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Vikings’ NFC North Rivals: News and Notes, Week 3

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I read up on our division opponents so you don’t have to!

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Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

So many more questions after week two than we had after week one! If the Vikings are indeed the top dog in the NFC North, then why couldn’t they put away Aaron Rodgers, his bionic leg that only acts up on the sideline after drives, and the Green Bay Packers? Did the Vikings simply play to a tie the with Packers, or was that a moral victory/loss? Were the referees decisively anti-Packer, or were the inept against the Vikings as well? Is Khalil Mack and the new-look Bears defense enough to offset Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears’ not-so-new-look-offense? Is Matthew Stafford going to walk in to the locker room at halftime of some game, pack his belongings, and drive away, like Vontae Davis did on Sunday? Can anyone tell me what is a tackle anymore? And for God’s sake, can we have one week where every facet of the Vikings game comes together and the team absolutely screws the opponent into the ground?

The Packers and Vikings tied 29-29 on Sunday at Lambeau. Kirk Cousins and company rolled up 480 yards of offense against the Packers, averaging 7.1 yards per play. The defense held Mike McCarthy’s offense to just four third-down conversions in thirteen tries and one score. But special teams dropped the ball, allowing the Packers to score on a blocked punt, and failing to put the ball through the uprights in three tries. So, a tie it is. Both the Vikings and Packers stand atop the division at 1-0-1.

In Chicago, head coach Matt Nagy added just enough whipped cream to his vanilla offense to pull out a 24-17 victory over Seattle on Monday night at Soldier Field. Khalil Mack was a wrecking ball once again, and showed how one player can affect an entire defense. The Bears defense brought down the notoriously slippery Russell Wilson six times, and forced a pick-six by Prince Amukamara, which sealed the game. The Bears sit at 1-1, a half game behind the Vikings and Packers.

Meanwhile, Detroit lost 30-27 to the 49ers in San Francisco. Matthew Stafford led a furious comeback to bring the Lions back from down 30-13 in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. The Lions fell to 0-2 under new head coach Matt Patricia.

With that, let’s roll through the news and notes!

Chicago Bears

Once again this week, the big story for the Bears is Khalil Mack. If I’m a Broncos, Chargers, or Chiefs fan, I’m sending a Christmas card to Jon Gruden for getting this guy out the AFC West. For the rest of us, #thanksgruden. The dude is just filthy.

But, oh by the way, he didn’t win NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Those went to his teammate, Danny Trevathan, who racked up eight tackles, two sacks, and forced a fumble.

The Bears defense is good, kids. It really is.

Watching these highlights makes me wonder, though, who is going to be the first player on that defense to go down with a significant injury? Those impacts just don’t look conducive to long term health. However, the Bears are avoiding the injury bug so far, having no players listed on their injury report.

One player wasn’t feeling too frisky for Trubisky. Frank Clark (no relation), Seattle Seahawks Defensive End, felt that it was the Bears’ defense that won the game, rather than the offense.

In all honesty, though, Trubisky to Miller was a pretty nice play - well, right up to that celebration dance. Some kind of ugly there, son.

For those who are gnashing their teeth over Laquon Treadwell’s perceived lack of development, take solace in the fact that the Bears selected Kevin White seventh overall in 2015, one year before the Vikings took Treadwell. White played exactly two snaps on Monday night, bringing his total to 14 for the season. Misery loves company, I guess?

This week, the Bears travel to Glendale, Arizona to take on the Cardinals, who have scored a total of six points on the year and are predictably winless.

Not-afraid-to-make-a-prediction Prediction: This is the NFL, so just as Vikings fans shouldn’t be writing off the Buffalo Bills this week, Bears fans shouldn’t write off the Cardinals, either. That said, Chicago wins big. Like two touchdowns big. Or more. Arizona is terrible.

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions offense just can’t get moving with any consistency, and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s seat is getting hot. The team is once again totally reliant on Matthew Stafford to move the ball, and despite a plethora of backs at their disposal, head coach Matt Patricia has been reluctant thus far to hitch his wagon to any one player. But what would it matter if he did? The Lions had twelve possessions on Sunday, and their backs ran the ball a grand total of sixteen times. I’m no rocket surgeon, but rushing the ball a little over once per possession isn’t going to lead to any clock-eating drives.

Darius Slay was knocked from Sunday’s game (and possibly more) when Niners fullback Kyle Juszczyk lowered his head to initiate contact and plowed through the much smaller Slay. Slay lay motionless for several seconds, and the contact begs the question: If defenders are getting fined, or even thrown out of the game for hits like this, why aren’t offensive players?

The Lions did give their defensive backfield a little help this week, signing former Seahawk and - believe it or not - former Lion, DeShawn Shead. Shead had been projected by some to make the original 53 out of camp, but was let go in final cuts.

Lions fans suddenly aren’t sure if they like GM Bob Quinn. It’s not too surprising, considering the team has gotten off to such a slow start. And let’s face it, as hopeful as Vikings fans seem to be about this season, there’s still more than a few Phyre Ryck-ers out there.

LeGarrette Blount was kicked out the game for unsportsmanlike conduct on Sunday, after he took exception to former Viking linebacker Elijah Lee knocked Stafford over after he ran out of bounds. Considering the lack of toughness and heart Detroit players have shown since Matt Patricia took over, it may have been the right message to send to the team.

On a good note, Kenny Golladay spun his way into the end zone on Sunday on this 30-yard catch and run from Matthew Stafford.

This week, the Lions will host Head Coach Matt Patricia’s old team, the New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football (or whatever they’re calling it these days).

Not-afraid-to-make-a-prediction Prediction: See, the Lions weren’t supposed to be this bad. They were supposed to be at least challenging for second place in the division. But this is the Patriots and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and Josh Gordon (whose hamstring seems fine all of a sudden) and Rob Gronkowski… against the Lions. Without their top corner. Patriots in a laugher.

Green Bay Packers

*deep breath*

*exhale*

Look, Packers fans. You didn’t get screwed by the Clay Matthews call. You got screwed by your defense, who allowed Minnesota to put up a point every 6.5 seconds of possession in the fourth quarter! You got screwed because your kicker missed his field goal! You got screwed because Tramon WIlliams got repeatedly torched by Stefon Diggs and Company. Yes, Matthews hit was ridiculous, and should’ve been a non-call. And that would’ve ended the game. But it was called. Just like Eric Kendricks’ hit on Rodgers. Just like Geronimo Allison “wasn’t” down by contact (4Q, 12:37). Just like Sheldon Richardson was “offsides” - even though Lane Taylor (no relation) damn near took a full step back (4Q, 10:28”). So save the pity party. The refs were bad! When both teams were allowed to play, it was one of the best Vikings Packers games I’ve ever seen. Let’s not sully the memory of it by bitching about referees. You guys “didn’t win” because your defense couldn’t stop the Vikings, and your offense continually stalled in the red zone. And the Vikings “didn’t win” because our kicker couldn’t find the uprights. Three times. Nothing more. Nothing less.

OK, enough of that. Back to news and notes.

Speaking of the Packers Red Zone, the offense will get a pretty significant boost this week with the return of Aaron Jones, who had been suspended the first two weeks of the season. Jones rushed for over 400 yards last season, with four touchdowns, on only 81 carries.

Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Graham looked like they were beginning to build some chemistry together on Sunday, with a couple of nice plays...

...including this one, which Vikings rookie corner Mike Hughes would probably like to forget

One last piece on Matthews’ hit on Cousins, I promise. By now, you may have heard that the hit on Kirk Cousins delivered by Clay Matthews is going to be a part of a new training video, showing what not to do when going after the quarterback. Matthews told reporters:

“Like I said, I got my head across, hands were down, didn’t dump him, hit him within the framework, proper tackling area. I don’t know. Much like you saw with the lowering the helmet (rule) in preseason, I think that hopefully the league gets to the refs and tells them to tone it down a bit, because I don’t know what else to do.”

I hate to say it, Clay, but I agree.

And now I’ll go wash the vomit out of my mouth.

This week, the Packers travel to our Nation’s Capital to take on Washington, who sit at 1-1.

Not-afraid-to-make-a-prediction Prediction: Washington went all-in on Alex-Smith-ball this past weekend, managing only 9 points while racking up 330 yards of offense against the lowly Colts. The Packers defense is too good and Washington’s defense won’t stop Aaron Rodgers. Packers win and it isn’t close.