I know this might seem like a shock to some people, but I still think this team can be very good. It just needs to overcome the issues that have been plaguing it: conservative play calling and poor game management.
When the offense is able to let it fly, they can look absolutely beautiful, and there have been flashes of this offense this season. It took a while to show up in Week 1, but it was there at the end when we needed to get a FG to go to OT. Then conservative play-calling reared it's head and the ball was fumbled, and we lost.
In Week 2, we hung with the only undefeated team in the NFL and should've won that game after another beautiful offensive drive, but the Vikings can only know misery when it comes to kickers and that's what we got.
In Week 3, we curb-stomped the Seahawks so badly, they went from a good team to the trash of the NFL in the eyes of Football media. Once again, the offense looked beautiful when it was able to play without restrictions, even with Mattison in the line-up instead of Cook. Some of you may recall that despite a 1-2 record, I was actually pretty optimistic that the Vikings could beat the Browns.
And then the worst thing that could've happened happened: In Week 4, they were conservative the entire game, outside of the 1st drive. The 1st drive was a masterful one, and we couldn't come close to it for the next 50~ minutes. On a day where Baker Mayfield probably played his worst game of the season, missing 3 (by my count) wide-open TD throws, the Vikings just could not get it together offensively and we lost. Most blamed it on the O-Line, but in my mind, it was because our opponents adjusted to what we did the 1st drive, and we weren't able to.
In Week 5, we took on the Lions, and I said 2 days before the game that it'd go the way of the 2020 Texans game, where Detroit finds a way at the end to have a chance at victory. And the reason I, and a lot of others probably, felt so disgusted or embarrassed by the display was that at the end of the 1st half, the Vikings seemed good to go. There wasn't much the Lions could do to stop our passing attack, so as long as we kept doing what we had done before we'd be alright. And then for some reason, we came out and started being conservative in our play calling again. Our defense bent a bit, but never broke until our conservative play-calling led to another fumble, which gave the Lions premium field position, which they capitalized on, and took the lead. Now, when we faced the Texans, they had a shot to win, but couldn't do it. That's what I expected, which is why when they took the lead, I was quite numb thinking 'Oh my god. We're going to lose to the Lions.'. And that's when the offense from the 1st half came back out on the field and proceeded to shove their boot right down the throat of the Lions, and won us the game. I was too emotionally exhausted form almost having lost that game to really care about the offense, but with about 5 days to think about it, I just have to wonder why we can't do what we did in the last 37 seconds of that game, all the time?
I don't mean make these long throws into prevent defense, I mean be that aggressive all the time. We have the offense for it, and, despite how much I don't like how he plays, Kirk Cousins seems to thrive i that. He's never looked better this season, then when this team has been allowed to be aggressive. He wasn't great against the Bengals, but when the team needed him to step up and live up to his contract, he did it. He did it again in Week 2 against the Cardinals. He looked fantastic against the Seahawks, and looked fantastic for that 1st drive against the Browns. And, he looked good in the 1st half against the Lions, and in those final 37 seconds. Coincidentally, those all happen to come at a time when the offense was allowed to be that aggressive.
So, for perhaps the first time since before Cousins signed his extension (which made me do a 180 on him), I firmly believe that if this offense was allowed to be aggressive and take chances, Kirk would do better and the team overall would do better. That's one of the main issues I have with Kirk: he's too risk-adverse and conservative in how he plays. But, just from this season, I can see that when he can be aggressive, he looks the best he's ever been. And I hope that the Detroit game was a wake-up call, that in this league, you cannot get conservative with anyone and expect to get through unscathed when you're only up by 10. There's a time to know when to pull back and when to put the pedal through the floor, and while I might not have the most football knowledge, when you're only up by 10 points, it doesn't seem like a good time to pull back. And based on what was said in the press conferences leading up to today, although how much of what they say can really be taken as truth is highly debatable, they got that message.
Kubiak's saying he wants to give Kirk more control over the offense, and JJ telling him to trust them is something that, in my mind should've happened a long time ago but I'll take it now over not at all, bodes well for the future. If he is allowed (maybe 'encouraged to' is the better way to say it) audible at the line of scrimmage, and he finally develops some trust in his receivers, we could have something, and now is the perfect stretch to do it in.
These next 6 games is the hardest 'strength of schedule' stretch in the league at something like .671. If we continue on the path we're going these last two weeks, we aren't winning any of those games. But, if they took what they learned in Detroit to heart and act on it, the Vikings could do something, make some kind of noise, surprise some people. All they have to do is let the offense go full throttle, and not handcuff them, and we just might have something.