The 2016 Vikings are anything but predictable. In a league where fans love the unexpected every Sunday yet yearn for consistent dynasties from their favorite teams, our Vikings have created a new bar for how surprising a year can be. No need to recount all the cavitation and change as I believe there is a limit for how long blog bloviating can be.
With Zimmer suddenly sidelined (Get well, Coach Z!), the team had incentive to win tonight: play for coach. Play the spoilers to Dallas. Play to prove the press wrong. Play for pride. Add in your own favorite NFL-isms here.
I'll be frank. We didn't expect a victory, but hoped. I watched the Vegas boards with the Vikings roundly being discounted. Over-unders seemed to be driven by the theory of how much Dallas would score, not because of a close game.
I wanted to see that defense re-appear and shut down the rookie show in Dallas.
The defense did show, and it felt good. The offense and special teams success, however, proved more elusive.
We've observed debates before at Purplepride.org that punt returners are not specialized and pretty much anyone can fill in from the receiving corps as needed. With Sherels sidelined, I was concerned before the game as I implicitly trust him back there. With Thielen filling in, there were audible gasps and questions about why it wasn't Patterson at our viewing party in the Vegas casino.
Thielen is reliable, good player who we enjoy watching play game after game proving he belongs in the NFL. His surprising mistake on the that punt return did turn the game, but does not change our opinion of Adam. Mistakes were made throughout the game and some more glaring (and consistent in come cases) than others. Adam had huge contributions on the receiving end, including a nice Carter impression on the sideline. We're all good with him.
We aren't good with the offensive line and general inability to score points. The defense created opportunity and the offense needs to capitalize with more than 3 points a time. Bradford did well getting the ball out and distributing the rock. The sad reality is that until our offensive line can defend Bradford to allow time for longer routes, and provide some balance in a run game, we will always settle for long, drawn out, exhausting drives that take 3 downs to get another first down, toiling for 3-4 yards at a time. The more plays, the more chances for mistakes and crushing Bradford.
For the remaining games we can talk about "playoff opportunities". Win-out to get in. Crunch the numbers. Rather, my suggestion is to focus on well-executed defensive and special teams efforts for the rest of the year, and try escape this surprising season with Bradford intact. Patterson, Thielen, Rudolph and Bradford can go on as a serviceable and useful receiving core next year. Peterson may or may not be in purple. With the healthy offensive line including personnel changes made in the offseason, I would be surprised if we didn't come out of the gates next year as hot as this year.