The Good, The Bad, and The What In The World Was That?
Written by Tony Schultz on December 23, 2019
Here’s the good news: the Vikings are in the playoffs already. The LA Rams lost this last Saturday and that was their last threat to get bumped out. Being in is better than not being in and the hard thing to fathom is that a 10 win team barely got in because the NFC is very good (Except for the NFC East). Where they end up playing is yet to be determined although they are locked into the 6th seed. They may travel to several different cities including Dallas, Philadelphia, Seattle, or even to Green Bay. One win or loss can push someone to the top or bottom real quick. The defense was all world tonight and tuned over the Packers three times in the first half and made it look like the rout might be on. The Vikings defense is good and the twenty three points put up were not indicative of how well they played. A big run by Aaron Jones late in the game was when the defense was tired and missing their marquee linebackers. If you think that the Vikings defense lost this game then you don’t know much about the game of football.
Here’s the bad: Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison were both out with injuries so the team had to rely on Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah. They are not flashy backs, but if the Vikings pass offense can get going they don’t need to be. Just get positive runs and don’t turn the ball over. They did OK with the first part, but not enough to be a factor. They didn’t turn the ball over though. Boone did get benched at one point which begs the question if he was causing problems that the layman couldn’t see. Kirk Cousins threw a beautiful pass to Stephon Diggs in the end zone and it felt like things settled down with 10-3 lead. That was actually a good thing! Unfortunately Eric Kendricks, the Vikings best linebacker got hurt at the end of the first half and Anthony Barr was injured or more than likely cramping up and had to leave the game. The defense played very well, but any team’s defense is going to get tired out at some point if the offense can’t keep drives going. That brings us to the “what was that” part.
I sat there the entire game wondering what exactly Kevin Stephanski was drawing up play wise. I listened to Ben Leber during the post game and he solidified my thoughts. To paraphrase he said he wondered why they suddenly tried to make Kirk Cousins a pocket passer when that hasn’t been his forte during their wins. They are a zone blocking team and they needed to stick to that and keep Kirk in his comfort zone. Bootlegs and getting him moving out of the pocket and hitting receivers on the move is what has worked. That’s what they needed to stick with. The offensive line got overpowered more often then I’ve seen in several games on passing downs. After the first turnover the Vikings settled for a field goal from Dan Bailey. Maybe scoring a touchdown there changes things but who knows. The Vikings even tried a trick play where Stephon Diggs tried a reverse pas to Cousins. Kirk was WIDE open, but Diggs overthrew him. I had zero problems with that play, but then they went for it on 4th down with a poorly executed pass play right after that. Why? The defense held well again. The thing is nothing was really working for the Vikings offense. Adam Thielen didn’t get involved very much. He got his feet tangled with a cornerback, fell on his back and had the ball land on him, but he couldn’t catch it. They later had him try to and end around run and it came up short. When the Vikings finally got a touchdown throw to Bisi Johnson late in the game Riley Reiff got called for holding. So weird. So frustrating. So….. I just don’t know. Next week’s game against the Bears means nothing other than getting one last home win and getting back momentum heading into the playoffs. You won’t see Cook, Kendricks, and maybe a few others as they get freshened up for the playoffs.
Can the Vikings make a run through the playoffs? Yes, as their defense is clicking right now. However, if the offense – whether the players or the coaching staff don’t get firing again then it will be one game and done. Simple as that.