The Vikings have found a way to win that doesn’t involve future NFL Rookie of the Year Adrian Peterson. What is that way? It’s Solid quarterback play by Tarvaris Jackson, a revolving door rushing attack and a defense that can even make the old Purple People Eaters smile.
The past few years, we have seen the Vikings struggle on the road against any team. Whether it was the lowly Dolphins or the suddenly talented Texans, the Vikings were never a sure thing on the road. Even at home, the Vikings were not a sure thing. Since the 34-0 thrashing the Packers put on the Vikings in week 10, the Vikings could have imploded like they usually do and ended this season with all of us thinking “Really?...REALLY?” After a while, that gets incredibly frustrating for the fan base as well as the players and coaches. Brad Childress went out of his way to make sure that the team responded positively and even challenged his players to look within themselves to find the resolve to finish the season strong. So far, they have responded greatly.
Since that Packer game, the Vikings are 4-0 and winning their games by an average of 20 points while we may be witnessing the maturation of Tarvaris Jackson into a NFL ready quarterback. We, as Vikings fans, have been quick to judge Brad Childress. The first move he made as head coach was getting rid of the franchise quarterback for…well…no one. We seemed to critique him at every corner. As fans, that is our job but sometimes we fall into the trap of seeking out only the negative things that happen. I believe that now is the time to start paying attention to the good things that are happening with this team.
For the past four games we’ve seen Jackson continually make good decisions (although he needs to work on that time in the pocket to avoid sacks), Chester Taylor has reminded us that we actually DO have two running backs instead of one and the defense has been pressuring quarterbacks into making decisions that would make Lindsey Lohan blush. They have been getting out to quick starts and play at a continuously high level of intensity through the final seconds of the game. If this team continues to play like this, why couldn’t they beat anyone in the league? Let’s take a look at their 6 losses:
Week 2 at Detroit: Jackson throws 4 INT’s and Bollinger fumbles in OT which leads to a Jason Hanson game-winning FG. Bollinger should have never fumbled that ball and the Vikings should have walked away with a W in this game.
Week 3 at Kansas City: Vikings stuff the Chiefs run game and Adrian Peterson breaks out with a 102 yard, 1 td performance. The Vikings offense stalls and the Chiefs are able to squeak out a win. Again, Vikings offense doesn’t stall…they walk away with a win.
Week 4 vs. Green Bay: Favre dominates the Vikings defense but the lack of education of the referee’s hurts the Vikings chances of winning the game. A botched fumble call and a blown Pass Interference call turn the tide of the game. This is right before the bye week and the Vikings record was 1-3. Should have been 4-0 or 3-1 at least.
Week 7 at Dallas: Vikings are tied 14-14 with 2:52 left in the 3rd quarter before Ryan Longwell’s field goal is blocked by Pat Watkins and returned for 68 yards for a Touchdown. The offense again failed to mobilize and the Cowboys held on for a win. Kevin Williams had a fumble return for a touchdown that was called back for bogus holding. Things again do not go the Vikings way.
Week 8 vs. Philadelphia: Donovan McNabb torches the Vikings secondary for 333 yards and one touchdown while two Vikings quarterbacks struggled to get to 150 yards passing total. Adrian Peterson was held in check and the offense couldn’t get anywhere.
That brings us back full circle to the 34-0 thrashing by the Packers. If you look back through the losses, what is the common theme? You’re right, it was the incompetence of the referees but even more than that it was the inability of the offense to get anything started. They depended too much on Adrian Peterson and Jackson struggled to make smart throws.
Interestingly enough, during their current 4 game win streak, the Vikings have finally been able to move the ball through the air. Jackson is making much better decisions which has opened the field even more for Peterson and Taylor. They had already opened the field for Jackson, he just needed to take advantage of it.
He finally is and the Vikings are starting to look like a serious playoff team.
Next week is another big game at the Dome. A struggling Bears team comes to town to face a defense that is playing at their highest level all year and an offense who is clicking on all cylinders.
Since the Vikings are the hottest team in Minnesota right now (with exception maybe being the Gopher Men’s Basketball team who is currently 6-1) some of us have forgotten that there are other sports currently playing.
The Timberwolves got a HUGE win on Saturday night at the Target Center. They stymied a Suns team that has been averaging 111.3 points a game and a team that is much better than they are.
The Wolves held the Suns to 93 points and 29% shooting in the 3rd quarter. Al Jefferson became only the second player in Wolves history to score 30 points and have 20 rebounds as well. Who was the other player you ask? The man that Jefferson was traded for this past summer, Kevin Garnett.
This is a young team who has struggled all year to close out games and just plain score. They are 3-15 right now and are at the bottom of the NBA. I went to two games over Thanksgiving break and they did not look good at all. We’ve got to keep this season in perspective though. This is a team that has an average age of 23 and little or no playoff or experience in winning. It is easy to be critical of the team but keep in mind that there are teams right now who started like this and are playing at great levels right now (Orlando, Cleveland, Toronto, Chicago etc.). I ask you to continue to support this team through Antione Walker and Mary Kate Olsen (“thick and thin”…bad joke I know but it had to be said).
Check back mid-week for a Johan Santana update and a look at the upcoming conference play in College basketball.
Have a great Monday!