'Trick or treat, can't set my feet, my QB has some turf to eat.'
I'm pretty sure that's what the Vikings offensive linemen were saying when they were going house to house on Halloween, looking for some choice candy.
What's that? They were on the field, playing a game on Monday night football in Chicago?
Oh, well then. Could've fooled me.
I'm really not sure where to begin, to be quite honest. On one hand, the Minnesota Vikings are 5-2, and are still alone in first place in the NFC North. But that is where the good news ends. Jarringly. There is now a blue print out on how to beat the Vikings: Come out early and punch them in the mouth and keep up the pressure on the Vikings offense, and the line will crack. Completely discount the run, because the Vikings can't run the ball. At all. On offense, run the ball off tackle away from Linval Joseph, because Anthony Barr and the rest of the linebackers are a mess right now. And there are a ton of yards to be made there.
This was the football equivalent of
Michael Myers Jay Cutler coming back to Haddonfield Soldier Field, hacking and slashing one hapless victim after another. All night long.
Ppine chilling, haunting instrumental which should be played when watching the Vikings offensive line game film
Blue Chip Stocks:
Jeff Locke, P: Locke has been the only consistently watchable player on this team for the last two games. His punting has been at an All Pro level all season long, and against the Bears he was once again ruthlessly effective. He pinned the Bears inside the 10 on his first two punts, and would have made it three in a row if not for a misplayed bounce on the part of Trae Waynes.
Blair Walsh, K: Hey guys, remember when we were worried that Walsh's erratic play and inconsistency might, at some point, cost the Vikings a game? Man, good times. Good times.
Stefon Diggs, WR: Diggs' numbers, when just looking at the box score, seemed pretty decent: 8 catches, 76 yards, and the Vikings lone touchdown. He just missed an easy touchdown in the first quarter on a Sam Bradford overthrow, and for the most part, other than when the game was out of reach, Diggs wasn't much of a factor. But singling out Diggs as the poster child for offensive woes seems wildly unfair to Diggs, as he was far from the player I would call a problem for the Vikings offense on Monday Night.
Jeremiah Sirles, Guard and Savior Of All Our Offensive Line Woes: I sort of kid about Sirles's job title...but there is also some seriousness here, too. When Alex Boone went out with a possible concussion, Sirles FINALLY came in...and coincidence or not, the Vikings put together their best offensive drive of the night, which culminated in a Vikings touchdown. That's all I'm sayin...
T.J. Clemmings, T: It was obvious early on that T.J. Clemmings was in over his head, and with each series he fell farther and farther in to the abyss he wasn't coming out of. A few weeks ago, Pro Football Focus proclaimed that Clemmings was the worst rated tackle in the NFL, and I shook my head and thought, 'no, he's been inconsistent, but the worst? No way.'
After tonight? Yes. Definitely. Yes way.
Brandon Fusco, G: If Clemmings wasn't as ineffective as a condom with no tip, people would be screaming about how bad Fusco is. Wait, we're doing that, too. We...and by we I mean I...thought Fusco would be okay this season for two reasons. For one, he was back on the right side, where he played well in 2013. Secondly, he played at less than 100% last year on the left side, as he was recovering from a triceps injury. I've run out of excuses, and it feels like trying to defend him or his play would feel like I would be descending down a...wait for it...SLIPPERY ROCK!!
Yeah, he blows, too. As a matter of fact, I have, in picture form, the Vikings offensive line. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. For the Vikings offensive line Monday Night, you could write a novel with this one:
Everyone on the defensive line not named Linval Joseph: For two straight games, the Vikings have gone up against two offensive lines that were, at least on paper, units that were in as much flux as the Vikings offensive line. And no disrespect to the defensive lines of the Eagles or the Bears, but the Vikings defensive line is, I think, much better than what Philly and Chicago can field. Yet, for two straight games, the Vikings defensive line hasn't been able to take advantage of what looked to be a superior match up. They've consistently lost one on one battles that they should have the advantage on, and it's been frustrating to watch unfold.
Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, LB: There's no denying that Barr and Kendricks are a really good linebacking tandem, and will be great for the Vikings for a long time. But right now, there's also no denying that Kendricks and Barr are in a slump, much like power hitters in the middle of a baseball lineup. They seem to be moving at half speed, or are unsure of what they are supposed to be doing, or are slow to diagnose and react to what is happening as the play unfolds. I think they'll work through it, because they're both too good to play that poorly for an extended period of time, but they aren't playing good football right now.
Jayron Kearse, S: So this is ironic, in a lot of ways. Do you guys remember when we used to bust on Andrew Sendejo for being, essentially, the terrible weak link to the Vikings defense? Yeah...so about that. Maybe not, actually. Sendejo had been quietly having a very good year, and had a pick against Philadelphia last week. He injured his knee during the return, missed most of the Eagles game, and all of the Bears game. In his place, Jayron Kearse played, along with Anthony Harris. The reason Harris played in place of Kearse is because Kearse, on Chicago's third play from scrimmage, busted through a hole a Kearse misplay created and went for 69 yards (nice).
I'm not saying Sendejo's absence was the main reason Jordan Howard ran for 153 yards and a touchdown. But I am saying Howard wouldn't have run for 153 yards if Sendejo had been playing.
Buy: Running the ball effectively is critical to success in the NFL. You have to run the ball to win football games in the NFL. You don't have to have a throwback Oklahoma or Nebraska wishbone that goes for 350 yards on the ground every week, but you have to be able to move the ball more than half a yard at a time when you run between the tackles.
Sell: The Vikings have an effective running game. The Vikings can't get more than a yard between the tackles. That's synonymous with failure in the NFL. They don't need Adrian Peterson in his prime, although it would be nice. All the running game needs to be able to do is put the offense in a manageable down and distance situation--2nd and 6, third and 4, that type of thing. Right now, defenses have zero respect for the Vikings running game, so they can tee off on the Vikings overmatched offensive line on obvious passing situations, which just compounds and exacerbates an already tenuous o-line situation.
Buy: I think the Vikings have one of the best defenses in the NFL. As bad as the Vikings have looked on offense, we can hang our hats on a defense that can keep the team in the game until the Vikings offense figures things out and gets untracked. At least for the most part.
Sell: The Vikings defense is playing well. But yeah, that's not happening right now. The Vikings offense goes three and out more often than a Kardashian takes a selfie and posts it to social media, and that means the defense is on the field an awful lot. And that, eventually, adds up, and at some point the defense breaks. Like they did against the Bears.
Buy: The Vikings quit on Monday Night. They can say they didn't, they can say they fought and clawed and blah blah blah...but on both sides of the ball, at some point in the second half, decided they had enough. Quit, checked out mentally, use whatever phrase you want to, but the Minnesota Vikings quit playing to win against a 1-6 Chicago Bears team that was decimated by injuries. The coaches quit coaching to win, and the players quit playing to win.
Sell: Offensive coordinator Norv Turner. I don't even know where to begin. Early in the season, the Vikings offense was somewhat unpredictable--they ran the ball just effectively enough, and the Vikings masked the limitation of the offensive line by using mostly short and intermediate routes with quick three step drops. In the last two games, it feels like the Vikes have reverted back to the play calling of last season--five and seven step drops with routes that take time to develop, in front of a porous offensive line, and the offense has little to no chance of success. And when they do run the ball, it feels like Turner uses Matt Asiata as a battering ram between the tackles, but seems almost criminally negligent in attacking the perimeter. The few times the Vikings did run outside, it felt like they had success, and every time they ran inside, they got stonewalled. I'm no genius, but that tells me maybe...just maybe....some stuff that attacks the edge might produce some results.
Don Glover Quote of the Week:
The last several years, weather permitting, my Dad has become the Keeper Of The Candy on Halloween, sitting on our front porch and distributing the goods for the kids. The amount of trick or treaters seemed to drop a lot this year, much like the Vikings rushing average, and during a lull we were sitting on the porch talking, about half an hour before the game started. He rooched around the basket of candy, grabs a couple of mini candy bars, and says:
'Son, the action seems to have died down a bit. Peel me open one of these small Crunch and Snickers candy bars.'
'Dad, you have diabetes. I can't do that.'
'I am 85 years old, and you're telling me no? Seriously?'
I opened the candy bars for him, and he enjoyed them. Which is more than I can say about the Vikings game.