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Once again the Vikings come up small in a big situation

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

At some point, you would think Charlie Brown would walk up to Lucy, kick her in the teeth, and move on with his life. But no, Charlie Brown is an idiot. In the winter darkness, he swears he’s learned his lesson and he won’t get suckered in again. He’s no longer an idiot, you see; he has seen the light hallelujah and he now knows better.

But alas, God love him, Charlie Brown is forever an optimist, and as the snows begin to melt and recede, his viewpoint changes. A free agent signee here, a draft pick there, and by God, this is different. This time, he’s going to kick that football straight and true, through the uprights, and into Super Bowl lore.

And then, when Lucy pulls the ball away, his team whiffs, and he’s laying on his back with two cracked ribs and a possible neck fracture that may or may not require a C5-C6 fusion, reality sets in. He’s been duped again. What he thought was real was, in fact, a fraud.

Every year, forever. Existence is pain, pain is existence.

Damn it. Damn it, damn it, damn it, why do I fall for this? Every year I build myself up, just to fall back into this reality that is this never ending Manic Depression that is Vikings football, isn’t it, Jimi?

Manic depression is searching my soul

I know what I want

But I just don’t know

How to go about getting it

Feeling, sweet feeling

Drops from my Fender’s fingers

Manic depression has a-captured my soul

Woman so weary

The sweet cause in vain

You make love

You break love

It’s all the same

When it’s—When it’s over

Music sweet music

I wish I could caress, caress, caress

Manic depression is a frustrating mess

The SMR that won the turnover battle but still got it’s ass kicked follows.

Blue Chip Stocks

The defense as a whole. Can’t really fault the defense. They played a hell of a game, but just got worn out after being on the field for over 37 minutes of game play. They kept the Packers out of the end zone early, forced three first half turnovers, and gave the Vikings offense every opportunity to take control of the game.

Eric Kendricks, LB: Kendricks was having another phenomenal game with two fumble recoveries. But on the second one, right before halftime, he suffered a quad injury and didn’t return in the second half. Because of course he didn’t.

Solid Investments

Stefon Diggs, WR: Diggs had the Vikings only touchdown and really the only offense all night, catching three passes for 57 yards. And that was pretty much it offensively. Whee!

Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE: Odenigbo had a good night, registering a big sack when the Vikes needed it.

Junk Bonds

Kirk Cousins, QB: I like Kirk Cousins, and I think he’s had a really good year, one worthy of being thrown into the MVP conversation for awhile. Tonight was bad, though. The thing with Cousins is The Narrative, and after tonight it feels like it’s going to take on a life of its own. It’s not fair to Cousins, but...when you play like this and only go 16/31 for 122 yards while averaging less than four yards a throw, you’ve helped grow this beast into what it is. And at this point, only Kirk Cousins can slay The Narrative Beast. AAnd until he does, it will only continue to grow.

Mike Boone, RB: I really thought Boone was going to go off tonight. He did not.

Adam Thielen, WR: One catch, two yards. Awesome.

The o-line: Didn’t really matter where Za’Darius Smith, or Kenny Clark, or Preston Smith, or Kenny from South Park lined up. It didn’t matter, because it was a jailbreak all night long. I mean, I would have thought that at halftime, when you witnessed Za’Darius Smith abusing your offensive line like a baby seal hunter, you might have thought ‘hey let’s do something about that’, but no, let’s roll the dice and see what happens. Cousin on his back spitting out rubber pellets happens. Genius.

Mike Hughes, PR: Mike Hughes had more real estate than an average Minneapolis Century 21 realtor to work with tonight, but whatever, let’s give the struggling offense another weight arounf their neck, and see if they can’t swim.

Buy/Sell

Buy: Forcing a turnover on first possession. The Vikings won the snap and deferred, and it paid off right away. On third down, Anthony Barr forced a fumble, Eric Kendricks picked it up and returned it to the Green Bay 11. The Vikes had all the momentum and the crowd was going nuts.

Sell: Settling for a field goal. US Bank Stadium was ready to erupt after that early turnover, and the Vikes offense started off strong with a five yard run by Mike Boone. But two odd calls led to two incomplete Kirk Cousins passes, and the Vikings settled for a Dan Bailey field goal. It felt like a missed opportunity, and it turned out to be just that.

Buy: First half turnovers by the defense. The VIkings defense played a whale of a first half. They forced three turnovers, and gave the Vikings offense ample opportunity to take control of the game by setting them up with great field position.

Sell: Kirk’s second half pick. But not only could the Vikings do nothing with those turnovers, other than a Diggs 21 yard touchdown, the offense cracked in the second half. On a third and 18, Cousins finally found Diggs for a big play and a first down, and it felt like Minnesota might finally get something going on offense. But shortly afterwards, Cousins threw an awful pick on a play action roll out...the only one of the game by my count. It just was another mistake that compounded on the evening’s frustration.

Buy: The Vikings can beat average and bad teams. Mike Zimmer’s record is good. He’s 57-37-1 since he was hired, and he’s going to give you, in a year when the roster can stay healthy, is double digit wins and a really good shot at going to the playoffs.

Sell: The Vikings can break into the rarefied air of elite. But I am starting to feel that there might be a ceiling with Zimmer, though. Maybe I’m wrong. It just feels with the exception of the 2017 regular season that there are 3-4 games a year, games that one could classify as franchise altering or season defining games, where the Vikings just look flat and completely uninterested. Tonight was one of those games, and it’s baffling to me.

How can a team, with so much to play for, with this much talent on offense, look so bad for an entire game? There’s no excuse this late in the year for that kind of performance. It’s true that Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison were out, but you have $265 million in contracts doled out to Cousins, Diggs, Thielen, and Kyle Rudolph, and call me crazy, but a reasonable expectation would be that you should get more than seven first downs over 60 minutes of football for that kind of money.

That just doesn’t seem like a great return on investment.

And the thing of it is that the Vikings deliver more than one of these performances a year under Zimmer, and it always seems to be when they matter the most. In 2015, they got throttled at home against the Packers and Seahawks. In 2016, they lost back to back games against Detroit on Thanksgiving and at home against Dallas, then got their ass kicked two weeks later at home to the Colts, ending any realistic playoff hopes. Last year they lost late season road games to Seattle and New England, and then with a playoff spot on the line they lost at home in the season finale to the Bears.

The Vikings come up small in big moments under Mike Zimmer. It needs to change, unless you’re cool with this in perpetuity under Zim.

Although the Vikings did clinch the playoffs thanks to a Rams loss on Saturday, their loss against Green Bay eliminated any chance of winning the NFC North, and they have been relegated to the sixth seed. If they want to go to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to beat three really good teams on the road to do it.

Skol.