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The Norse Reporters, September 16, 2018

It’s Packers week!

The Minnesota Vikings travel to Lambeau Field this week to take on the Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers, who fought off a severe case of gangrene after his return from a second quarter leg amputation - led his team to victory versus the Chicago Khalil Macks 24-23. Our lads in purple looked pretty decent on offense, flashing some big play ability. The defense mixed in moments of spectacular play with some other moments of shakiness. And, other than a really short punt by Matt Wile, the special teams play was mostly very good. In all, it was a pretty decent start for the Vikings, against a team that, although they’re still coming together, has some pretty talented players on both sides of the ball.

After watching the game, did you come away more confident in your initial assessment of the team, or less confident?

Dan: More confident. I’m not upping my 12-4 prediction, yet, but considering what we saw from other teams around the NFL this weekend, they looked damn good. The Saints, Eagles, and Falcons all looked beatable. The Raiders were ‘meh’. The Bears and Packers combined for one solid game and one awful game. The problem is that both teams were only half solid and half awful. The Lions, thankfully, went full-Detroit (and you never want to go full-Detroit).

Ted: Can we push? Is that the correct gambling term, Eric? I don’t think there was a hangover from the last six quarters of the playoffs that carried over, but there were some uncharacteristic defensive lapses I’d like to see fixed. I loved all the turnovers and the pressure they put on San Francisco, but they needed them to win the game. In an unrelated note George Kittle is still more wide open than Kiara Mia. I loved the tempo of the offense in the first half and into the third quarter, but the three consecutive three and out drives to end the third quarter and roll in to the fourth quarter allowed San Francisco to hang around, longer than they should have. Overall, this is still a really good team, though, and compared to some of the other NFC teams, I like where they’re at as a team.

Lucas: From what I watched, I would say that I’m still confident in the team’s ability to be successful. What raised concerns for me was the defense being exposed in the second half (although it did have a clutch performance in the fourth), the offense not being able to put points on the board and the inconsistencies the offense showed. The Vikings were up 24-6 at one point, until late in the third quarter. The 49ers put up a unanswered touchdown and field goal to finish the game 24-16. It seemed like Cousins and his receivers just weren’t connecting during that dry spell.

Chris: I’m still pretty confident in the team’s ability to win football games, certainly. Having said that, I have to echo the sentiments of some of my colleagues in that I’m concerned about this team not having the ability to “finish.” The Vikings got themselves out to a 24-6 lead and were pretty much rolling, and then the offense just sort of disappeared after the Rudolph touchdown. Offensive line issues aside, this team has way too much talent to have to “hold on” at the end of games against teams that aren’t great. (I think the Niners have the potential to be very good, but they’re not there yet.) I don’t know what it is, but the Vikings have had issues finishing for quite a while, and if they could remedy that I’d have even more confidence in them than I already have.

Sarita: Same. I think they had a stellar start. Both sides of the ball were on fire and it was exciting to see all the off season work come together. But, and there’s always a but, they seem to lose focus or run out of steam as the game continues. I know it’s the first game of the season, so everything isn’t going to be perfect or foul proof but having the 49ers come back the way they did shows that there is some small, but manageable work to do.

Eric: First, Ted got a gambling term correct! Second, I’m also equally as confident as I was before the 49ers game. I thought the offense would struggle a bit, the defense would dominate, and the Vikings would win. That’s basically what happened. The run blocking is my biggest concern going forward, but this team should be competing for a deep playoff run by the end of the season.

Jonah: More confident. The Vikings didn’t play well, and even though they let the Niners hang around for pretty much the whole game, the result never really felt in doubt. It was the kind of game that a true contending team just has to find a way to win, and the Vikings did that. And it’s easy to forget because the defense looks so rock-solid, but the Vikings were dealing with a new offensive line, with a new quarterback and a running back who missed almost all of last season. And they still made people question everything they thought about Jimmy Garoppolo.

What are your thoughts on Kirk Cousins’ debut?

Ted: Solid. I love his arm and some of the throws he made. I’m not saying previous QB’s here couldn’t make those throws, but I don’t know that they can make them as consistently as Cousins does. I would have liked to see it carry through four quarters, but it was a really nice debut overall. When you look at how he performed compared to Case Keenum (some awful picks) and Sam Bradford (just awful) for one week, anyway, the Vikings appear to have made the right choice.

Dan: Cousins pass to Diggs was the prettiest pass I’d seen a Vikings QB throw in a long, long time - until he threw the touchdown to Rudolph. Tight spirals, perfect arc. It’s great to finally see a passer who can drop dimes like that. I can do without the head first slides when he runs, though.

Lucas: It was week one, so I’ll probably be a little more biased than I usually am. I was giddy once kickoff was about to happen, “yes, it’s finally here,” I kept saying to myself. I enjoyed watching Cousins play. The one thing that really caught my eye throughout the game was his ability to throw that tight ball through the middle of the field in coverage. I agree with Ted, like I said in the previous question, Cousins had a hard time connecting with his receivers later in the second half.

Chris: He had a very good debut, I think. Sure, he missed a couple of throws, but he also made some throws that I don’t think we’ve seen a Vikings’ quarterback make since the Zombie Brett Favre season. Cousins generally seemed to be confident in where he was going with the football, and for all of the hand-wringing about whether or not he had established a connection with Adam Thielen, it was Thielen that went over 100 yards last week, even though Diggs and Rudolph got the touchdown catches. I think he did well, and I think it’s only going to get better from here.

Sarita: Great. The throw to Diggs was incredible. That was such a tight space and Cousins hit Diggs with insane accuracy. He had great arm strength which is nice to see especially paired with the accuracy he showed in the first half. Obviously, every throw wasn’t great, but I feel as the season goes on he will have the time to connect with the receivers better. And I second Dan’s wanting Cousins to stop with the head first slides. I would cringe and scream at the TV for him to stop.

Eric: I thought it was good, not great. Both touchdown passes were absolute dimes—the kind of throws that make you say “THAT’S why they gave him $84 million.” But the situational football remains a concern. The two-minute drill before the half was pretty disappointing and getting only two first downs in the last 20 minutes of the game wasn’t the way you’d like to see the team finish off games. I was pleasantly surprised by his ability to scramble, but like Sarita said, LEARN HOW TO SLIDE KIRK!

Grade the performance of Mike Zimmer and his staff.

Ted: I give them a B. They won the game against a good football team when neither side of the ball was firing on all cylinders the entire game. Admit it, when Jimmy Interception hit Dante Pettis for that 22 yard TD, you started thinking ‘uh oh’, because in years past, those are moments that flip the game, and the Vikings figure out a way to lose. That doesn’t happen under Zimmer; he’s made this team resilient and mentally tough.

If there’s a critique I have though, it’s that I thought OC John DeFilippo got a little too conservative in his play calling in the second half. They couldn’t get a first down on three consecutive drives, and the defense started getting a little gassed. I get not wanting to make a huge mistake and open the door for an opponent, but even getting a couple drives without points that flipped field position and ate up some clock would have been good there, too. On defense, the Vikings stayed aggressive the whole game, and I LOVED that.

Dan: No concern over the horrible clock management at the end of the second quarter? That’s something that WILL bite this team in the ass at some point in the future. I’m giving Zim and company a well-deserved “C” for this game. The second half play-calling was not very imaginative. And I get it, there’s the whole “the other team is trying to stop you” thing. So maybe the Niners had more imaginative coaching going on during those plays. I’m probably not smart enough to tell the difference. That’s why Zim and Company coach in the NFL and I don’t.

Chris: I’m going to agree with Ted here and give them a solid “B,” and a lot of my criticisms have to do with the same things that Ted mentioned. I’m not sure if it’s Mike Zimmer’s mentality as a defensive-centric coach, but it seems that the Vikings get to a certain point or to being ahead by a certain number of points and are content to see if the defense can just go out and win things. I would love, just once, to see a Vikings’ offense go out and just boat race a team by about 40 points, but it doesn’t seem like we ever get that, despite this team’s level of talent. They did what they needed to do to win, and winning ugly is always better than losing pretty, but yeah. . .the occasional blowout (that favors us) would be nice.

Sarita: I also agree with Ted’s grade of a B. I feel like there is always a point in the game where they get comfortable and start sailing. And that makes me nervous because teams will absolutely take advantage of that. I wish they would play like they were losing the whole game.

Eric: Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V from the takes above. Like I mentioned with Cousins, it was solid overall but the Vikings are going to have to finish better going forward. They certainly won’t be able to coast like that against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers this week.

The defensive line looked really, really good at home, on the turf versus the 49ers, but San Francisco was down a couple linemen and some weapons. Do you see them replicating that type of performance all season?

Ted: Yeah, why not? This entire defense is fast, athletic, and good. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war, baby.

Lucas: That defensive line will be a nightmare for any offensive front, in my opinion. I also like the rotating of D-linemen, it gives some fresh legs out there every once in a while.

Chris: This is, from top to bottom, the deepest and most talented collection of defensive line talent in the NFL. The starters are all just monsters, and the drop-off in talent from the starters to the backups is getting less and less each week. Sure, the Niners might have been down some players, but there are a lot of offensive lines that are going to lose sleep because of the Vikings’ defensive front.

Sarita: Yes, I do. This is one of the best defenses in the league, even the backups are badass. This is the defense you study even if you’re not playing them. I have no concerns they will slip and will probably get better as time goes on.

Jonah: The defensive line had already been very good, and then it added Sheldon Richardson, who made his presence felt early and often on Sunday. And there’s enough depth that injuries won’t be a huge concern. So, yes, moving forward, it will be problem for every one of the Vikings’ opponents.

Eric: San Francisco doesn’t have the best offensive line in the world, and they were shorthanded by the end of the game. But c’mon. This defensive line is going to terrorize just about everybody. Just ask Everson Griffen and Sheldon Richardson.

Gimpy Aaron Rodgers or healthy Deshone Kizer: Given that this is a division game in Lambeau (Throw the records out the door, Amirite?)- who would you rather face?

Dan: Give me healthy Deshone Kizer going against the Vikings defense any day of the week and twice on Sundays (especially this one. Pretty please?) There would be nothing more “Aaron Rodgers” than for him to come out on Sunday, hobble around between every... single... play... while the camera follows him like around like a crazy ex. And the game announcers will have enough froth in their mouths to shampoo a buffalo describing how gritty a performance it is. I want Kizer to start just so I can actually watch the game with the volume on.

Ted: I completely respect the ‘I want to beat a team with our best against their best’ attitude. It’s as wrong and screwed up as the ending in the movie Se7en, but I respect it. Nothing would please me more than watching DeShone Kizer try and run that pedestrian offense against this defense for 60 minutes. Give me 53 practice squad guys, throw them in a Packers uniform, and let’s watch the Vikings pummel them for 60 minutes. It’s the current state of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, and I love it and never ever want it to end. Knowing you’re going to beat the piss out of the team that is your most hated rival, before the game even starts? Best. Feeling. Ever.

But I agree with Dan. Aaron Rodgers will play, and it will be a three hour Bukkake Kabuki Dick Dance And Verbal Masturbation Theater from the announcers about how tough and gritty he is, hopping around on one leg that’s on the verge of falling off. I do think Rodgers’ mobility will be limited, and that’s an advantage for the Vikings. He’s still a great QB without it, but when he can move out of the pocket and make a play he’s probably the best ever that can do that. Rodgers is Rodgers and is going to make plays, but I really believe if the Vikings can bring a lot of pressure and hit him a lot, they’ll get him and the Packers offense off their game, and they’ll win.

Dan: The nice thing is, we won’t have Joe n’ Troy’s Verbal Circus doing the broadcast. It’s Burkhardt, Davis, and Oliver again this week, who I like quite a bit.

Chris: Aaron Rodgers on one healthy leg throwing left-handed is a better quarterback than DeShone Kizer. Rodgers is so talented he’s managed to fool people into thinking that Mike McCarthy is an above-average NFL head coach, which is not true. I’d be shocked if Kizer was the starter on Sunday, but there’s a chance that the Packers take a look at Minnesota’s defense and realize that if Rodgers can’t fully protect himself that he. . .and their season. . .could be in some serious trouble.

Sarita: This is tough. While all of you are right in that if Rodgers comes out the absolute love fest for him will make me want to jump out of a window, I still want Rodgers to play. That’s what they made a mute button for, right? I feel like Gimpy Rodgers would still be better and more entertaining to watch than Deshone Kizer. But… it is really early in the season and I feel like risking Rodgers for a division rivalry game against the Vikings defense isn’t what they want to do, despite how Rodgers feel. Even with the Aaron Rodgers rule in place I feel like it will be Kizer.

Lucas: Give me a healthy DeShone Kizer. We all know what Sir Gimpsalot did in the second half against Chicago. So I’d rather have a two-legged, not very confident 22-year-old kid, than a gimp future hall of fame quarterback.

Eric: This isn’t even debatable in my opinion. The Packers are light years better with Rodgers instead of Kizer, gimpy or not. I’d much rather see Kizer, but we all know that isn’t going to happen. Rodgers is gonna play.

Jonah: Simple. 100 days out of 100, whichever option is not Aaron Rodgers.

Will we be talking about Aaron Rodgers’ comeback against the Bears 48 years from now, like people still mention WIllis Reed’s game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals?

Ted: LOL no but thankfully I’ll be dead when this conversation comes up. Willis Reed was in the NBA Finals against Wilt Chamberlain the Lakers, one of the NBA’s iconic players on one of the most storied franchises. This was week one against a Mitch Trubisky-led team that went 5-11 last season. There is no comparison. Great comeback, sure, and it will be part of the Rodgers story, much like Packer Viking legend Brett Favre’s Monday Night game against the Raiders right after his Dad died week three Metrodome Miracle against the 49ers was. But to elevate it a Willis Reed-like moment is kind of like saying Keeping Up With The Kardashians is quality TV. It just isn’t.

Dan: We won’t, but there’s a certain population to the east that probably will.

Chris: No. If it had been the Super Bowl or something, then sure, knock yourselves out. But it wasn’t. The Reed thing is something that people still talk about because it decided something major. Sunday’s game, for as much as we like to tout how much every game in an NFL season counts, did not.

Sarita: You’re funny! LOL! But seriously no. It was good, but aside from the Packers esteemed owners and Joe Buck no one is going to care. And most of us have already moved on.

Lucas: No, Chicago gave up. It might be talked about at the end of the season if it comes down to playoffs being on the line. It was a great comeback, but it was also a predictable one.

Eric: The crazy part is that the comeback last week might not even crack the top five of ridiculous things Rodgers has done in his career. The guy is a smug prick, but you gotta respect how he can constantly pull victories from the deepest rifts of his anal cavity. It was amazing to be sure, but like Lucas mentioned, that was just as much about the Bears falling apart. Remember, if Kyle Fuller can just hold onto the freaking ball, we aren’t talking about the comeback this week.

Jonah: So true, Eric. It’s funny how quickly people have forgotten that he dropped a ball that was literally right to him. But on the other hand, Packers fans aren’t gonna stop talking about it anytime soon. I’m interested to see how the Bears respond on Monday night — this feels like the type of collapse that destroys your entire season.

Also, you have to realize that this was Week 1. Willis Reed did that in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Those are drastically different situations.