Hi kids, how are we doing after that game? I gotta say, I didn’t think the Vikings had much of a chance down 20-0 at halftime, but of course, that historic second half comeback really changed the narrative of the Vikings heading into the bye week.
This was a tale of two halves, split into a cautionary tale of what the season would have become, and promising sign of what can be. We talk about ‘must win’ games a lot in the NFL, and with 30 minutes left, this game against Denver, a game everyone thought was going to be a relatively routine win, suddenly became the most ‘must win’ game on the Vikings schedule.
Let me explain.
The first half reinforced every negative stereotype and narrative that had built up over this team since their NFC Championship Game loss, and the post game recriminations and call for firings were going to be loud, brutal, and continuous, as there would have been two weeks to vent heading into the bye week.
And the hot takes from all corners of the Internet would have become insufferable.
Had the Vikings lost, I think the negativity would have ramped up to a fever pitch, and could have derailed the season. Think about it for a minute, and tell me where I’m wrong. For two weeks, there would have been non-stop talk about not being able to beat a team they should have in the annual ‘clunker’ game. A disillusioned and pissed off fanbase would almost be eager to wrap themselves in the ‘here we go again’ mentality that, in our defense, is due in large part to the Vikings historical futility and recent performances in moments like this.
It’s not like the Vikings are blameless in this.
The noise around Kirk Cousins and his future with the Vikings would have become a huge distraction, regardless of what the team would have publicly said. There would have been serious talk about whether or not Cousins would, or should, get an extension, and all the talk over the next two weeks would have been along the lines of whether or not Minnesota should take a QB in the first round of the draft.
Instead of 8-3, the Vikings would be 7-4, with almost no shot of overtaking Green Bay to win the NFC North. Depending on the outcomes of the games played during their bye week, they’d be tied at 7-4 with the Rams, and in a dogfight for the final playoff spot. That would just feed and reinforce the negativity around Cousins and his ability to win and take the Vikings to the playoffs, and that would make the Monday Night game in Seattle almost a sink or swim game for the Vikings, the postseason, and possibly the Mike Zimmer era.
And with the crushing weight of expectations coming out of the bye, coupled with what would have been a horrible home loss to Denver heading into the bye, I would put the Vikings chances of winning that game about the same as me stumbling across a billion dollars walking my dog.
For the record, I don’t live in a billion dollar neighborhood.
Instead of that post-apocalyptic alternate reality, instead we are in a landscape that’s about as close to unicorns and rainbows that we’ve seen in the Cousins era. Minnesota does, in fact, sit at 8-3, and they’ve climbed to within a half game of the Packers, who travel to San Francisco next week while the Vikings are on a bye. There’s a very real chance that come next Monday morning, the Vikings will be in a tie for first in the NFC North with Green Bay, and they won’t even play a game.
Instead of dreaming of ways to trade, cut, or bench Cousins, people are starting to change their outlook on him. Suddenly, he’s gone from a career .500 stat padder to a gutsy, gunslinging comeback kid who’s now played himself into the MVP conversation with some incredible and almost turnover free football for the last two months.
So, enjoy the bye week. Hopefully, some key players will get healthy, and the Vikings will be at full strength when they go to Seattle. Speaking of that game, it’s still going to be a huge game, but instead of it being a sink or swim game, it now becomes a litmus test as the VIkings get ready for the playoffs. Oh, I’m sure if Minnesota loses there will still be some wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the Chicken Little crowd will come out in force...but a loss won’t be crippling, near season ending loss.
And heck, if they win, they pass Seattle and move into the five seed, maybe catch Green Bay, and now we’re having serious conversations about a division title, first round bye, and maybe homefield advantage...all which seemed unthinkable when the Vikings walked off the field in Chicago, in a game that feels like it took place years ago.
What a difference a half of football makes.
Thank you for listening to my TED Talk.