It's tough to call the second game of the season 'must win', but history proves that if you start 0-2 in the NFL, the chances of going to the playoffs are less than one in five. And fans on message boards and websites everywhere are pissed off.
So yeah, beating Detroit on Sunday was kind of a big deal.
And not only did they beat the Lions, the Vikings pretty much controlled the game from the outset, scoring on their opening drive, and never really letting Detroit seriously threaten. It was arguably the most complete team victory in the Mike Zimmer era, other than maybe the opening day rout of the Rams last year.
It was highlighted by the return of an all star. And he got his game on, and went and played. Didn't he, Mr. Smash Mouth?
Your 1-1 sky isn't falling stepping back from the ledge SMR follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
The offensive line: If week one was about as bad as it could get, week two was about as good as it could get. The Vikings did a great job of showing a lot of misdirection to help the line out, but they protected Teddy Bridgewater and opened holes for Adrian Peterson. If nothing else the first two weeks have shown, for better or worse, that the offense will only go as far as the offensive line. Today, the offense was mostly crisp, efficient, and unpredictable.
Marcus Sherels, jack of all trades: I'm never doubting Marcus Sherels again. Next year, the Vikings will draft another hot shot defensive back, and the conventional wisdom will be 'Sherels is done'. And then come September, Sherels will have another monster game on special teams and we'll all say 'we're never doubting Marcus Sherels again.' He had another great game as a punt returner, and stuffed Golden Tate on a punt return, making a fantastic open field tackle. The guy just makes plays. What more can you ask from a guy?
Jeff Locke, P: Locke has been a stud the first two games. Yes, I'll pause, let you chew on that and digest it before continuing. Here, take a sip of milk to help wash it down. No, you're not going blind, I did actually just type that. His three punts averaged over 44 yards today, he kicked them deep and pinned Detroit inside the 20 twice, and flipped field position every time. Two games does not a season make, but you can't ask for a better start from a guy that was about as popular as an empty beer bottle heading into week one.
Linval Joseph, DT: Joseph clogged the middle all day, and because of his disruptive play the Lions weren't able to get any type of running game going at all. The Lions interior line had no answer for Joseph, and largely because of an active defensive line led by LJ, Detroit only attempted 16 rushes all day, averaging a paltry 2.7 yards per carry.
Adrian Peterson, RB: You really couldn't ask for a better return for a prodigal son than what Peterson had Sunday. He was the Vikings leading rusher (134 yards) and receiver (58 yards). The only thing that kept him out of the blue chip category were his two fumbles, one which came right after the Vikings forced a turnover and had the ball on the Detroit six on Detroit's first possession of the third quarter. And on the biggest play of the game, which was Peterson's 49 yard catch and run, it all started because Peterson got absolutely blown up in pass protection. The rusher was taking Teddy down for what looked like a sack, yet Bridgewater flipped it to Peterson, and he took off and ran with it. It was a remarkable heads up play by Teddy that came about because of some unremarkable blocking by AP. But hey, it worked. Like we always used to say in the Army (oh boy, heeeeeeeeeeere we go), if it's stupid but it works...it's not stupid.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB: Teddy had another good day--smart decisions with the football, ran when needed, used his feet in the pocket to keep plays alive when he had to. It was the Teddy we've come to know and appreciate. His yardage numbers weren't spectacular, but with AP having the game he had, they didn't need to be. He ran the offense well, was accurate with the football, and the Vikings offense looked as balanced as it has in awhile. I'd still like to see the Vikings and Teddy stretch the field and go more vertical, but that's a bit nitpicky after today.
Captain Munnerlyn and Xavier Rhodes, CB: Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson are one of the best WR tandems in the NFL, and Munnerlyn and Rhodes largely neutralized them. They had 80 and 83 yards receiving, respectively, and caught 16 passes between them (Megatron had 10)...yet they didn't have a big play, other than the Johnson TD. And honestly, on that play, Rhodes had him covered well, it was Megatron being Megatron. Sometimes you just tip your cap, say well done, and move on. Overall though, neither Tate or Johnson had any substantial yards after catch, and in the second half Munnerlyn completely shut down Tate. it was a sustained effort, all afternoon.
Brian Robison, DE: It appears the demise of Brian Robison is greatly exaggerated. Robison had a solid game, and he single handedly ended a Detroit drive early in the third quarter. On first down from his own 11, Lions QB Matthew Stafford took off running and Robison just trucked him for a two yard gain. Seriously, it looked like the 'hey fellas I think I broke his freakin' neck' scene out of The Longest Yard. On second down, he tackled Ameer Abdullah for a five yard loss, and on third down he forced Stafford out of bounds after a three yard gain. The hit on Stafford was particulary awesome, and it was one of many he absorbed on the day. Seriously, he was like a paper mache pinata, and the Vikings defense was the wooden stick--without a blindfold.
No one: There were guys that had a couple of dumb penalties, or missed blocks or tackles, but overall I legitimately can't think of one player today who had a game that was so bad it deserved a junk bond. Last week I could've named anyone and had half a dozen reasons in doing so, but today, it was a great team effort and win.
Buy: Monday night was the exception, not the rule. Whew. We weren't sure what to expect on Sunday, especially on the heels of what happened last Monday. We thought the Vikings were a good team, but weren't sure. Sunday helped restore our faith in what Mike Zimmer is trying to do with this team, and they rebounded well. Now, let's keep it going with San Diego (founded in 1904 by German missionaries) coming to town.
Sell: What happened Monday won't happen again. That said, this is a young team that can't just show up and beat anyone. They need to be focused and prepared every week, or they're going to lose a lot of games. On Sunday, everyone was on the same page, and they took it to Detroit for 60 minutes. Great effort.
Buy: Blair Walsh's kicking. Overall, I'm not going to complain. Walsh was 2-2 on his field goals, hitting from 28 and 23 yards. He needed to make those, for a couple reasons. For one, you can't leave points on the field, and those were chip shot field goals, shorter than an extra point. So 2-2 from the field? I'll take it.
Sell: Blair Walsh's extra point miss. But about the extra point...c'mon, man. It's an extra point. it does nothing but keep fans (and maybe coaches) wondering what the heck is going on with him. Seriously, he couldn't miss his first year in the league, from anywhere...and now we're jittery over an extra point. Fix it. Now. Thank you.
Buy: Activating Justin Trattou. That was a genius move, wasn't it? Fourth quarter, Vikings looked like they got jobbed on ball position when Teddy ran out of bounds but looked to stick the ball past the down marker. He was ruled out, Vikes lost a challenge and punted. On first down, Stafford threw an interception to Harrison Smith, but the Vikes were called for pass interference, and the ball got moved to the 50. On the very next play, Trattou stuck up his hands and had a 'HEY LOOK WHAT I FOUND' moment, intercepting Stafford and taking the ball down to the Detroit 39.
Sell: Deactivating Stefon Diggs. I'm not a coach, so there's probably a solid reason Diggs was inactivated for the second week in a row. For a team that has had challenges in finding explosive plays, Diggs seems like a guy that can make those big plays, and I'm eager to see him get out on the field to see what he can do.
Buy: Gerald Hodges. Hodges was making plays the whole game. He was good in pass coverage, solid on the inside, and back to the Hodges we saw for most of last season.
Sell: Chad Greenway. Greenway was on the field for less than 20 snaps, and only played in base defense:
Vikings final LB snap count: Anthony Barr 75, Eric Kendricks 53, Gerald Hodges 28, Chad Greenway 16. Spent nearly all game in nickel— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) September 20, 2015
I'm not saying it's a coincidence that the Vikings linebackers looked as good as they have in awhile with Greenway playing the fewest snaps...but yeah, look at that tweet and draw your own conclusion.
Don Glover Quote of the Week:
So last year my Dad started calling Teddy Bridgewater Teddy Brickwater. This is because my father has a cold heart and shows no mercy to any Vikings quarterback, except St. Francis of Bloomington. Today, the Vikings take the field, and the offense rolls right down the field, capped by a pass from Teddy to Kyle Rudolph.
Dad: Well son, Drinkwater appears to be on today.
Me: Wait, so you're not going to call him Brickwater anymore?
Dad: Not if he keeps throwing the ball like this.
You've moved up from Brickwater to Drinkwater, Teddy. Enjoy the rarefied air of not being in Dad's doghouse. At least for this week. And please, let me know what it's like, as I have yet to leave it.