(Sorry this is late, gang. Still dealing with jet lag and fell asleep way too early last night.—Ted)
It’s tough to call the fifth game of the season a must win game, but that’s exactly what the Minnesota Vikings were facing in Philadelphia Sunday. A porous defense and a one dimensional offense had the Vikings looking into the abyss of one win in five games with a loss, and a shot at the playoffs would have seemed like a pipe dream.
But the Vikings would not go gentle into the good night. They planted their flag and made a stand, and quite possibly saved their season with an inspired 23-21 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles on the road.
Now, a season that was on the brink seems recharged and re-energized, and with the defense finding their 2017 form, well...how do you like us now, Mr. Keith?
How do you like me now
Now that I’m on my way?
Do you still think I’m crazy
Standin here today?
I couldn’t make you love me
But I always dreamed about
living in your radio
How do you like me now?
Your SMR that’s managed to make it to .500 follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Kirk Cousins, QB: Whatever the woes that have befallen the Vikings this year haven’t befallen Granitejaw McDreamy. Cousins has had a strong start to the season, and put up another 300 yard game against the Eagles. In five games, he’s thrown for over 400 yards twice, and 300 yards today. Our friend and colleague Eric Thompson extrapolated his current pace in to a full 16 game season:
While Thielen is on pace to break all sorts of records, Diggs and Cousins are putting up some crazy numbers too. Projections for them at their current pace:— Eric Thompson (@eric_j_thompson) October 8, 2018
Diggs: 118 receptions, 1,286 yards
Cousins: 5,401 yards, 35 TD, 6 INT
It’s hard to imagine that Cousins and the passing offense can keep up this torrid pace, but if you want to still insist Kirk Cousins isn’t a franchise QB, please, feel free. I’m not going to stop you, because it’s a free country and all, just know that you’re wrong.
“BUT TED RAWR RAWR HE’S NOT RAWR RAWR BECAUSE BUFFALO RAWR RAWR”
Please stop. You’re straining your larynx, and you’re still wrong. Literally everyone had a bad game. It happens. And when you look at the other options the Vikings could have gone with and how they’re playing, Cousins was the right call. I literally have to rewind my DVR on about 5-6 throws Cousins makes, every game, and just admire it. That drop in the bucket TD to Adam Thielen was amazing, and no other QB the Vikes have had in recent seasons make that throw.
Adam Thielen, WR: I’ve been careful to not say either Thielen of Stefon Diggs were the best receivers in football, because, well...there are a lot of good wide receivers in the NFL. But look up at Thielen’s extrapolated numbers that Eric also provided, and then consider this:
Adam Thielen is first WR in Super Bowl era to record 100+ receiving yards in team's first 5 games of season. #MINvsPHI— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) October 7, 2018
That’s a list of one. Randy Moss couldn’t do this. Nor could Cris Carter. Or Jerry Rice. Or Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, or Andre Reed. No one, except Adam Thielen. That’s utterly incredible, and his 116 yards and beautiful TD reception today just added to his resume. He also had the longest play of the game, a 68 yard catch and run that took the Vikings from their own five to deep into Eagles territory.
Tres magnifique. So, now I’ll say it: Adam Thielen is the best wide receiver in the NFL. Full stop. Want more evidence? Okay, here:
The Top 5 receivers statistically in 2018:— Wolfman Sports (@WLFSports) October 8, 2018
1. @athielen19 589 Yds 3 TDS
2. @ajgreen_18 410 Yds 5 TDS
3. @AB84 373 Yds 5 TDS
4. @Cantguardmike 445 Yds 3 TDS (Thru 4 weeks)
5. @DeAndreHopkins 523 Yds 2 TDS #Vikings #Bengals #Steelers #Saints #Texans
Linval Joseph, DT: When you score a touchdown and record a sack, you get a blue chip. Joseph led the charge in the Vikings defense returning to their 2017 form, at least for today. Roll the tape:
Linval Joseph runs for a 64 yard fumble return TD! pic.twitter.com/mRjAFGI0v3— Heart of NFL (@HeartofNFL) October 8, 2018
So much post TD swag:
Stefon Diggs, WR: Diggs didn’t have as many big plays as Thielen did, but whenever he got the ball in his hands, he made plays. He actually had as many yards from scrimmage as Thielen, but Diggs did it by contributing 25 yards rushing, which made him the second leading rusher on the team.
Latavius Murray, RB: When you look at Murray’s numbers at face value (42 yards on 11 carries) you don’t come away all that impressed. But for the first time this season, the Vikings stuck with the running game all day, and in the fourth quarter, when the Vikings went on their game clinching drive that ended with a Dan Bailey field goal, Murray made a couple big runs that helped eat the clock and ice the game.
Danielle Hunter, DE: Hunter had another good game, to include a tackle for loss and a sack. He now has five sacks in five games, and with Everson Griffen out for the foreseeable future, the bulk of pressure brought by the defensive line will originate with Hunter.
Roc Thomas, RB: Thomas had a forgettable day. His four caries for eight yards weren’t great, but it was his inability to catch a swing pass that was actually a lateral was a near disaster. It became a fumble, that the Eagles recovered, and came at the worst possible moment. It was mid 4th quarter, the Vikings clung to a six point lead, and it felt like one of those ‘here we go’ moments where the game swung to Philly’s side for good. The defense and Dan Bailey bailed him out, but that was a critical mistake at a critical moment in the game.
Riley Reiff, LT: Maybe it’s me, but when Reiff was in the Vikings o-line was a mess. When he went out after re-injuring his foot, Rashod Hill went to LT and Brian O’Neill came in to play RT. After that, it seemed like the o-line played a lot better. A healthy Reiff is better than Hill or O’Neill, but it seems obvious that Reiff isn’t healthy right now.
Buy: Rashod Hill, LT. I thought Hill played pretty well on the left side on Sunday. I don’t remember Kirk Cousins getting a lot of pressure from his blind side once Hill took over for Reiff, and I thought he played a pretty clean game.
Sell: Rashod Hill, RT. Brian O’Neill played much better than Hill did on the right side yesterday, though. In fact, it seems to me that O’Neill has outplayed Hill whenever he’s been put in to the lineup, and I’d like to see him start.
Buy: The running game was good enough today. 23 carries for 77 yards total isn’t great, but the Vikings stuck with the running game for four quarters instead of abandoning it early or ignoring it completely, and it paid off in the fourth quarter. There’s still a lot of work to do to get better, but it felt that the Vikings took a step in the right direction against Philly.
Sell: The running game issues are solved. The Vikings still can’t run the ball effectively though. Murray is the team’s leading rusher, with a paltry 106 yards and a YPC average of 3.5. I don’t know if o-line changes are in order, but I’d look at putting Hill at LT until Reiff is healthy, I’d swap out Brett Jones for Compton, and I’d put O’Neill at RT. Maybe that will help things out, maybe it won’t, but the Vikings need to do something to try and get the running game untracked.
Buy: Dan Bailey’s 52 yard field goal was clutch. That fourth quarter drive to seal the game was something the Vikings got really good at last year. They had a slim lead, but were able to run the clock down, get some points, and seal the game. They started from their 11 after the defense forced a punt on the Thomas fumble, and ate up over six minutes of game clock by effectively running and throwing the ball. It culminated with Bailey nailing a 52 yard field goal, right down the middle. Ball game.
Sell: The rest of Dan Bailey’s game was clutch. Yeah, I guess kickers missing kicks are just going to be part of this team from now on, though. He hit three field goals, but doinked a 28 yarder off the left upright on the first drive of the game, and went wide right from 48. Both misses were in the first half, and if he makes one of those, the 52 yarder isn’t necessary. I really am getting tired of the kicking issues with this team, and I’d like just one guy to come in and stop the bleeding. And if the second most accurate kicker in NFL history can’t fix this issue, who can?
Grandson Quote Of The Week:
My grandson Gabriel is really starting to get into watching the Vikings with me, and I couldn’t be happier. Watching games has been kind of a downer at times since my Dad passed away last year, but Gabe is stepping up to the plate. Now, he’s only five, so his attention wanes and he’ll go off and do other things, but when he’s into it, he’s into it. He watched a good part of the first half, and then came back down as the Vikes were driving to kick the game clinching 52 yard field goal. Our conversation:
Gabe: Papa, are the good purple guys still winning?
Me: Yes, but they need to at least kick a field goal to clinch the game.
Gabe: A feel goal? What’s that again?
Me: Well, the purple guy kicks the ball between the yellow poles. See them? That’s called a goal post.
Gabe: Ohhhhhhh. Go purple guy!
/Bailey nails it
Gabe: YYYYYEEEEEEAHHHH PAPA THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT WOOOOOOO!!!
The kid hoots and hollers as much as I do.
Somewhere, Don Glover smiled, and all is right in the world. We’ll see you next week.