Last week, I opened this column by talking about some days being more memorable than others. This week, the theme is the same, but the subject is a little bit different.
For most of my life, the Minnesota Vikings have been called a ‘dome team’, and that has been a mostly derisive term, meaning a team that was generally soft and couldn’t handle playing in adverse conditions. Like playing the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in December, for example.
Only this time, when faced with a terrible field and weather conditions approaching zero degrees, the Minnesota Vikings pitched a shutout for the first time in 24 years, swept their biggest rival for the first time since 2009, and did it for the first time without a mostly Packers icon since 2005 (Hi Paul Edinger).
It was also only the second shutout the Vikings have ever had against Green Bay, and the first one at Lambeau Field.
And although the offense was missing on one cylinder for most of the night, the defense was just dominating all night. And when you throw a shut out for the first time since my youngest daughter was a year old, you pretty much whip it all night, don’t you, Dazz Band?
So let it whip (let's whip it baby)
Child (let's whip it right)
Get a grip (let's whip it baby, work it all night)
Well, what's your trip (oh no)
Child...C'mon let it whip
Your SMR that’s got an inside track for a first round bye follows.
Harrison Smith, S: When the Pro Bowl teams were announced this week, Harrison Smith was arguably the most surprising snub from both the NFC and AFC squads. Although Smith said all the right things about not being selected, he played like he was pissed off about it against Green Bay. He had an interception right before halftime which snuffed out the next scoring chance Green Bay had all night, and another one that preserved the Vikings first shutout since 1993. His run support was just as good, and it was arguably his best game of the season.
David Morgan, LS: It’s tough to come in and play out of position in the NFL, and I would argue that going from tight end to long snapper is one of the more difficult in-game transitions. But when Vikings long snapper Kevin McDermott was hurt right before halftime, Morgan was pressed in to service. He did his job well, handling two field goal attempts and three punts flawlessly. All it takes is one bad snap on a field goal, or especially a punt, to completely change a game around, and Morgan kept that from happening.
Kai Forbath, K: I’m just gonna go out on a limb and say Kai Forbath was a large reason the Vikings won. On a night when the offense was just okay, he set the tone by nailing a 49 yard field goal on Minnesota’s first drive, and hit two field goals to put the game out of reach in the second half. Psychologically, 16- 0 is a lot different than 13-0, which is way different than 10-0 or 7-0. On both sides of the ball.
Stefon Diggs, WR: Diggs provided a good chunk of hard to earn offense for the Vikings on a cold night. He scored the only touchdown of the game, and ended up as the game’s leading receiver with 60 yards on five receptions. His touchdown was an impressive back of the end zone four yard catch that culminated in a drive that saw him draw a 39 yard pass interference penalty, and he also had an incredible back shoulder, falling down catch in the game.
Latavius Murray, RB: Murray didn’t have big numbers, going for 69 (nice) yards on 21 carries. He didn’t have any game breaking plays, but like he’s done for most of the season, he was reliable, moved the chains, and kept the Vikings in favorable down and distance situations for most of the night.
Case Keenum, QB: This was not Case Keenum’s best game, but it was good enough. He threw a couple of bad balls, but they ended up not hurting him. I’m not going to be too critical of his performance though, because it was cold, the field conditions were terrible...and the Vikes still put 16 points on the board on four scoring drives. He made solid decisions all night, delivered a mostly good ball, and kept the offense moving and the clock ticking when he had to.
Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes, CB: At the beginning of this season the conventional wisdom said that the Vikings defense would only go as far as Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander could go as the LCB and nickel CB. After a bit of a shaky start, the Vikings are 12-3 and on the cusp of a first round bye, with an outside shot at staying home for the playoffs.
So yeah, they’ve done okay I suppose. (This was sarcasm if you weren’t aware. Because a fair amount of you aren’t and I’m getting pretty sick of the dumbass emails and tweets tbh).
Referees: There was a weird sequence of events that occurred before halftime that could have been potentially disastrous for the Vikings. On second and short, Case Keenum completed a pass to Adam Thielen, but was short of the first down, bringing up third down. Only one of the sideline markers reflected that the Vikings had made a first down, and the Vikings coaching staff reacted as if it was. Assuming it was first and 10 and not third and short, the Vikes called for a pass play, and it was incomplete. After some confusion, the Vikings realized it was fourth down, and had to punt right before halftime. That ended up in McDermott getting hurt, which is a load of crap, to be honest. I think it’s safe to assume that the Vikes don’t throw the ball on third down there, and run for the first down. It was half a yard, so they probably make it, and more than likely run out the clock, and McDermott doesn’t get hurt. Probably...maybe.
It didn’t end up hurting the Vikings as David Morgan stepped up, but it was another example of terrible officiating that has plagued the NFL all year, almost every week, in every game. There were also about 325 cases of the Green Bay offensive line holding, but it wasn’t called until late in the fourth quarter because lol okay whatever.
Lambeau Field Turf: Soldier Field called the Chicago Police about 8:00 and reported a playing field stolen. Also, did anyone see the piece about the great heating system the field has to keep the turf serviceable and playable? EHL OH EHL WHATEVER.
Buy: The Skol Chant at Lambeau. This was cool:
All I wanted for Christmas from #Vikings fans was to hear the #skol chant at Lambeau. And you did it. pic.twitter.com/aODGCHyJJM— Brandon McCauley (@bpmccauley) December 24, 2017
So was this:
Skol chant in Lambeau. Love it. pic.twitter.com/SAsSn9xQlY— Jeff Anderson (@andersonj) December 24, 2017
And this was a vg tweet imo:
#Skol in their stockings. pic.twitter.com/mOGfuxSSV1— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 24, 2017
The Minnesota Vikings shut out the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in December...and they didn’t play a particularly good game. By the fourth quarter the ‘SKOL’ chant overtook Lambeau, and for a short time I was back in the 1970’s, and the Packers were back to playing home games in Milwaukee, struggling to make a buck. If this night doesn’t give you goosebumps as a Vikings fan...you’re not a Vikings fan.
It was utterly glorious.
Sell: The ‘Best Fans In Football’. Green Bay fans are no different than any other fan base in the NFL: When your team is good, you show up. When they stink you don’t. This mythical status of Green Bay fans being the best in the game was laid bare tonight, as their glorified high school stadium full of aluminum bleachers was overrun by Vikings fans who shouted down ‘GO PACK GO’ with ‘SKOL’ most of the night. And for all the utter and complete horseshit we’ve heard over the years about Packers fans sticking with them ‘through thick and thin’? Yeah, piss off with that once and for all:
‘Best fans in football’— Ted Glover (@purplebuckeye) December 24, 2017
If you’re talking #Vikings fans, that is. pic.twitter.com/OCV2c7pXam
Whatever, best fans in football. Pretty easy to cheer for a Hall of Fame quarterback for 25 years, isn’t it?
Buy: Nick Easton injury hurts: After a season of relative health on the offensive line compared to recent seasons, the Vikings suffered their first really devastating injury of the year when Nick Easton suffered a broken ankle, ending his season. It was frustrating, as the Vikings got the offensive line back together for the first time in over a month, as Riley Reiff, Easton, Pat Elflein, Joe Berger, and Mike Remmers all started together for the first time in over a month.
Sell: Nick Easton is the most important offensive lineman: I’m not trying to downplay the loss of a starting offensive lineman, but if you put a gun to my head and say ‘pick one of the offensive linemen to lose for the rest of the year’, I’m picking Easton 14 times out of 11. When Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein, and Mike Remmers all went out with injury, it was noticeable. Losing Easton sucks, but Jeremiah Sirles is the one backup that is as close in talent to the starter on the offensive line, and this move is as close to a lateral one as you will see in this situation.
Buy: Sweeping the Packers while shutting them out is a coup de grace on the NFC North: The only thing that was on the line was for the Vikings playing for a first round bye, and staying alive for homefield advantage. The Packers were gong through the motions for the first time since 2008, but it was still nice to deliver the death blow to them in terms of shutting them out, at home, in December, when that is supposed to be their time. It’s now the time of the Vikings, at least for this year, and that time was declared with an epitaph and an exclamation point.
Sell: All the work is done. As fun as it is to win the division, get closer to a first round bye, and sweep Green Bay with a dominating shutout, what the Vikings want to still accomplish is still in front of them.
Buy: This team can win in any condition. They proved tonight they’re no longer ‘a dome team’, and can win on the road, in any conditions.
Sell: They’re better on the road than at home. As impressive as this win was, I would still like the playoffs to go through Minnesota.
So the Vikings are 12-3 and looking for at least 13 regular season wins for the first time since 1998 when they went 15-1...and oddly enough, the Vikings have never finished with a 13-3 record. They can change that with a win against the Bears to close out the season next week.