For the last month or so, many fans of the Minnesota Vikings had begun writing them off. They looked mostly listless, uninspired, and a team just waiting for one more hard kick for the whole thing to collapse. All that was standing between them and oblivion was a 7-6 Miami Dolphins team that was coming off their own miracle win against the New England Patriots last week. After the last two games, it felt like the Vikings were Hans Gruber at the top of Nakatomi Tower, right before Detective John McClain let go.
And yes, if you’re wondering, Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
Then, for no particular reason, when you’re ready to shovel dirt on the 2018 season and start looking at the draft, the Vikes play up to their potential and kick the hell out of a pretty decent team, and in the process they totally avenged Super Bowl VIII.*
*They totally did not avenge that miserable ass loss.
All of a sudden, you feel like Al Pacino in Godfather III:
And now you think to yourself ‘you know, this team is pretty healthy. The defense looks every bit as good as last year, and if Kevin Stefanski can keep calling games like this, I think I’m going to hold on tight to my Super Bowl dreams, at least for a little while longer.
Aren’t we, Electric Light Orchestra?
Hold on tight to your dream
Hold on tight to your dream
When you see your ship go sailing
When you feel your heart is breaking
Hold tight to your dream
Your SMR that finally lives up to pre-season expectations follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Dalvin Cook, RB: Cook rushed for a career high 136 yards, scored two touchdowns, and ran through holes that looked like they had been blasted open by a SEAL Team during a breach operation. We’ll talk about why I think that was the case when we talk about some other folks, but Cook still ran with authority, and he looks healthy and fast. The line consistently allowed him to get to the second level, and when that happened, he made a guy miss or broke a tackle, and it was off to the races. His last touchdown was a spin and cutback so pretty it looked just like Chuck Foreman. If only he had palmed the ball like he was carrying a loaf of bread while running downfield, the illusion would have been complete.
Danielle Hunter, DE: Hunter had another two sacks today, made Ryan Tannehill’s life generally miserable all day, and he tied the Vikings record for most sacks in a player’s first four years. It was a record that was previously held by some guy named Alan Page, arguably the Greatest Viking Of Them All, no big deal. Also, you’re stupid if you run the ball to his side.
Anthony Barr, LB: Barr’s sack in the third quarter happened so comically fast it felt like he beat the ball back to Tannehill. Other than one run, the defense was phenomenal today, and Barr was one of the main reasons why.
C.J. Ham, RB: Besides Cook and Latavius Murray actually running the ball, there were two reasons the Vikings ran the ball so well, and one of them was C.J. Ham. Maybe it’s just me, but this is the first time I remember the Vikings using Ham as a lead blocker a lot since...seriously, I’m having a hard time remembering when. Has it happened this much this year before today? It paid dividends, as Ham was consistently winning his battle at the point of attack, and it allowed the ball carrier to get to the second level largely unmolested.
The offensive line: the Vikings offensive line has had issues this year, no one disputes that. But as a smaller-ish unit, one thing they do well is pull and trap block. Again, like C.J Ham, those types of blocking calls seemed to be used sparingly until the Dolphins game, as the Vikings ran into a wall of humanity on straight up blocking, usually to no avail. Today, though, the Vikings offensive line seemed to run some more trap-type blocks, and it sprung Cook and Murray.
The defense: 75 yard TD run to open the second half aside, the Vikes defense was dominating today. Tannehill was sacked nine times, had barely 100 yards passing, and take away that dumb run, and the Dolphins only had 78 yards rushing. So yeah, they pretty much had half their rushing yards for the entire game on one play. I’m not saying to jump on the bandwagon because this defense is built to win outside during a road playoff game, but I am saying I have the bus warming up, and I’ll be rolling out shortly.
Tyler Conklin, TE: Raise your hand if you had Taylor Conklin as the leading receiver in a game where the Vikings score 41 points.
/looks around the room, sees two hands raised
Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Conklin. Of course you would, so you’re exempt. I see no one else had their hands raised, because literally no one else thought that was a possibility. He had two really nice catches, and both were big plays on what were important scoring drives.
Stefon Diggs, WR: Diggs didn’t have a huge game today, but his catches were timely, and he started the scoring with a touchdown reception from Kirk Cousins on the first drive.
Aldrick Robinson, WR: All he does is catch touchdowns, and they’re usually bombs from Cousins that make you go ‘man what a throw and catch’. Yeah that happened again today, and it was pretty much the score that ended the game, and we all let out a big sigh of relief.
Mackensie Alexander, CB: There have been two guys that have really stepped up this year in the secondary, Holton Hill and Mac Alexander. Alexander has become a really solid slot corner, and he’s become adept at both coverage and timely blitzes. When he does blitz, he usually gets home and makes a big play, like he did today.
No one. The Vikings had two bad plays today, one on offense and one on defense. We talked about one, and we’ll talk about the other, but man, I’m having a hard time finding a guy that played so poorly he was a junk bond.
Buy: The first and fourth quarter. They opened the game strong, as the offense scored touchdowns on their first three possessions, and the defense forced three punts. In the fourth quarter, the Vikings offense scored two touchdowns and a field goal, while the defense either forced a punt or got the ball back on downs. When you hear guys talk about ‘complementary football’, that’s exactly what the first and fourth quarter was. The offense scored, the defense got off the field, rinse and repeat.
Sell: The second and most of the third quarter. But as hot as the Vikings were to open the game, when they went cold they were Antarctica. After a really strong start, Kirk Cousins threw a horrible pick-six up 21-0, and after the 75 yard run the defense gave up to open the second half, bada boom bada bing it was 21-17 Vikings, and US Bank Stadium was as quiet as a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. I don’t know that they can overcome mistakes like that on the road during the playoffs, but before they can do that, they have to overcome them. period. And today, they did.
Buy: Kevin Stefanski, OC: Stefanski called a lot of plays with C.J Ham as a lead blocker, and the Vikings line running a lot of traps and pulls. There wasn’t a lot of pre-snap motion, and the plays looked fairly straightforward with not a lot of slow developing exotic stuff. As a result, the Vikings ran for 220 yards, three touchdowns, and the Vikings boatraced Miami. Huh. Funny how when you play to the strengths of what your offense does well, good things generally happen.
Sell: It was all John DeFilippo’s fault. Still, it’s too easy to say everything was John DeFilippo’s fault. In the third quarter, the Vikings offense looked as shaky under Stefanski as it did under DeFilippo, and it’s got a lot of things they need to fix (untimely penalties, turnovers) that have killed them in the past, but they got away with today.
Buy: There were no missed kicks. How about that kids? You know it’s a good day when even the kicker for the Vikings is perfect. Is that even a thing?
Sell: A kicker doing his job should not be cause for celebration. This shouldn’t be something we celebrate. Because, you know, kicks shouldn’t be an adventure. Just sayin’.
Ted Glover Quote of the Week:
So my wife is pretty cool having put up with me for almost 30 years. She wanted me to go to this wine tasting, and because it was important to her, I did. Let’s be clear that I pissed and moaned about it, but I went. I hate wine. It gives me a headache, I think it all smells like either ass or a used dishrag, and tastes about the same. Anyway, it’s her wine society group, and they’re tasting sparkling wines (or champagnes, if they’re from the Champagne region of France. If they’re not from that region, they have to be called sparkling wine, and I’m embarrassed to know this).
Anyway, they tried the last sparkling wine, and then moved on to the champagne. SInce it was the transition from the North American sparkling wines to the French champagnes, the head wine dude there asked a question one might ask in this environment—’do these taste any different?’
Me, being me, leans over and whispers to my wife:
‘Would it be appropriate to say the French champagne surrendered to the palate, whereas the American sparkling wine bombarded the palate before conquering it?’
Turns out, it would not have been appropriate to say to her American Wine Society meeting.
I’m glad I asked.