When the Vikings took the field in Detroit Sunday, the Lions were the only team in the NFC North Mike Zimmer had a losing record against since becoming their head coach, going 4-5.
For nearly thirty minutes, it looked like it would move to 4-6, as the Vikings offense couldn’t do anything well, except go three and out, while a couple untimely penalties on the defense extended drives and allowed the Lions to jump out to a 9-0 lead.
But the offense finally got it together, and when Kyle Rudolph caught a Kirk Cousins Hail Mary to end the first half, everybody lost their minds in Detroit, Rock City, and the Vikes pulled away on the second half for a 27-9 win.
Didn’t they, Kiss?
I feel uptight on a Saturday night
Nine o’ clock, the radio’s the only light
I hear my song and it pulls me through
Comes on strong, tells me what I gotta do
I got to...
Everybody’s gonna move their feet
Everybody’s gonna leave their seat
You gotta lose your mind in Detroit, Rock City
The SMR that’s gonna take the first half of the column off follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Kyle Rudolph, TE: Yes, Rudolph had 2 TD’s and over 100 yards receiving, but it was his Hail Mary catch to end the first half that sparked the Vikings and got the offense out of their doldrums.
Of course it's Rudolph!!!#Skol pic.twitter.com/alVtL1kTYV— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 23, 2018
Up until that play the Vikings had done virtually nothing, and had once again run a fairly wretched two minute drill. All of that washed away with the Hail Rudy, momentum switched over to the Vikings, and they never looked back.
Kirk Cousins, QB: Cousins overcame a slow start to go 21-28 for 253 yards and three TD’s. For as bad as the Vikings played for about 25 minutes in the first half, when the switch came on for Cousins it stayed on, and didn’t come off. On the season he’s completed over 70% of his pases, has 29 TD passes, and thrown for over 4,000 yards, numbers not seen since the days of Brett Favre’s Deal WIth the Devil season of 2009. He’s had a pretty remarkable year, and can get the Vikings into the playoffs with another strong performance next Sunday.
Dalvin Cook, RB: Like the rest of the offense, Cook looked like he was moving in cement early on, but came on with a strong second half, running with authority, and had a touchdown taken off the board on a nice catch and run. He had some impressive runs in the second half, and 58 of his 73 yards came in the last two stanzas.
Holton Hill, CB: It’s been a hell of an ask to put an undrafted free agent into a starting role, and Hill has embraced the opportunity. I think he’s a better cornerback than Xavier Rhodes right now, and with every game his play seems to get better and better. If you want a PhD in how to be a defensive back, come to Minnesota.
Mackensie Alexander, CB: Like Hill, Alexander has really playing good football for the past month. In the first half, when the Vikings seemed to be sleep walking through the game, Alexander seemed to be the only one consistently stepping up and making a play when it needed to be made. Things looked bleak for depth when Mike Hughes was lost with a torn ACL, but Mac and Hill are both playing some really good football right now.
Mike Remmers, G: I haven’t seen the PFF grades, so maybe he grades out well in run blocking. But Remmers looked overmatched whenever I noticed him, and once again he was called for two or three really untimely penalties. Maybe it’s me, but I think the move to guard has been a failed experiment with Remmers, and this is a position that will need to be addressed in the off-season.
Buy: The Hail Mary. I think the last time the Vikings had a Hail Mary to end a half was against the Saints in the 1987 playoffs. I didn’t see it coming at all, but Rudolph just went up and grabbed it. It was a great play, and it was really needed.
Sell: Needing a Hail Mary. But you could argue it shouldn’t have been needed. The Lions are terrible, are dealing with a ton of injuries, and have nothing to play for. Had Minnesota come out and started the game like they started the second half, it would have been over by halftime. And take the Hail Rudy out of the equation, this game is a nail biter, when it shouldn’t have been.
Buy: The defense not letting the game get out of hand in the first half. Early on, the game felt like it was getting ready to veer out of control, but the defense kept it together and kept Detroit out of the end zone. 9-0 was a lot better to come back from than 17-0 or 21-0, and even though they had a couple bad penalties called on them that kept drives alive, they never gave up a backbreaking play.
Sell: The offense not able to anything for most of the first half. The Vikings went three and out on offense in their first four possessions and managed a grand total of five yards of offense. How is that even possible? With players like Cousins, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook, it feels like you almost have to try to be that bad. Seriously. If they make the playoffs and start a game that way they’re getting run out of the stadium. Furthermore, they had a chance (with some help) to clinch a playoff spot, but for about the first 25 minutes they played like they were more concerned about tee times in week 18 than playing football.
Buy: The Vikings going to the playoffs. It’s simple for the Vikings, as they control their own destiny: Win next week and they’re in the playoffs, and they’ll either go to Dallas or Chicago. They’ll be at home, where they generally play much better football, too.
Sell: The Vikings going to the playoffs. But...it’s against the Bears, it’s going to be a high stakes game, and if they lose they go home. these games always make me nervous. But I’d rather be watching my team play with the playoffs at stake than for nothing at all.