I honestly don’t know what to make of what happened. It was mostly terrible Vikings football, followed by a glimmer of hope, followed by no hope, followed by an amazing drive, followed by a ‘lol are you kidding me’ drive that ended with Mike Zimmer actually icing a kicker, followed by a got dang miracle miss from a kicker that never misses, culminating in Blair Walsh II: Wide Right This Time. It was a game where the Vikings should have lost, should have won, and at times were their own worst enemy.
And that game was lit, wasn’t it...Lit?
It’s no surprise to me
I am my own worst enemy
’Cause every now and then
I kick the living shit out of me
The smoke alarm is going off, and there’s a cigarette
Please tell me why my Carlson went wide right
And I’m sleeping with my clothes on
I came in through the window last night
And you’re gone, gone
The SMR that had opportunities to win and lose this column follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Kirk Cousins, QB: I’ve been a Vikings fan a long time, and I gotta say kids...that was the most Tommy Kramer-esque game I’ve seen a Vikings QB play since, well, Tommy Kramer. From the slow start, to the crippling interception (that wasn’t his fault, but JUST HEAR ME OUT), to the frenetic comeback, it was all there. For three and a half quarters I was thinking that the ‘Kirk Cousins shrinks from the moment’ criticism was alive and well...and then Cousins did everything except kick the game winning field goal...and at this point I’d trot him out there before I’d trot out Daniel Carlson. His 424 yards passing was the first 400-plus passing yards by a Vikings QB since 2010, and from the moment he hit Diggs on that 75 yard bomb, he was on fire. He couldn’t miss, and it was amazing. For those of you who never got to see Kramer play and have wondered what it was like...today looked and felt like a classic Two Minute Tommy moment. God, I loved it.
Also, Green Bay fans who were incensed that the game ending interception Cousins threw was nullified by a ‘bullsh[rhymes with wool split]’ roughing the passer call on Clay Matthews, shut up. If your brittle-ass QB didn’t incessantly whine for six months after the legal hit Barr put on him last October, there would be no Aaron Rodgers rule today. Live by the whiny ass QB, tie by the whiny ass QB.
Stefon Diggs, WR: It wasn’t on par with the Minneapolis Miracle, but when the Vikings needed a heroin fix in the arm, Diggs was Hamsterdam. He had a quiet day until that point, but he did have a TD prior to that and then he also had a two point conversion catch, and was well on his way to becoming a hero of the game until things kind of went sideways. He’s had a knack for making a big play when the Vikings need it, and he came through again today. He finished with nine catches for 128 yards and two touchdown.
Adam Thielen, WR: Until the offense went and did three lines of cocaine off of a hooker’s belly to get a jumpstart and spur a 22 point fourth quarter, the only guy that really seemed to stand out the whole game was Adam Thielen. He was the steady, reliable guy all afternoon, the designated driver at this wild ass fourth quarter, 22 point bachelor party. His falling backwards TD catch in the closing seconds of regulation was his version of pulling into the driveway after he got everyone home safely, turning off the keys to the ignition, and going ‘damn man...I love those guys but what the hell?’ As good as Diggs was Thielen went one better, catching 12 passes for 131 yards and a ‘go home Vikings you’re drunk’ touchdown with 36 seconds left that gave Minnesota an improbable opportunity to tie the game up and go to OT. Also...did you guys know Thielen is a Minnesota native?
Brian O’Neill, RT: In the fourth quarter, starting RT Rashod Hill got hurt and did not return. The Vikings called on rookie Brian O’Neill, and he came in and played very well, I thought. I don’t remember him giving up a pressure once he came in, and he didn’t seem to be a guy that needed a year of seasoning before he would be ready to play.
Dalvin Cook, RB: For the second week in a row, Cook was slow to get going on the ground, not really making an impact until overtime. However, he made his presence known receiving, hauling in three passes for 52 yards.
Daniel Carlson, K: Well, at least Carlson is kind enough to miss it wide right, just to change things up for us. Look, I was always leery about calling this a Super Bowl team and then going with a rookie kicker. It seemed reckless, and it left me unsettled. I hoped I was wrong, I wanted to be wrong...and today I hate saying I’m right, at least for now. Normally, I’d be fine with letting Carlson figure things out, but I don’t think the Vikings have the luxury to let Carlson work through it. A tie here was bad enough, but a loss would have been kind of catastrophic after everything the Vikings overcame to get themselves in position to win. Somewhere, Kai Forbath shakes his head. Somewhere else, Dan Bailey is stretching his back.
Laquon Treadwell, WR: One of the biggest ‘hot takes’ or ‘bold predictions’ in the Vikings fan world was Laquon Treadwell catching his first touchdown pass. Well, that finally happened today, so pat yourself on the back, all you Vikings Nostradamii. It was still overshadowed by a couple of huge drops, and one off the hands DOINK that became a pick that looked like it was the dagger in what would be a bitter loss.
The defense for most of the day: The Fox announcing team today was Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis, and normally I think they’re a pretty good pair. But today, they kept referring to the Vikings defense as ‘top ranked’, and that’s unfair. They aren’t, and they haven’t been since the end of the first half of the Saints playoff game last year. Collectively, they don’t generate a consistent pass rush, nor do they make a tackle in open space, nor do they come up with a stop when they need it. The ‘bend but don’t break’ defense is closer to breaking, it seems. They kept the Packers out of the end zone, for the most part, but Green Bay was able to move between the 20’s with relative ease all afternoon. It’s stuff they can fix, but through two games the 2018 Vikings defense isn’t nearly the unit it was in 2017.
Buy: Mike Hughes kick return. After Green Bay blocked a punt and scored a touchdown, the Vikings seemed to be reeling a bit, and they needed a big play to get some momentum back. Hughes provided it by taking the ensuing kickoff from three yards deep in the end zone and getting it out to the 43. It gave the Vikings life, and they took advantage of it by scoring a touchdown at the end of that drive. It was the second big play in as many weeks for Hughes, and it was needed.
Sell: The rest of the Vikings special teams. From a blocked punt to three missed field goals, the Vikings special teams units were shaky all afternoon. Matt Wile only averaged a net of 36.8 yards punting, the punt return unit only had one return, and Marcus Sherels got hurt at the end of it. Daniel Carlson kicked the hell out of the ball off a tee, but big whoop. Holton Hill had a nice kick return, but other than that, it was a day that was either forgettable or infamous, you make the call. Nice extra points, though. Split the uprights...
Buy: The playcalling in the fourth quarter and overtime. When it was 23-14 and there was only seven and a half minutes left, the Vikings were really in a tough spot. John DeFilippo had called a beautiful play early in the fourth quarter to get Stefon Diggs a three yard TD to get the Vikes to within six. But after another Packers scoring drive extended their lead to 23-14, Flip dialed up Cousins to Diggs again. This time for 75 yards and a TD, and we buckled our seat belts and took off on one hell of an entertaining ride for the rest of the day. The Vikings cried havoc and let slip the dogs of war, and the offense was supercharged, spurring a miraculous comeback. Whew, that was fun, wasn’t it?
Sell: Most of the playcalling the first three quarters. Okay, you could argue that if Carlson makes a couple of his earlier field goals they get points on the board, and maybe the playcalling doesn’t seem that bad. Still, it just felt the Vikings offense didn’t have much of a rhythm outside of their early TD drive that culminated in the Treadwell TD. The reason the offense went so wide open the last quarter is because they had dug themselves a hole and HAD to go wide open, thanks to an inability to consistently move the ball the first three quarters.
Buy: A tie kind of sucks. I hate ties. There are three or four times the Vikings should have lost the game. For one, the Vikings were outplayed for most of the game, on both sides of the ball. The Packers had a touchdown nullified because of a penalty, which cost them four points. Cousins threw an interception with 2 minutes to go, down eight points. The defense allowed Green Bay to get in position to kick a game winning field goal as time expired.
Sell: A tie is the end of the world. Still, though, a tie is better than a loss, and this team showed a lot of resiliency when past editions of this franchise would have folded under the pressure. The defense bowed up after the Cousins interception and held Green Bay to a field goal, and the Vikings scored and hit a two point conversion to tie the game. Zimmer called a timeout at the end of regulation and froze the kicker...and it worked. When Green Bay was in field goal range in OT, the defense made a play and sacked Rodgers, knocking the Packers out of range and forcing a punt.
Buy: Captain Comeback is a thing. There was a lot of ink spilled over the winter about Kirk Cousins and his $84 million contract. One of the things I noticed, and it was kind of overlooked, was how Cousins had a penchant for 4th quarter comebacks. Counting the Packers game, he now has 12 4th quarter comebacks to his credit, and I would be hard pressed to find a more exciting one. The dude was unflappable, even after his Treadwell DOINK interception. Like I said before, it was a Tommy Kramer-esque performance in the last two minutes and overtime, and I don’t know that there’s a nicer compliment I could give a guy. It was hella fun to watch.
Sell: Kirk Cousins isn’t a franchise QB. A lot more ink was spilled over whether or not Cousins was a franchise QB. There were rumblings out of Washington that they didn’t trust him, he wasn’t genuine, blah blah blah. It was the freakin’ Redskins, who take dysfunctional to a level not seen since the end of the Brad Childress era around here.
If a franchise QB is a guy that says ‘get on my back I’ll carry you’, Cousins did that today. If a franchise QB is a guy that makes you think you can win when you’re down eight, on the road, with less than two minutes left, Cousins did that today. If you want to say Cousins isn’t a franchise QB, go right ahead, it’s a free country. Just know that the rest of us will be over here loudly mocking and silently judging you.
Grandson Quote Of The Week:
Since we finished our basement off this Spring, that’s my new football watching location in the house. My grandson Gabriel watched the Vikes tie it up, then excitedly ran upstairs to tell everyone, so he wasn’t near me when Mason Crosby missed his FG at the end of regulation. That’s good, because I was at somewhere between jubilation and maniacal laughter at that point.
/basement door opens
/five year old steps come plopping down the stairs
Gabriel: ‘Papa, you must quit making so much noise down there. You SCARED me!’
But then I told him it was okay, and he diagrammed the Thielen TD for me waiting for OT to start:
So, Minnesota moves to 1-0-1 on the year. Somewhere, Donovan McNabb doesn’t think that’s a thing.