1st Down: If a team starts out 0-4 in the NFL, such a September slog is basically a death sentence for playoff hopes. Only one team--the 1992 Chargers--has ever played into mid-January after digging that deep of a hole. So, the lead story of today's Minnesota Vikings win over the Carolina Panthers is simply that the Purple stayed alive for another week. I'm a firm believer that one does not give up hope unless it is reasonable to do so, and thus the Vikings will engage my full interest for a bit longer. As ridiculous as it might sound after last year's magical campaign, it all could have faded away the first day of October in 2023. But it didn't.
2nd Down: The biggest reason the Vikings were able to (finally) get in the win column today was because the Brian Flores defense found a quarterback--in Bryce Young--it could bamboozle. The ultra-aggressive blitzing style paid dividends on a day when the Panthers couldn't really run the ball all that effectively and thus it was on Young to make the game-deciding plays. The usual 2023 MIN mistakes kept it a tight contest all the way to the end, but by the 4th quarter the defense was "getting home" on Young nearly every play--or at very least creating pressures to force mistakes. Though nothing to write home about, results like this are why I still prefer the Flores style to that of his predecessor (Donatell)--because last year Bryce would have torn through the laid-back secondary.
3rd Down: Let's make no mistake, though--this Vikings team didn't look in any way impressive today (other than of course the remarkably consistent Justin Jefferson). Not when Kirk Cousins throws a 99-yard pick six, has one "pass" go almost straight in the air for an INT, and fumbles another snap (fortunately recovered). Not when three-and-out drives pop up at the worst possible moments. Not when Jordan Addison fails to record a reception. Not when end-of-half scenarios continue to work out far better for the opposing squad. When I say the Vikings have a "pulse", it is a faint one that requires life support to maintain.
4th Down: How does this set up for next week's clash with the Kansas City
Swifties Chiefs? Who knows. On one hand, Mahomes won't have nearly the trouble Young did of diagnosing Flores' schemes--that could get ugly. On the other hand, maybe MIN can either run the ball effectively enough (like they did with the Mattison/Akers combo today) to keep Taylor Swift sitting down or simply turn it into a U.S. Bank Stadium track meet. At very least, today's victory makes such a contest exciting to anticipate!