4 Downs to a 2022 Vikings Review

Presented in the form of a Compliment Sandwich--two criticisms couched within compliments...

1st Down: Never again will I doubt the power of "culture" after watching the 2022 Vikings. When Mike Zimmer left the building, the attitude was--both figuratively and literally--"the devil is gone". As soon as Kevin O'Connell walked in the door, his enthusiasm and positive attitude lifted everyone's spirits. There is absolutely no way to quantify this in a statistical way, but you'll never convince me that at least part of the reason why the Vikings performed so well in close games wasn't because KOC galvanized both sides of the ball to work together (in direct contrast to Zim's constant protection and favoring of the defense).

2nd Down: One thing that became clear as 2022 progressed is that the current roster of Vikings defensive players was not the one needed to run Ed Donatell's 3-4 scheme. To be honest, I can't really even blame the Vikings for this, as I'm sure they never expected to win 13 in any known universe prior to the season's opening kickoff. Had that card been on the table, I'm sure they would have stuck with a 4-3 scheme to try and maximize the contributions of Danielle Hunter and Harrison Smith, to name just a couple. But I can't fault Kwesi too much for ripping that band-aid off. The bigger problem? It was clear even at midseason--when Minnesota was 8-1--that the defense was an enormous problem. The correct move would probably have been to remove Donatell even at that early juncture, but the optics of such a brash move would have been staggering. So again, I can forgive. But the final straw? Not only did the defense never improve--in fact, it got progressively worse--but Donatell seemed to change nothing. The opposing receivers running free against Miami or Buffalo were still doing the exact same thing with the Giants or Lions. That, to me, is why Donatell was given his walking papers after just one go-round--and rightfully so. At some point you have to try something, and he never did.

3rd Down: After a 3-4 year run at the top of the NFL's RB ranks, it was clear that Dalvin Cook had lost a little something even in 2021. That got even worse in '22, with Dalvin becoming a more plodding, fall-down back and showing less explosive quickness than at any previous juncture. I was hoping an increase in the screen game would help mitigate this, but that turned out to be a disaster--apparently the Chef just isn't a screen back. Yet, somewhat head-scratchingly, the Vikings did nothing to lighten his load or try to address the situation (other than simply passing the ball more than under Zimmer's tight reins). They never took a cue from, say, the Dallas Cowboys and their rotation of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. There were times that Alexander Mattison was given a bit more shrift and he looked pretty solid--but then long stretches would transpire where it was Cook and only Cook taking Kirk's handoffs. In the Wild Card game, only Dalvin received an RB touch--inexcusable, really. Every time the Vikings have truly been championship-caliber the last 20+ years, they've had two solid runners: Smith/Hoard, Peterson/Taylor, McKinnon/Murray. Maybe it was a "lack of bandwidth" sort of thing with a new coaching staff, but allowing Cook to just plod along all season put more pressure on the passing game than the offense (especially the o-line) and defense could overcome in a playoff scenario.

4th Down: Many people will define the 2022 Vikings season as a "failure" for the lack of a playoff victory. From a strictly competitive perspective, I get it. But I also believe that certain seasons are more fun than others regardless of end result, and this was certainly one of them. Blowing the doors off Green Bay to start? Incredible. All those afternoons pacing in front of the TV until the last moment? Magical. Seeing Kirk Cousins become Kirko Chains? Hilarious. More personally for me, I attended my first two games at US Bank Stadium in 2022. #1: The 33-point comeback. #2: The 62-yard game-winning FG. Memories I'll cherish for a lifetime. So while I want the Vikings to make--and win!--a Super Bowl as much as everyone else, I also refuse to believe that the ride is invalid simply because the destination isn't the desired one. Despite the bittersweet ending, I'll look back on '22 with a lot of smiles.

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.