.  Really?  And maybe try dialing up a few screen passes to counter all the blitzing.  Again, it comes down to game-planning.

I put this loss on the whole team. It was a systemic failure from the coaching all the way to the players. And it's for that reason that I think we need to change our expectations and realize that we may not have a contender yet. We are all getting impatient. We've been watching a god-awful football team for the past 5 seasons. We're ready to believe in Teddy and we all really want this team to be successful. But this team has a lot to correct before it can contend. There are some legitimate issues to fix:

1. Offensive line. Clemmings and Berger aren't as good as Loadholt and Sullivan. The O-line will struggle all year.

2. Defensive line. Brian Robison is old. Even when he was in his prime, he struggled to get home. Now, he has no chance. While Floyd looks promising, Linval Joseph is inconsistent. This line is not as good as we thought.

3. Linebackers. There is a reason there was so much shuffling going on in the Preseason...and I think it wasn't because we had so many good options. Hodges looked totally lost out there and Greenway is done, way, way done.

4. Secondary. Newman is old and making Newman mistakes, and I've given Robert Blanton way too much credit.

So yeah, we had a 7-9 season last year.  Our schedule is tougher this year, and I'd be surprised if we do better than 8-8...maybe 9-7.  We've got a lot of issues, still, on the team.  It's time to change our expectations.