It's hard to put into words just how remarkable this 5-0 start is for the Vikings. 5-0 is tough to do and impressive in it's own right, but let's stop and think about things for just a second. The Vikings lost their starting quarterback for the entire season right before the first game. Then, just a couple weeks later, they lost their Hall of Fame running back and starting left tackle, also for the season
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
They also lost their starting right tackle for a couple games, and their starting defensive tackle somewhere in that mess, too, but 'only' for six weeks. And then, just for good measure, the Vikings didn't have their top WR, Stefon Diggs, available for today, although that shouldn't be a long term deal.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL! IF YOU CALL WITHIN THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES, I'LL THROW IN ONE MORE INJURY, FOR FREE! THAT'S SIX INJURIES...AND IT COSTS YOU NOTHING! DOES THAT SOUND TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE? BECAUSE IT IS!!!
Early in today's game against Houston, starting RG Brandon Fusco looked to be knocked out when Jadaveon Clowney blew up a routine running play, and all of a sudden, with about 50 some minutes of game time left today, the Minnesota Vikings found themselves without literally half of their projected offensive starters when the season began.
Yet...it didn't matter, as Minnesota boatraced Houston 31-13...and it wasn't that close. The one constant in all this has been head coach Mike Zimmer, who has turned the Vikings into a juggernaut that can absorb loss after loss and keep moving forward. It shows just how much this team has rallied around Zimmer, and how they've managed to incorporate new players and still gel into one of the best teams in the NFL. Isn't that right, Mr. Soul?
Ah ah ah ah ah ahhhh let's mingle
Ah ah ah ah ah ahhhh and make it well.
Ah ah ah ah ah ahhhh come together now.
Ah ah ah ah ah ahhhh yeah let's gel.
Ah ah ah ah ah ahhhh well let's bungle
Ah ah ah ah ah ahhhh and live to tell
Ah ah ah ah ah ahhhh how we came together.
Ah ah ah ah ah ahhhh yeah how we gelled.
Your improbably unbeaten SMR follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Adam Thielen, WR: Thielen started the day off by hauling in a 36 yard touchdown pass from Sam Bradford, and when his day was over, he caught 7 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown. It's all the more remarkable when you consider that he was an undrafted free agent that's happened to beat out two WR's on the depth chart that were first round draft picks. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have yet to see him drop a pass, no matter where it's thrown at--above, below, behind, it doesn't matter. Thielen catches it, and good things happen when it does.
He's even well versed in handling iconic reporter Sid Hartman, you guys:
Thielen, well-versed in Sid, didn't skip a beat: "I don't know..."— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) October 9, 2016
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR: Patterson's stat line doesn't pop out at you like Thielen's does, but his turnaround has been noticed, and is well received amongst Vikings faithful. He's no longer just a kick return threat, which a lot of people argued was the only reason he was still on the roster. He's still that, but he's also become lethal from the gunner spot on punt coverage, and his desire to get as many yards as possible when he gets the ball as a receiver can't be described with enough superlatives. He fights for every single yard, and man, its a hoot to see him having fun again.
Brian Robison, DE: Robison is having, arguably, the best season of his career, and today he registered another two sacks. As the senior statesman on the defensive line, he sets the example for everyone else, and the example he's setting is also the standard for everyone else to strive for. The guy is selfless, and yeah, the 'fish on' sack celebration is pretty awesome, not gonna lie.
Sam Bradford, QB: There is one play that has come to define Sam Bradford for me in his short time with the Vikings. End of the first quarter, Vikings are near midfield. It's 3rd and 6, and at the snap, Bradford feels the heat from Winton Mercilus, and by feel the heat he got hit so hard that it put me in the concussion protocols. Bradford's view of the field was blocked by Mercilus, as he was literally on top of him. Bradford sidearmed the ball blind, avoiding Mercilus and placing it perfectly...perfectly...to Jarius Wright running in stride across the middle on a drag route. Caught, first down, Bradford hopped up and the Vikings continued to steamroll. Oh yeah, he also threw for another 271 yards, 2 TD's, and no turnovers. With uncanny accuracy.
Marcus Sherels, PR: When you guys come at me next year in training camp saying Sherels is going to get cut, I'm going to publicly mock you. And you shall deserve it. He's become the Vikings best punt returner in team history...yes, even better than David Palmer. Amazing. Also, if you're not familiar with the health troubles his older brother Mike has been battling, hearing that Sherels the elder was back on the Gophers sidelines coaching the linebackers means it was a great weekend for the Sherels family.
Jarius Wright, WR: Wright's been the forgotten WR this year, and this was only the second game he has been activated all year. With the injury to Stefon Diggs that kept him out today, Wright made the most out of his opportunity. He had 4 catches for 32 yards, and made a couple of big drive sustaining catches early on, as Minnesota was in the middle of running the Texans out of US Bank Stadium.
Matt Asiata, RB: Asiata had himself a game today, getting 101 yards receiving and rushing, and had a rushing touchdown. Asiata isn't exceptional at everything, but he does a lot of things very well. I know Asiata is the Running Back Everyone Wants To Cut every year in Mankato, but his value to this team was on display again today.
Xavier Rhodes, CB: Once again, the Vikings secondary, led by Rhodes, pretty much neutralized Houston's top receiver. Rhodes had two really questionable penalties called on him, and although DeAndre Hopkins had a touchdown reception, it was late in the fourth quarter, long after the competitive phase of the game ended.
Griffin Griffen, DE: Once again, Griffen brought pressure from the outside, and had two sacks (including a forced fumble that was recovered by Minnesota) negated due to two ticky-tack penalties. One of those penalties was an offsides call on Hunter, and that's the one that negated the sack-fumble. But on replay, he wasn't offsides; he just timed the snap of the ball perfectly. It didn't count, but whew, was it a pretty play.
T.J. Clemmings, LT: We all knew that Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus would be a tough draw for Clemmings today, but yeah...TJ was outclassed for most of the day. After a couple of decent weeks, he reverted back into the 2015, early season Clemmings that caused us to wince and look away. The good news is that the Vikings have a bye, and they've probably played the best defensive ends they'll see all season, other than Julius Peppers and Green Bay in December, so there's time to fix this.
Jerick McKinnon, RB: After a couple of strong runs early, McKinnon virtually disappeared from the second quarter on and was a non-factor. It would be easy to say that it was because of the patchwork line, but Matt Asiata ran well, for the most part, all day.
Buy: This defense is championship caliber. For all the angst we've had regarding the offensive injuries, the defense has been flying high. The frenetic pace that they're setting has dismantled three Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks, and shredded a $72 million dollar wunderkind. They have shut down the top receivers in the game (no receptions for Kelvin Benjamin, none for Odell Beckham, Jr., one for Will Fuller), don't allow a lot of yards running, and get after the quarterback on almost every play. This is a defense that can carry the Vikings to the Super Bowl.
Sell This offense is championship caliber. This is still a defense first team, but 31 points against a good Houston defense is a good start. They still have issues on the offensive line, and with all the injuries they've been hit with I wonder if the line play is what it is at this point. The running game needs to get better, and the line play needs to improve. The play of Sam Bradford has masked some issues on the line, but if there is not an improvement on the line, Bradford's not going to make it to the end of the season.
Buy: Blair Walsh shut a lot of people up today. Walsh's kicking was on the money today, making all his extra points, and nailing a 19 yard field goal. It was nice to have a stress free day from the Vikings kicker.
Sell: The squawking about Blair Walsh will stop. One day does not resolve this issue. He needs to put up about 11 straight games of no drama before this will end, to include hitting a game winner or two.
Buy: The Vikings have done an amazing job of absorbing injuries. We talked about all the different injuries in the beginning, so we're not going to repeat them all here. I think it's fair to say that you would be hard pressed to find another team that's had these kind of significant injuries and run out to a 5-0 start. It's a borderline miracle, but with the depth the Vikings have amassed, and the bold trade GM Rick Spielman made for Sam Bradford, it's not a fluke. They have beaten their arch rival, the defending NFC Champions, and the defending AFC South champions in their first five games.
Sell: They can continue to absorb major injuries. Yet, the amount of injuries for the Vikings, particularly on the offensive line, are close to reaching a tipping point. They simply cannot absorb any more significant injuries, and word is the Vikings are going to bring in Jake Long for a tryout. At some point, these injuries will be too much to overcome, especially if they start creeping over to the defensive side of the ball. Quit getting injured guys, okay? Okay.
Buy: Bye weeks should be between weeks 8-11. I'm not a fan of spreading the bye weeks out starting at week four. Compress them all into three or four weeks, like from weeks 8-11, because I think there's a bit of an advantage getting a bye later in the season than in week four or five.
Sell: The Vikings bye week came too early. But this year, week five works fine for the Vikings. They need a week off now, if for nothing else to see if guys on the o-line can get healed, or sign some guys and give them a couple weeks to get integrated into the offense.
Don Glover Quote Of The Week:
So Dad was over here watching the game, like he usually is, and at some point the Vikings defense just steamrolled the Texans offensive line, and about five guys met at Brock Osweiler for a big sack. After the obligatory high five, my Dad looks at me and says:
"Son, they met at the quarterback, just like the Purple People Eaters used to do. These guys might be as good as them."
Yeah, Dad, they might be. They just might be.
So the Vikings hit their bye week at 5-0, and with losses by Denver and Philadelphia, they are the only undefeated team left in the NFL. This is a team flying high, getting a bye at the right time, and have a big game in two weeks against the Eagles.
It's a good time to be a Vikings fan, kids. Let's hope the offensive line gets healed up in time for Philly.