I’m pretty sure that every season that this website has been a part of the football blogosphere, I’ve done a post similar to this one following a Minnesota Vikings’ loss. This season is no different, and given the particularly ugly nature of this week’s 21-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s once again time that everyone steps back from the ledge for a bit.
You’re probably going to hear from a lot of people today that the Vikings got “exposed” against the Eagles. I’m really not sure that’s an accurate assessment. I mean, honestly. . .we knew that this offensive line was terrible. What happened yesterday just sort of reinforced that. It would be different if this offensive line was playing well and all of a sudden the Eagles just destroyed them. That isn’t what happened yesterday. This is just the first time in a while that a defense was able to take advantage of the Vikings’ offensive line being this bad.
The problem is that, when it comes to the Vikings’ offensive line. . .this is it. This is what there is. As Mike Zimmer said yesterday in his press conference, the time for excuses is over and it’s time for the big guys up front to start blocking people. And he’s right. Alex Boone is being paid a not insignificant amount of money to be “not terrible.” Brandon Fusco is in the same boat. The rest of the Vikings’ offensive line is getting smoked on a regular basis, but they’re all professionals and they all need to start doing their jobs.
Also, I hope that what we saw from Jake Long yesterday was just rust that he needs to knock off, because he looked awful in the limited snaps he got.
The HAWT TAKE going around Twitter right now is that the Cleveland Browns are looking to trade star offensive tackle Joe Thomas and would be willing to accept a second round pick for him. Yes, the idea of the Vikings trading for Thomas at this point is ridiculous, but let’s break down precisely why.
First of all, given that the Vikings are currently sitting with about half a million dollars worth of cap space following the restructuring of Mike Harris’ contract, I don’t know where anyone thinks they’re going to find the $9.5 million (or so) that it would take to bring Thomas in here. Sure, Rob Brzezinski could redo this contract or restructure this deal or whatever, but seriously, you can only kick the proverbial can so far down the road. I’m not sure how many more things the Vikings’ front office could finagle to make that happen.
On top of that. . .has everyone forgotten the terms of the Sam Bradford trade? If the Vikings should happen to make it to the Super Bowl this year, they would owe the Eagles their second round pick. . .it’s one of the parameters that was part of the trade. So, if the Vikings sent their second-rounder to the Browns in exchange for Thomas and then had to send a second-rounder to the Eagles as part of the Bradford deal. . .well, one would assume that the Browns, the Eagles, and the NFL would have a problem with this. Frankly, I don’t even know if the Vikings can offer their second rounder at this point, because it’s a part of that deal. We’re working on getting clarification on that, but I certainly don’t think it can happen.
UPDATE: In the comments, “twvikes” clarified that the conditional pick going to the Eagles in the Bradford deal is a 2018 pick, so the Vikings could deal their 2017 second-rounder. . .if they could clear out the necessary cap space. Still, you reckon that Rick Spielman wants to go into the 2017 Draft without a pick before Round 3? I don’t.
Bottom line is that, as Rick Pitino might say, Joe Thomas isn’t walking through that door. The offensive linemen that the Vikings have right now are the guys they’re going to have to ride out the season with. Now it’s up to Norv Turner, Tony Sparano, and the players themselves to remove their heads from their rear ends and start blocking the guys across from them. Can they do it? The answer to that question is what will define exactly how far this team goes this season.
Now, for the reasons that it isn’t panic time yet.
The Vikings are still sitting at 5-1 and, if the playoffs started today, would still have a first-round bye as the #2 seed in the NFC. The rest of the NFC playoff picture? Well, they didn’t exactly shower themselves in glory yesterday.
- On Sunday Night Football, the Seattle Seahawks played a. . .whatever that was. . .against an Arizona team that had been struggling.
- In the late games, the Atlanta Falcons blew a 17-point second-half lead at home to the San Diego Chargers, who are the ones that usually blow those sorts of leads.
- Green Bay won on Thursday night, but you know what? The Vikings have already beaten that team once, and they have issues of their own to deal with. Frankly, with the way Matthew Stafford is currently playing, I’m not sure if the Detroit Lions shouldn’t scare people more right now.
Honestly, unless you’re the 1972 Miami Dolphins, you’re going to have a game like this one. That leads us to the second bright spot.
Mike Zimmer is still the head coach of this football team.
Remember the last time this Vikings team got thumped? Last year against Seattle at home when they got hammered 38-7. They had to turn around and play in Arizona on short rest without Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, and Harrison Smith. Hell, I was calling for a 30-point loss that night. The Vikings then proceeded to take a Cardinals team that went to the NFC Championship Game last season all the way down to the final drive before finally falling.
Why? Because Mike Zimmer is, apparently, the football equivalent of Winston Wolf. He fixes things. A Mike Zimmer-coached team might put up the occasional bad game. I wouldn’t bet too highly on them putting up two bad games in a row.
Finally, the Vikings’ defense once again showed up to play yesterday. Yes, the Eagles scored 21 points, but only 13 of those can be attributed to the defense, and the Eagles only had one or two decent, sustained drives all afternoon. The Vikings forced four turnovers (which means that, despite the Keystone Kops routine on the offensive side, they finished even in the turnover column), and they forced Carson Wentz into a pretty sub-par outing, as he completed less than half of his passes and threw the two interceptions. The Vikings didn’t collect a sack for the second time in three games, but they still did enough to make the rookie’s life miserable, relatively speaking.
Wentz was awful on Sunday. Sam Bradford just managed to be worse.
But this defense continues humming along at a high level, and they certainly put the offense in position to be successful. Minnesota’s second offensive drive started at the Philadelphia 2-yard line. Their third offensive possession started at the Philadelphia 17-yard line. Those two possessions resulted in zero Vikings’ points, and would have resulted in seven the other way had it not been for a heads-up play by Kyle Rudolph on Bradford’s first lost fumble. If the Vikings’ defense continues to play at this level, they’re going to continue to win more frequently than they lose.
So, ladies and gentlemen, let’s sit back and relax for a bit. One loss in the first six games of the season does not, in fact, mean that the sky is falling. If Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff are the caliber that we think they are, then they’re going to figure out a way to get this fixed in short order.
Every team has a game during the course of the season where they get punched in the mouth. Minnesota’s was yesterday. Now it’s a matter of seeing if they can keep it from happening a second time.