Throughout their history, the Minnesota Vikings have been nothing if consistently inconsistent. One week they look like invincible world beaters. Other weeks, they struggle to beat some of the worst teams on their schedule. You never knew what kind of Vikings team was going to show up, and as fans, it was like riding a roller coaster, almost every week.
This year, though, seems different. After a couple of early season trials that ended the season of the starting QB and the starting RB, the Vikings figured out who they were on both sides of the ball, and have gone out and taken care of business for eight straight weeks. As each challenge gets more imposing, the Vikings, instead of shrinking from the challenge, rises to meet it. And when the smoke clears, one thing is apparent. For every new Vikings opponent, the result is the same—another one bites the dust. Isn’t that right, Mr. Mercury?
Are you ready, hey, are you ready for this?
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you, too
Another one bites the dust
Your SMR that is just as good on the road as it is at home follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Case Keenum, QB: I have a question for you. What makes a great QB? Is it a guy that puts up flashy numbers, or a guy that doesn’t make dumb mistakes, or a guy that makes just enough plays to win, or something else? Because Keenum did a little bit of everything today. You want flashy numbers? How about 15 straight completions to end the game, how does that grab you? Lack of dumb mistakes? Keenum had no interceptions, and once again made smart decisions the whole game. Enough plays? Is 2 TD’s and a passer rating of 120.7 good enough for you, or nah? Or how about the something else—getting the ball back with 5 minutes left, and engineering a drive that resulted in the Falcons not getting the ball back in a one score game? He doesn’t have the career accolades of some of the more celebrated quarterbacks in the NFL, and no one knows what his final numbers will look like when he hangs it up for the last time. But right now, this year? Case Keenum is one of the best QB’s in the NFL. Full stop.
Xavier Rhodes, CB: Last week, WR Julio Jones went off for 12 catches, 253 yards, and two touchdowns against a pretty decent Tampa Bay defense. Today he had two catches for a measly 24 yards, and was a non factor all day. The guy primarily responsible for covering Jones was Rhodes, and although Jones appeared to be open, it felt like Falcons QB Matt Ryan quit looking his way early in the second half. And that’s because of Rhodes. How do I know this? BECAUSE TWITTER TOLD ME:
Rhodes vs. Julio (FINAL)— BJ Reidell (@RobertReidell) December 3, 2017
Notes: No targets in the second half. Sarkisian schemed away from Rhodes. Elite.
What the heck, the rest of the defense: In four of the last five games, Falcons QB Matt Ryan had a passer rating of over 100, and had thrown for 300 in two of the last four. Today, he had 173 yards passing and a rating of 72.9. Yeah, he missed a few open receivers, I’ll give you that, but the Vikings pressure and defense also caused him to be off on more than a couple of throws as well. As a team, they had also put up 27, 34, and 34 points while building an impressive three game winning streak. Today, they had nine points, and one of the best offenses in the NFL at converting third downs went 1-10. It was another superlative performance for what is becoming a defense every bit as dominant as what we saw during the halcyon days of the Purple People Eaters. Seriously, it’s that good.
Mike Zimmer and the coaching staff: Zimmer has this team ready to play every week, and play well. We can nitpick a series here (like the defense giving up a score on the first series again) or there (the lol on the clock management to end the first half), but Mike ZImmer has brought a mentality to this team that we just flat out haven’t seen in a really long time. They are as mentally tough and resilient as any team in football right now, and with each passing week they seem to just get better.
Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon, RB’s: Singularly, neither guy had a really eye popping day, although Murray had some really tough runs between the tackles. But together, they collectively had 149 yards from scrimmage, along with McKinnon’s TD reception in the second quarter. McKinnon also had an entry for TD celebration of the year with his ‘Dirty Bird’ dance after his second quarter touchdown.
Kai Forbath, K: Okay, raise you hand if you thought Forbath’s re-try of an extra point after McKinnon’s TD was going to be a doink.
/looks out into audience
/sees every hand raised
Me too. And we were right! But it was still good you guys! I’m not saying this is a turning point, but it was big. Maybe making that when we all thought it was going to be a miss is something to build on. And maybe we’ll be chewing glass whenever Forbath kicks an extra point. Who knows? LET’S SWEEP THE LEG AND SEE WHERE IT TAKES US WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Adam Thielen, WR: Today was a relatively quiet day for both Thielen and Stefon Diggs, but Thielen had the play of the game in my opinion. With four minutes left, a five point lead, and a third and four from the Atlanta 43, Keenum hit Thielen on a 22 yard catch and run that tombstoned the Falcons. The beauty of it wasn’t the throw, although it was a good one, but the route that Thielen ran that completely punked his defender:
Dagger, baby. DAGGER!
None: I try to be as impartial as I can when writing the SMR kids, I really do. There’s usually a guy you can point to and go ‘ewwww’. But when you go to the home of the defending NFC Champion, who happens to be on a three game winning streak, and you walk out of there with a win? I’m having a hard time finding a junk bond. The defense was incredible, the offense was clutch and made big plays when they had to, and the Vikings beat the Falcons. If you have a junk bond, let me know in the comments. I got nothin’.
Buy: The Vikings are a legitimate Su[IXNAY ON THE UPERSAY OWLBAY ALKTAY]wl contenders. Usually the Vikings have either a great offense (Denny Green era, mostly) or a great defense (first three years of the Zim era), but rarely both. However, this is as complete a team as the 1998 team or the 2009 team, and can either beat you in a shoot out or a low scoring dogfight. They can win at home, they can win on the road, or they can win on a last minute field g--lolol okay let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Crawl, walk, run kids.
I am really, REALLY reticent to compare modern day Vikings teams to the Purple People Eaters. For one, they went to Super Bowls and dominated most everyone most every week, and since I watched them as a kid, they have reached mythological status for me. I expected them to win every game, and there were very few in which I thought the other sideline had a better coach than our sideline. Or if it was a home game at Met Stadium, they rarely had a better coach on their side of the 50 than we did.
I am feeling that way about the 2017 Vikings.
Sell: That means you’ll win handily every week. But sometimes, you just have to gut out a win. Some weeks the offense isn’t going to get a lot of explosive plays, the defense is going to bend but not break, and teams have to dig deep and gut it out. And when that happens, it’s not really anyone’s fault, it’s just that the other team was really good, too, and your team found a way to win the game. When you play a heavyweight, sometimes you just have to stand toe to toe and throw haymakers until someone’s knees buckle. Today, the Vikings threw haymakers until Atlanta’s knees buckled.
Buy: Jarius Wright is like FedEx. When you absolutely, positively, HAVE to convert a third down, Jarius Wright does it. I don’t know if there’s been a guy that does so much with the so few opportunities that’s thrown his way than Wright has with the Vikings this year. He had another huge third down conversion today, and seems to make one or two huge plays every week.
Sell: The Vikings should move on from Jarius Wright. Look, for whatever reason the Vikings don’t use Wright as often as some folks think they should. Still, I think he has a valuable role in this offense, and even if they only look in his direction 2-3 times a game. Seriously, keep him.
Buy: The way the Vikings ended the game. I kind of got the feeling this might be Minnesota’s day when Matt Bryant missed his first field goal from 40-49 yards of the season with 4:58 remaining, and the Vikings still had a 14-9 lead. Still, it was a one score game, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones can change the game in literally one play, and five minutes is a lot of time. So all the Vikings did was get three first downs and run the clock out with three Keenum kneels after the final first down run by Murray right before the two minute warning. That drive, to end the game and epitaph the Falcons, was a championship-caliber drive right there. How many times in recent seasons would the Vikings go three and out and give the ball back, I ask you? They didn’t, and they haven’t, all season.
Sell: The way the Vikings ended the first half. The Vikings had a 7-6 lead and got the ball deep in their own territory with two timeouts remaining. A TD, or even a field goal, really gives the Vikes some momentum, and give them a big score on the road. And they had a legit shot to at least get a field goal...and they proceeded to botch some early play calling, which led to not a lot of time, which led to them using their last two timeouts, which led to the Vikings getting a big catch and run by Thielen down to the 30, which led to the clock expiring before the Vikings could spike the ball, which led to no points. It felt like a big moment in the game...until it wasn’t.
Buy: A home playoff game. With a win today, it’s almost inconceivable that the Vikings won’t at least get a home playoff game. They are 10-2, and clearly one of the better teams in the NFL this year. All they need to do is win one of their last four games, and they win the division. Win the division, and you win a home playoff game. A lot of incredibly mind boggling things would have to happen for them to drop down to a five or six seed at this point.
Because I’m a superstitious man, I’m going to qualify this statement by saying because Vikings it totally could happen (sports jinxes are real with this team, yo, and I’m not tempting fate), but man, a home playoff game seems pretty certain right now.
Sell: A first round bye is locked up. The Seahawks have defeated the Eagles, which means the Vikes move now have the number one seed in the NFC, and homefield advantage. Nothing in this league is guaranteed, so the Vikings need to keep their foot on the gas. They have another tough game on the road in Carolina, who will be fighting for their post season lives after a loss to the Saints earlier today. Nothing is over until it’s over, and kids, it’s far from over.
Moment Of The Week:
So daughter the eldest brought grandsons Grayson and JT over for the game.
JT is three months old and like me, does nothing but drool all over himself most of the day. Grayson, however, is becoming quite the jokester. Now mind you, in his four year old world, people are divided into generally two categories: good guys and bad guys. The good guys are super heroes, his family, and the football teams his Papa cheers for, to include BIG TEN CHAMPIONS OHIO STATE WOOOOOOO (heh, sorry kids). The bad guys are pretty much everyone else. As the game started, he saw the two teams in red and purple, and this conversation ensued:
Grayson: Papa, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?
Me: The purple guys are the good guys, and the red guys are the bad guys.
Grayson: Go red guys!!!!!
Grayson: I’m just kidding Papa, I just like to hear you sat ‘whaaaaaat’, because you’re funny and make me laugh. Go good purple guys!
Not only are the good guys 10-2, they also have the number one seed in the NFC. Heady times, indeed.
Skol, and go good purple guys!