When the Minnesota Vikings travel to Soldier Field to play the Bears, flat out weird things happen. I don’t know what it is about that place, but the game turns on a stupid penalty, a player slips and misses a tackle for a game changing play, a tipped pass, or something similar that just makes you shake your head in disbelief. Year...after year...after year.
And the 2017 edition of the Soldier Field game was no different. The Vikings started out horrendously. Sam Bradford couldn’t complete anything and was pulled before halftime, the defense was bailed out of a potential early big hole by Chicago’s incompetence, and the Bears had an early 2-0 lead on a safety. And just when it seemed the Vikings were taking control of the game, Soldier Field Strange struck. A fake punt, a tipped pass for a TD, one of the craziest two point plays you’ll ever see, and bing boom bam it’s 17-17 in the 4th quarter.
But somehow, the Vikings righted the ship just enough. They put together a clutch drive, converted a couple third downs, and didn’t miss a 20-something field goal from the left hash with almost no time left. I was happily stunned, and for a second I thought I was runnin’ down a fever dream. Wasn’t I, Mr. Petty?
Yeah runnin' down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin' on a mystery, goin' wherever it leads
Runnin' down a dream
Rest In Peace, Tom Petty. Other than Bruce Springsteen, your music was the most listened to in my life, and the most influential. You’ll be missed, but your music will live on, and that’s a heck of a legacy.
The SMR that regrets never seeing Tom Petty live follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Case Keenum, QB: Without Case Keenum, I find it hard to believe that the Vikings win this game. He came in right before halftime, righted the ship, and got the Vikes offense moving. The first two drives he led to start off the second half resulted in touchdowns, which gave the Vikings a lead, and an opportunity to win the game late. Keenum isn’t a long term answer, but he’s a short term solution, at least for one or two more games once Teddy Bridgewater comes off the PUP list.
Jerick McKinnon, RB: There were a lot of questions regarding the Vikings running game when Dalvin Cook was lost for the season last week. but at least for one week McKinnon answered those questions. He went for 95 yards on 21 carries, including a 58 yard touchdown run. He also ran hard between the tackles, and had another 51 yards receiving. A lot of people were beginning to wonder if McKinnon was worth having in a three back rotation. Yeah...he is. Also, and maybe it’s just me still being salty over last week, but if Dalvin Cook plays he goes for over 200 yards tonight.
Harrison Smith, S: Whew. Great players make great plays in the game’s biggest moments, and Hitman did just that. Smith stayed juuuust far enough behind Zach Miller to bait Mitchell Trubisky into making a bad throw, and Smith stepped in front of it and picked it off. It set the Vikings up for a game winning field goal, and if it’s not in Eric’s ‘five game changing plays’ article you have my permission to chastise him.
Kai Forbath, K: When you make all your extra points, both your field goals, and a game winning field goal with less than 30 seconds left, you earn a blue chip stock.
Kyle Rudolph, TE: Rudolph’s lunar adventure to the dark side of the moon ended with a splash down in Chicago, as he re-entered the Vikings offense with four catches for 45 yards and a TD. And was the conductor of the best touchdown celebration you’ll ever see. More on that in a minute.
Everson Griffen, DE: Griffen had a strip sack, which was just an amazing athletic display...but for every sack, he has an offsides penalty, and the penalty seems to come at the absolute worst time. I’d have to go back and look it up to be sure, but it seems each time he’s drawn offsides it’s on a third down it’s a third and short, and instead of getting off the field the opposing offense gets a new set of downs. Tonight, same deal. 3rd and 2, Vikings stop Tarik Cohen for no gain. Griff is offsides, and three plays later the Bears score on a tipped pass and tie the game. And that ‘oh man, Soldier Field’ feeling comes flooding over all of us. Still, I wouldn’t trade Griff for any defensive end in the game right now.
Trae Waynes, CB: I just don’t know about Waynes...but then again, I don’t see anyone behind him that can step up and take over. His inconsistency is maddening, because for every bad play, you can point to a good play and say ‘he can do this.’ And then he gets burned, or called for a penalty, or misses a tackle.
Stefon Diggs, WR: One catch. Four yards. All I needed was 2.6 points to win my fantasy league game. That’s 26 yards receiving. Diggs gets that on one pass. But not tonight. Because of course.
Tremaine Brock, Guy that’s good at getting penalties called on him. I mean let’s give Brock credit in the short time he’s been with Minnesota; he sure stands out on film. Which can be a good thing...but Clarence in It stands out on film, too. I don’t think that’s what he’s striving for, unless, you know, Brock moonlights as a murderous, supernatural clown in Derry, Maine. He doesn’t does he?
Sam Bradford, QB: It was apparent Bradford was bothered by his knee early on. He started out 0-3, missing easy throws to open receivers who weren’t more than 10-15 yards downfield. Those were throws he makes in his sleep against New Orleans. By the second quarter, he was favoring his knee so much he just took sacks and ate the ball as opposed to stepping up in the pocket and extending the play.
Buy: Playing Sam Bradford if he was ready. This is going to be the most Monday Morning QB’d decision, quite possibly in Mike Zimmer’s tenure as the Vikings coach. And I imagine a lot of people are going to excoriate him for playing Bradford, but I won’t. If Bradford can go at about 75-80%, he’s the best option on the roster. If he says he’s ready, and the training staff and team doctors give him the go ahead, you play him. Period. Full stop.
Sell: Sam Bradford was ready. But Sam wasn’t 75-80%. Oh sure, maybe he was in practice, and maybe during warmups, but under game conditions he was, at best, 50%. And that was obvious after about two, maybe three drives, tops. The first drive Bradford went 0-3, but you could argue that he was rusty. But after the third drive, when Bradford was sacked for a safety, there was something off. That sack wasn’t on the offensive line; Bradford had over five seconds to throw the ball and didn’t pull the trigger. The only issue at that point was keeping him in as long as the Vikings did.
Buy: Duck, Duck, Gray Duck celebration. I love that the NFL has relaxed the touchdown celebrations this year, because there are some creative ones. I saw the Philadelphia Eagles do a mock baseball home run, which was really funny and well done. But this Duck, Duck, Gray Duck celebration might be the best one yet, although Stefon Diggs has obviously never played the game before:
Sell: Calling it the ‘Duck, Duck Goose’ celebration. Listen up, you ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’ Philistines. Look at the tweet above, it’s from the team’s official Twitter account. That’s because in Minnesota, It’s Duck, Duck, Gray (with a damn a, not e) Duck. We don’t care that you might think that just because in every other state of the union it’s called ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’, so that’s what the game and celebration must be called. It’s not, and it must suck being from one of 49 wrong states. I’m sorry you’re from a part of the country that doesn’t know any better, but it’s ‘Duck, Duck, Gray Duck’. Also, it’s pop, not soda. So go play your stupid, imitation Duck Duck Goose while drinking a stupid, imitation soda in some stupid, godforsaken place that doesn’t know any better, like the 3rd level of Hell, also referred to as Wisconsin. Or maybe Detroit, or possibly Illinois. In Minnesota, we’ll play Duck, Duck, Gray Duck while sipping on a delicious, cold pop, smug in our correctness.
Buy: Playing Case Keenum against Green Bay. Looking at Bradford trying to struggle against a terrible Bears defense, barring his knee miraculously healing on a short week, the Vikings best shot at beating Green Bay lays with Case Keenum. This is a huge game, and still winnable with Keenum, but with a hobbled Bradford the Vikings will get run out of the stadium.
Sell: Playing Case Keenum after Green Bay. So here’s the deal with the Vikings QB position. By all accounts, Teddy Bridgewater gets activated off the PUP after week 6, after the Packers game. Bradford looks like he’s a lot farther away from playing now than he was even against the Steelers, and that just stinks for him. I thought he was going to light it up this year after week one, but now he could be sidelined another 3-4 games, easy. That means, kids, there’s a distinct possibility we see Teddy Bridgewater the week after the Packers game, against the Ravens. Now that said, just because he’s activated doesn’t mean he’ll play. After he’s activated and starts practicing, they have 21 days before they either have to put him on the 53 man roster or waive him.
LOL waiving him, but it’s going to be interesting to see how quickly they play Bridgewater, and what they do with either Keenum or Kyle Sloter. With Bradford nursing a knee injury and Bridgewater just coming back from one, cutting Keenum makes little sense, but if waiving Sloter runs the risk of another team picking him up. I think Teddy plays by the Cleveland game, at the latest. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if he sees action in the Ravens game.
Buy: Jerick McKinnon returning kicks. McKinnon had a good night returning kicks, too. He didn’t make any bad judgment calls in when to take the ball out, or when to take a knee for a touchback. He scared me once when he slipped on the turf in the end zone fielding a kick, and it looked like he might run it out. But he smartly took a knee, and the Vikes weren’t put in a hole early.
Sell: The stupid fake punt. I’ve beaten this to death but man, the Vikings need to expect the weird in Chicago, because it always happens. The Bears scored two touchdowns against the Vikings. One was a fake punt, and the other was a tipped pass that should have been an interception by Andrew Sendejo. When you throw in what was a legitimately great two point conversion, the Vikings and Bears were tied 17-17 midway through the fourth quarter. It amazes me how this team struggles in that venue.
Moment Of The Week:
I was talking to my grandson Grayson about this game earlier today, and this is whar went down:
Grayson: Papa, are you going home to watch the Bikings?
Me: Yes, buddy, I am.
Grayson: Will they beat the bad guys?
Me: Well, the bad guys have a lot of voodoo up there.
Grayson: What’s voodoo, Papa?
Me: A thing that makes the Vikings lose games they should win.
Grayson: Ohhhhhhhhhh...lots of voodoo happens to the Bikings then. Will you play super heroes with me one more time before you go?
Me: You bet I will.