Bah Humbug! Vikings Out Of Playoff Contention
Written by Tony Schultz on December 25, 2020
The injury report came out before the game and it was a Scrooge of a list. Eric Kendricks is still out and so is Kyle Rudolph – 2 more big names out of the game. So it was a Christmas surprise to see that bruising fullback CJ Ham was also listed as out as well as Kendricks’ backup Todd Davis and rookie Troy Dye. Eric Wilson still started but was joined by Blake Lynch and Hardy Nickerson. You have to dig deep to know who those guys are beyond Nickerson being the son of legendary middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson who used to terrorize the Vikings when they were still in the NFC Central Division. It’s been the story of the season. The offense came out firing in the first half and Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook got the team down the field for an opening drive touchdown. They sputtered for a bit, but not detrimentally and had a great drive in the 2nd quarter with a big strike to rookie phenom Justin Jefferson and a pylon reach by Mike Boone for the rushing touchdown. The problem is that the defense could not stop the Saints from running, like at all. The Saints’ running backs, Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray racked up rushing yardage like they were playing two-hand-touch. Kamara ran in all three touchdowns without much effort utilized. 162 rushing yards with 5 minutes left in the first half before Drew Brees threw a terrible pass right to rookie corner back Harrison Hand. The Vikings went 3 and out though and didn’t capitalize on the turnover. When the Vikings tweeted out kicker Dan Bailey had gotten a back tweak and was questionable you felt the route was going to be on.
Head Coach Mike Zimmer came out in the 2nd half and had his team ready to go. After having to punt on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter the Vikings defense stepped up with Nickerson getting an interception that led to an Irv Smith Jr. touchdown catch. Dan Bailey missed the extra point. The Saints just could not be stopped on offense in the 2nd half with Kamara and Murray continuing their running success. They just kept going, and the defense would have small victories but not enough. Dalvin Cook still had great production in the 2nd half and Thielen and Irv Smith Jr. – who had his first 2 touchdown game had some great plays as did diamond in the rough tight end Tyler Conklin who has been a bright light with Rudolph out injured. I had said before this game that it was either going to be a slaughter or a shootout. I’m glad we got the shootout as it made for a much more fun game. The progression of the Vikings offense has been an absolute bright spot in an otherwise disastrous season as they have scored plenty of points to win games, but the depleted defense can’t keep up. Watching a game like this should make fans hopeful for next season when a lot of starters come back and the defense can match the offense’s production. When you see Kamara run in 5 touchdowns in basically effortless runs from 5 or more yards out you just have to throw your purple clad hands up. The Saints next score almost seemed like they were showing mercy by let letting backup quarterback/everything, Tasom Hill run in the ball. However, after the Vikings drove for another Cousins to Thielen touchdown the Saints decided they were going to get cocky and start talking trash to Thielen and get 2 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Sean Payton, a consummate unprofessional jerk decided to run up the score by having Brees throw deep so Kamara could run in his sixth touchdown. My guess is his sensitive ego couldn’t handle the last two times the Vikings knocked them out of the playoffs on the last play of the game.
As the Vikings head into their final game at the Detroit Lions we will get to see how they finish this season. Professional players go in and play as hard as possible to win the game. Some of these guys are playing for their jobs either with the Vikings or with another team. They need good stuff on tape. When the season ends some names we know well might not be here for 2021 no matter how much we like them as players. In some cases we are seeing the up and coming players come in to fill those spots already. What we know for sure is that the Vikings’ season ends next week win or lose.