The 2017 Minnesota Vikings season has been hard to define. It started out with a career performance by Sam Bradford, who had to relinquish the controls to Case Keenum after a knee injury. Keenum blew up the Buccaneers, saved the Monday Night game against the Bears when Bradford tried to come back, and has arguably been the Vikings first half MVP. Keenum might not be a guy that makes a ton of big plays, but he doesn’t make boneheaded ones, either.
And that’s fine, because the Vikings defense is what this team has been built around since Mike Zimmer became head coach in 2014. They don’t give up a lot of yards, or points, and you can be rest assured that you won’t need to get into a shootout to win.
Of course, all that changed today, but in the end it all worked out well. And after a week off, it was nice to get back to this show that never ends with our Vikings, wasn’t it, Messrs Emerson, Lake, and Palmer?
Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends
We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside
There behind a glass stands a real blade of grass
Be careful as you pass. Move along, move along
Come inside, the show’s about to start!
Guaranteed to blow your head apart
Rest assured you’ll get your money’s worth
Greatest show in Heaven, Hell or Earth!
You’ve got to see the show. It’s a dynamo!
You’ve got to see the show. It’s rock and roll!
Right before your eyes we pull laughter from the skies
And he laughs until he cries, then he dies, then he dies
Come inside, the show’s about to start
Guaranteed to blow your head apart!
You’ve got to see the show. It’s a dynamo!
You’ve got to see the show. It’s rock and roll!
The SMR that can’t cover Adam Thielen, either, follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Adam Thielen, WR: I have no idea how Thielen does what he does. He doesn’t seem blazing speed fast. He isn’t a foot taller than the guys that are trying to defend him. So how in the world does he get so wide open? Part of it is his route running, which is some of the best in the NFL. Every time a Vikings QB looks his way, he seems to be so wide open that your first thought is a blown coverage. And if someone is on him like a blanket, he just dips his hands in Super Glue, and catches everything. His TD reception was an amazing display of athleticism, and his stat line was an eye popping 8 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown. But his biggest catch might have been his shortest. It was a two yard reception on 3rd and 1 in the 4th quarter that kept what would be a field goal scoring drive alive, and that essentially put the game out of reach.
What’s that? Thielen just caught another pass? Yeah, I believe it.
Andrew Sendejo, S: You can accurately say that for about 3-4 seasons Andrew Sendejo was the weak link in the VIkings secondary. You cannot say that any longer. Sendejo had a great game against Washington, breaking up two potential touchdown throws by Kirk Cousins, one of which forced the Redskins to kick a field goal as opposed to getting six. And if a Cousins touchdown was actually a fumble, he has a 100 yard fumble return for a TD. Sendejo can still be a guided missile with no guidance sometimes, but to call him the weak link is not longer an accurate description of him.
Kai Forbath, K: Forbath has been an adventure on extra points this year…well, since he came to Minnesota last year, actually…but he was money today, going 5-5 on extra points (wait 5-5 hoo boy that’s a lot). he also drilled a 53 yard field goal in the 4th quarter that gave the Vikings a two score lead after the lead got unnecessarily close.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB: This has nothing to do with Bridgewater’s play, obviously. This also isn’t a backhanded dig at Case Keenum, either. This is just a celebration for him coming back and suiting up, when there was a very real possibility he would never play again. Teddy has gone from, literally, minutes from losing his leg to being on the active roster and ready to play if needed or called upon in about 15 months. Look, we can have a legitimate argument (and God knows, we have and we will) about whether or not Teddy Bridgewater is the answer for the Vikings. But people just don’t come back from these injuries, and he did. You don’t think it wasn’t emotional?
Welcome back, Teddy. We’ve missed you.
Mackensie Alexander, CB: The Vikings have been criticized with their development of CB’s Trae Waynes and Alexander, and for awhile it seemed that criticism was warranted. Their play is still up and down at times, but it feels like Alexander turned a corner today, in some respects. He had his first career interception, on his birthday no less, and broke up two passes. he gave up a big completion, but Kirk Cousins is a good quarterback, and he’s going to make some plays. Alexander made more today, and it was a good game against one of the better QB’s in the NFL.
Latavius Murray, RB: Murray had a really good, if under rated day. He made solid runs all afternoon, had a touchdown on the goal line, and was solid in pass protection as well. It wasn’t his best game as a Viking, but he hit holes with authority and always put the offense in better position when his play was over. On a day when the Vikings passing offense took center stage, you can’t ask for much more than that.
Case Keenum, QB: Keenum had, in many respects, even a better game than he did against Tampa Bay. He threw for less yards, but threw for four TD’s. The Redskins were matching the Vikings score for score early on, so the offense had little room for error. In the first half, the Keenum led offense matched, and then exceeded, the Redskins score for score, taking a 28-17 lead in to halftime. Then they opened a 35-17 lead after the Vikings scored on a Jarius Wright screen pass to start the third quarter.
But then Keenum faltered, throwing interceptions on consecutive passes. The first one ended up not harming the Vikings as the defense stopped Washington on 4th down from the Minnesota 32. His second interception, though, was brutal. DJ Swearinger made me do just that when Keenum telegraphed an out route to Kyle Rudolph, and Swearinger jumped the route and returned it to the one. Two plays later Cousins scored, and what had been a 4th quarter 35-20 lead with the Vikings on offense and moving the ball was now a 35-27 game with a full quarter to play, and Captain Comeback on the other sideline.
To his credit though, he put those mistakes behind him and led the Vikings on a clutch field goal drive to give them a 38-27 lead, including a couple of big time third down throws to keep the ball moving, get points on the board, keep the clock running, and put the game out of reach. This offense doesn’t make that drive last year. They just don’t.
Stefon Diggs, WR: Diggs was fairly quiet compared to Thielen, but he started off strong, hauling in a 51 yard pass on the Vikings first scoring drive and then catching a three yard TD pass on their second scoring drive.
Eric Kendricks, LB: On a day when the defense didn’t bring their A game, Kendricks was kind of the guy that stood out the most. He wasn’t good in coverage, missed a couple tackles, and just seemed a step off for most of the afternoon. Like almost everyone else in the front seven.
Buy: The Vikings offensive line is the main difference between the 2016 and 2017 offense. We really haven’t talked about the offensive line a lot, and that’s my fault. This line, from left to right, to a man, has been the main reason this team is 7-2. Yeah, the defense is elite, I get it, and the running game and receivers have evolved, I get it, but it all starts with this offensive line. They are opening holes for the running backs, and it’s actually surprising when a Vikings quarterback gets pressured, much less sacked. Speaking of that, Vikings quarterbacks have only been sacked 10 times in nine games this year. Four of them came in one game, when a mostly defenseless Sam Bradford was sacked four times against the Bears back in week three. It’s a remarkable reversal, and for all the grief we have (rightly) given GM Rick Spielman for assembling a really bad o-line the last 3-4 years, he deserves credit for making moves in free agency and the draft to fix the problem.
Sell: Mike Remmers can come back at any time, though. As good as the starters have been, the backups have played very well when called upon. Jeremiah Sirles, Danny Isidora, and Rashod Hill have been more than adequate back ups, and the depth is something that’s just as impressive. Still, we don’t need to have a repeat of ‘hey you in the fifth row can you play on the offensive line’ level of injuries again. it was good to see Nick Easton back in the starting lineup today, and Mike Remmers can return any time he wants to.
Buy: Teddy Bridgewater is going to play, soon. I think everyone was happy to see Teddy in uniform today, whether he played or not. There were rumors before the game that he might get a series or two, but it didn’t work out that way. I thought when the Vikings went up 35-17 to open the half, he might have come in for a series if the defense had held Washington on their first second half series, and later in the 4th quarter he put his helmet on and started warming up, but Keenum went wire to wire. But Bridgewater will play, sooner rather than later.
Sell: Teddy Bridgewater should have come in to play today. As much as I want to see him on the field, it made sense not to put him in today. It really had nothing to do with the opponent or the turf (like seriously did Washington hire the Soldier Field ground crew my goodness), but the game situation. I thought if 35-17 had stayed 35-17 we’re not having this conversation, but 35-20 is still a two score game, and I get Keenum coming back out to try and put the game away. He did the opposite, coughing it up twice and letting Washington back to within one score, and then, barring injury, there was no way Teddy was coming back in unless Keenum completely fell apart.
Buy: The Adam Thielen ‘Leap Frog’ TD celebration. We have a new contender for the best TD celebration of the year. The leader at the turn was Duk Duck Gray Duck, but the celebration after Thielen’s TD might have…wait for it…leapfrogged the duck.
Sell: The Stefon Diggs ‘Hug The Goal Post’ Celebration. Diggs has had some creative TD celebrations, but today’s? Yeah, not so good. You can’t use the goal post as a prop, Diggs did, and it cost the Vikings 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff. That improved field position set the Redskins up to start their drive, and they scored a touchdown.
Hold: The David Morgan ‘Classic’ TD celebration. When Morgan scored and spiked the ball I tweeted something to the effect that it was a Dollar General celebration, but it was quickly pointed out to me that the spike is an all time classic celebration. And it is. You can’t go wrong with the spike, and when you only score once or twice a year, celebrate however you want. As long as you don’t use the goal post for a prop.
So the 7-2 Vikings return home to face the 7-2 Los Angeles Rams, and the inside track to the second seed in the NFC and a first round playoff bye is on the line.
Just as the ancient scrolls and prophets foretold.
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