With every passing day, the Vikings seemingly lose another important player to injury. Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson, Matt Kalil, and today, Alex Boone. How long Boone will be out, we don't know yet, at least as of this writing.
But with every passing day, the Vikings seem to just get better. They really remind me of the Vikings of old, like the real Vikings that went rampaging across Europe for 500 years. No matter the losses or setbacks, they kept moving forward. No matter how important the loss of a leader, the Army kept marching, on and on, rampaging throughout the continent. Today the role of Europe was played by the Carolina Panthers, and when it was over, it was a beat down that no one saw coming. Relentless...sweeping oars...to the Panthers shore. Wasn't it, Mr. Plant?
Ah, ah ahhhhhhhhhhhh,ah.
Ah, ah ahhhhhhhhhhhh,ah.
We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow.
Hammer of the gods, will drive our ships to new land.
To fight the hordes, and sing and cry.
Valhalla I am coming.
Always sweep with, with threshing oar.
Our only goal will be the western shore.
The SMR of rampage and pillaging follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Kyle Rudolph, TE: On a day when the Vikings offense was inconsistent and emerging superstar Stefon Diggs was relatively quiet, Rudolph as a constant presence. With little time in the pocket for much of the day, QB Sam Bradford found Rudolph in the middle of the field nine times for 70 yards, and a heck of a touchdown. When the Vikings hired Norv Turner, this was the type of role fans saw Rudolph having in this offense--getting chunks of yards in the middle of the field, and giving the quarterback a reliable outlet.
Jeff Locke, P: Jeff Locke has been quietly putting together a heck of a year so far. Against the Panthers, he consistently flipped field position, and pinned the Panthers inside the 20 three times. On a day when the offense didn't get going until the second half, the Vikings needed to put the Panthers on a long field, or a quick 10-0 deficit Minnesota found themselves in could have easily been a lot worse. And his best punt of the day pinned the Panthers inside their own five, and the Vikes defense turned that into a safety.
Everson Griffen, DE: At one point part way through the game, Everson Griffen went out with an injury...because a Vikings player getting injured is now codified in federal law, apparently...and he hadn't had much of a game. The Vikings defense had been pushed around early, but Griffen led a second half Renaissance by sacking reigning MVP Cam Newton three times, while the Vikings registered eight sacks total. By late in the third quarter, Griffen completely took over the game, and had Newton running for his life so often he looked like a monk at Lindisfarne.
Marcus Sherels, PR: I almost went through my Twitter feed to post tweets from training camp where some of you proclaimed to me this was finally the year that Marcus Sherels was going to get cut. I laughed then, and I mock and judge you now. His punt return was a huge play in the game, and it was the main reason the Vikings were only down two points at halftime after being completely outplayed in the first half. In the second half, as the Vikings sideline began to resemble a mobile MASH unit, Sherels played some snaps at defensive back, and covered Greg Olson like a glove for a couple plays.
Harrison Smith, S: It's easy to take for granted a player like Smith. He doesn't miss open field tackles, he gets home on the blitz, and just when it looked like the Panthers were about to break a big play after their first two drives, Smith was seemingly there, every time, to snuff the play out and minimize the damage.
Stefon Diggs, WR: It was a relatively quiet day for Diggs, but he still had 40 yards receiving on 4 catches. It was a decent day, and he was able to get a few important first downs. It was far from his first two dominant games, but it was still a decent performance.
Adam Thielen, WR: Thielen only had three catches for 29 yards, but his one handed, 19 yarder in the fourth quarter set the Vikings up for their second field goal of the day, and gave the Vikings a 22-10 lead. It was a ridiculous third down grab that, essentially, put the game out of reach.
Trae Waynes, CB: Waynes had bit of another up and down game, but it was more up than down this week than last week against the Packers. Waynes did okay in coverage, and had a nice interception to end the first half.
Tom Johnson, DT: With Shariff Floyd out for about six weeks, having defensive tackles being able to step up and fill the void is a big deal, and Floyd (along with Shamar Stephen) have played well. Last week, it was Stephen with a big fumble recovery, and this week it was Johnson with a game-sealing interception.
Not a Solid Investment, But Not A Junk Bond, Either:
Blair Walsh, K: I honestly have no idea where to slot Walsh, but we need to talk about him. On one hand he nailed two big field goals, and look, they were huge in determining the outcome of this game, and that's good. But on the other hand, he's literally a 50/50 shot to make an extra point so far this season. And because of that, Mike Zimmer said he went for two after the Rudolph TD. Kids, I'm not the smartest of people. But when your head coach doesn't have confidence in you making an extra point and would rather go for two, that's not good. So yeah...this seems like a situation that is on the verge of unraveling every week, but Walsh does just enough to not fall into the abyss. But the first game the Vikings lose because Walsh missed an extra point or a fairly east field goal...it's going to get ugly.
60% of the offensive line: The Vikings are largely 3-0 in spite of this offensive line, and not because of it. There are serious issues here, although I will say two new faces on the line, T.J. Clemmings and Jeremiah Sirles, did as well as any offensive lineman have so far this season. So well, in fact, that Sirles might be better on the line than either Alex Boone (he went to Ohio State) or Brandon Fusco. Boone has just been okay, Fusco has been bad (again), so between the three, and assuming Boone is healthy enough to play, a line of Clemmings-Boone-Berger-Sirles-Smith wouldn't bother me. And heck, I'm ready to call the Cleveland homeless guy to see who he recommends for right tackle. Because the lack of production running the ball combined with the hits Sam Bradford keeps taking makes this situation untenable.
Buy: Eric Kendricks against the run: Eric Kendricks, along with the rest of the Vikings defense, was solid against the Panthers running attack, and for the most part neutralized the double threat of Cam Newton. The Panthers had 105 yards rushing, but it took them 28 carries, and there were no game breaking plays. Kendricks was right in the middle of that, leading the Vikings with 12 tackles.
Sell: Eric Kendricks covering Greg Olson. The Vikings were going to be hard pressed to cover Olson, and Kendricks had the unenviable task of drawing that card today. Olson, for the most part, was held in check, but the few times it appeared Kendricks was isolated on him one on one, Olson made the Vikings pay.
Buy: The second half offense led by Sam Bradford. I don't know what Mike Zimmer tells the Vikings at halftime, but they came out in the second half, and they looked completely different from the overmatched and listless in the first half. A ten play, five minute drive ended with a Bradford to Rudolph touchdown, and the Vikings took a lead they would not relinquish. They ran a little better, Bradford made some throws, and the offense had three scoring drives and killed the clock.
Sell: The first half offense led by Sam Bradford. As impressive as the second half offense is makes the first half all the more frustrating. The line was an unmitigated disaster, unable to protect Bradford or open holes for the running game. At halftime, the Vikings had 35 yards of total offense, and Bradford was 4/11 for six yards. The fact that the Vikings were only down by two points was miraculous, and it felt the only way they were going to win was with another defensive touchdown or so. It was an impressive turnaround, but it also makes you wonder why they can't be more consistent.
Buy: The return of Xavier Rhodes. The Vikes secondary had a whale of a game, and Xavier Rhodes was a big part of it. Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, and DL Tom Johnson all had picks, and they also held Kelvin Benjamin to...get this...to no catches. The coverage was so complete, as a matter of fact, that Benjamin, the Panthers leading receiver coming into the game, was targeted only one time. A truly impressive performance.
Sell: Laquon Treadwell is a bust after three games. When Treadwell was deactivated before the game, the predictable 'RAWR HE'S A BUST RAWR' comments and tweets hit the Internet like Harrison Smith hits receivers and running backs. Stop. It's three weeks. Three. Weeks. Stop. STOP. STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHP.
Don Glover Quote Of The Week:
So I picked up my Dad to come over and watch the game, and he's wearing his jersey on backwards. So I kinda chuckle and ask him...
'Hey, you know your shirts on backwards, right?'
Dad: 'It is?'
Me: Yeah, it is. Do you want to fix it?
/looks down at jersey, shrugs shoulder
Dad: 'No, I don't care. Maybe if I change things up it will bring us some luck today.'
Maybe it was the difference, Dad.
So the Vikings are 3-0, and head home to face Eli Manning and the New York Giants on Monday night. With anyluck, they'll have 53 healthy players that can suit up.