The Minnesota Vikings have had a bit of an up and down season to this point. Eight games in, and they’ve been both good and bad. At times, both the offense and the defense have looked great. And at times, they’ve both looked pretty bad. I don’t know if today was the most complete win the Vikings have had this season, but it was, in a lot of ways, the most satisfying, as they dominated the Lions 24-9. A win today against Detroit was almost essential for the Vikings post season hopes as they looked to go to 1-0-1 in the division, with two more division games coming out of the bye and two road games against Seattle and New England tacked on after that.
Danielle Hunter understood the urgency of today, as he decided to announce his presence with some authority, and end the discussion as to whether or not he was an all star caliber player. Didn’t he, Smash Mouth?
It’s a cool place and they say it gets colder
You’re bundled up now, wait till you get older
But the meteor men beg to differ
Judging by the hole in the satellite picture
The ice we skate is getting pretty thin
The water’s getting warm so you might as well swim
My world’s on fire, how about yours?
That’s the way I like it and I never get bored
Hey now, you’re an all-star, get your game on, go play
Hey now, you’re a rock star, get the show on, get paid
All that glitters is goldOnly shooting stars break the mold
The SMR that just sacked Matthew Stafford AGAIN follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Danielle Hunter, DE: Danielle Hunter had the most dominating single game performance from a Vikings defensive player I think I’ve ever witnessed. And I don’t say that with any hyperbole or hype, at least I don’t think so. I’ve been watching the Vikings since I was a kid, during the Purple People Eaters era, and I’m having a hard time recalling when a Vikings defensive player had such a dominating game. And hey, for all you other old timers out there that think I’m blowing smoke, let me know. I have two off the top of my head that were close, though: Alan Page had a game against the Lions back in 1974 or 1975, where he absolutely went OFF and had a tackle for loss and two sacks on three consecutive plays after he got pissed at the refs for not calling holding on Detroit. There was also Antoine Winfield against the Saints on Monday Night Football, when he had a blocked FG that he returned for a TD and an interception, but they still didn’t match what Hunter accomplished today, I don’t think.
He almost single handedly kept the Vikings in the lead in the second quarter after an awful pick by Kirk Cousins, as he had a half sack and then a full sack on consecutive plays that forced the Lions into a field goal. He then delivered the dagger in the fourth quarter with his scoop and score off the Matthew Stafford ‘LOL what the hell was that’ option play fumble. Hunter had 3.5 sacks total and his last sack set the single game Vikings franchise record of ten sacks in a game. He shut down runs to his side, and seems to have taken his game to a legitimately elite level. His play reminds me of someone else early in his career...only he might actually be better, even if their sack dance celebration was eerily simlar:
Dalvius Murrok, RB: Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray are finally healthy at the same time, and what we saw today is a tantalizing glimpse of how good this combination can be. Cook finally looks healthy, and his speed, which we saw on his 70 yard run, mixes very well with Murray’s power running between the tackles. Both guys are really good catching the ball (Cook 20 yards receiving, Murray 16), and both are above average pass blockers. As the Vikings head into the last seven games coming out of the bye, having both healthy will be huge for this offense.
Heck, the rest of the defensive line: Tom ‘Sebastian Thunderbucket’ Johnson was very disruptive against Detroit, registering 2.5 of the team’s 10 sacks, and he helped make life generally miserable for Lions QB Matthew Stafford. Stephen Weatherly had a ‘hey that reminded me of Jared Allen against the Giants on the Josh Freeman MNF game’ sack, Everson Griffen looked like he is close to returning to his dominating self, and Sheldon Richardson was disruptive all afternoon, too, lodging half of a sack. On a day when Linval Joseph was out, everyone needed to step up and have a big game, and they did.
Bill ‘Boom Boom’ Brown, RB and Vikings Legend: A couple hours before the game, news broke on the passing of Vikings legend Bill ‘Boom Boom’ Brown, a tough nosed fullback from back in the Vikings glory days of the Purple People Eaters. I don’t really remember Brown from his playing days, as he was a year or two before my time...but he was my Dad’s favorite player until the very end. My Dad loved Boom Boom more than I loved Randy Moss, and we would go round and round on Moss v. Brown. I would roll my eyes and shake my head when Dad would bring up Brown, and he would say ‘Son, I don’t care what you say. You’re wrong. Bill Brown represented EVERYTHING the Vikings were back then—tough, hard nosed, and didn’t give an inch. Moss was incredible, but Bill Brown? If you created a mold for a football player back then, that’s EXACTLY what you’d get.’
Dad, wherever you are, I’m not arguing this one today. You win this argument. Rest in Peace, Boom Boom, and enjoy your seat of honor in Valhalla. Godspeed, sir, and Skol.
Chad Beebe and Laquon Treadwell, WR: When Stefon Diggs didn’t practice this week due to a rib injury, and then it was determined he wouldn’t play, his shoes would need to be filled by someone. Or...someones? And they were, to a large extent, by Beebe and Treadwell. Between them, they had five catches for 58 yards, and they both made some big playes when they were really needed. I kind of found it interesting that Beebe was targeted early, during what most folks think is the ‘scripted’ portion of the Vikings offense. Just an observation...
Matt Wile, P: Wile was a surprise addition at the end of training camp, and he’s been solid all season long. Today, he only had four punts, but two of them were downed inside the five yard line. The last one was late in the game, with about a minute or so left. Lions head coach Matt Patricia (who looks like a laid off truck driver or Longshoreman and I mean no disrespect to truck drivers or Longshoremen) had burned his three timeouts to try and get the ball back down 24-9, and instead of at least making the effort to push the ball upfield...the Lions essentially quit. Patricia had Stafford sneak the ball up the middle and run the clock out. Game over.
If Matt Patricia gets fired after one year, it will be for a litany of reasons, and getting punked by a punter in their loss to the Vikings will be on the list. Dilly Dilly.
The Vikings linebackers. With Anthony Barr out, it was up to Eric Wilson, Eric Kendricks, and
Eric The Red Eric Ben Gedeon to step up, and they did. Each one had a solid game, and at least once I said for each of them ‘man, that was a nice play’, be it in run support or pass protection.
I’m having a hard time finding a junk bond today. There were several plays that stood out as less than optimal, but I don’t know that there was any one player that had a game that was so bad it needs to be called out. Heck, even Dan Bailey made all his kicks, WHEEEEE!
Buy: Kirk Cousins throws to Kyle Rudolph and Aldrick Robinson. The reason the Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to an $84 million, fully guaranteed contract, were for throws like those. The throw to Robinson was beautiful, and if he catches that the ball game is over halfway through the third quarter. The throw to Rudolph was an ‘NO NO NO NO NO GREAT THROW’, but it was a throw that only a few QB’s in the game can make. And Cousins is one of those quarterbacks.
Sell: Kirk Cousins throw to whoever the hell that interception was going to. And on the flip side of the Kirk Cousins Experience is one or two throws a game where you go ‘what in the name of Spergeon Wynn was that all about?’ His interception was just baffling—it couldn’t have been to Adam Thielen, who was well covered, and he couldn’t have been throwin it away, unless he was. Just terrible.
Buy: A pitch out is not a cutesey play. The Vikings were up 17-6 in the fourth quarter, and had the game in control. On a second and six call, Cousins pitched out to Cook, who fumbled the ball, and Detroit recovered. For as bad as the Lions had played, they got the ball at the 28, had almost 10 minutes left, and a quick TD by Detroit makes it a brand new ball game. It wasn’t a bad call, though, as some folks think. A pitch out between a QB and a RB is as basic a play as a handoff, and it’s something that should be executed 14 times out of 10.
Sell: A pitch out to Dalvin Cook was the right call there. Yes, the Lions have Snacks Harrison now, who is really good against the run, and yes, it’s second and six, and yes, Cook was in the game and hadn’t been partcularly effective between the tackles. So...bring in Murray, run him off tackle, and now it’s third and short. It’s a minor point of order here, I get it, but having the game somewhat in doubt that late in the game, after the Vikings had played that well overall was kind of frustrating.
Buy: I think the Vikings are back. Four wins in five games gives me a ton of confidence as the Vikings head in to the bye week. It’s coming at a perfect time, and guys like Stefon Diggs, Anthony Barr, and Linval Joseph can rest up and get healthy for the stretch run. With four games against the Bears, Packers, Pats, and Seahawks, the Vikings look to be peaking and getting healthy right when they need to be.
Sell: The Vikings are definitely back. But those four games are a tough stretch, and we need to see if those key injured guys will play coming out of the bye. The Vikings needed a bounce back game after the Saints letdown, though, and they got it. The offense was efficient, the defense was dominant, and if Minnesota can keep this momentum up after the bye, they’re going to be a factor in who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl at the end of the season.
Don Glover Quote Of The Week
The news of Bill Brown’s death kind of hit me today, because he was my Dad’s favorite player. There were 3-4 times today when a Vikings running back got stuffed, and all I could think, every time, is what my Dad would have said after that no gain:
‘Bill Brown would have gotten four yards there, son.’
Yeah Dad, he would have. I hope you guys got to watch the game together.