I have been beating this drum all season long, mostly after disappointing losses—so it’s nice that I can finally pound away after a win. These Minnesota Vikings are different. They may not win a Super Bowl, or even a playoff game, but if you were one of the many who turned off Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos you’re living in the past, refusing to open your eyes and really see what is going on.
I said it after the Vikings went down 21-0 in Green Bay and clawed their way back and again after the dud of a performance in Chicago two weeks later. The Minnesota Vikings I grew up on were Grade A disappointments. For the better part of 34 years if the Vikings went down early you could chalk it up as a loss and move on with your day. Give Green Bay a three-score cushion in Lambeau Field—the Vikings lose that game every time, 42-6.
And here the Vikings were again on Sunday, with a story unfolding we all know too well. Playing at home as a double-digit favorite, in a game they should win, in a game they needed to win, playing against a first-year head coach and a quarterback making his second-career start. It has all the makings of a classic Vikings’ letdown. And in the first half, boy, the Vikings did not disappoint. Everything that could go wrong did, in a comical, pretty predictable fashion. The offense couldn’t get out of its own way; to call the defense porous would be kind; and the special teams compounded things with a turnover in the red zone.
Sunday’s game had a familiar stench, one of those smells that triggers a distant memory, transporting you to a familiar place. For the Vikings fans that memory was the game against the Bills at US Bank Stadium just a year prior.
But in the second half the Vikings underscored what I’ve been screaming all season: this team is different. Minnesota didn’t come out in the third quarter having already packed things in. Quite the opposite, they came out with urgency and forced the tempo. They scored by abandoning what wasn’t working, the defense did enough to give Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs and Dalvin Cook a chance.
The Vikings continued to show a resiliency that has escaped previous teams. Sure, you can point to the dumpster fire of a first half as a reason why this team can’t win anything meaningful. You wouldn’t be flatly wrong, but you can’t use the first half of an example of why the Vikings will fulfill their self-fulfilling prophecy and fail without acknowledging this is now the fourth time this season (at Green Bay, at Chicago, at Kansas City and versus Denver) that the Vikings could’ve been blown out but battled back.
Mike Zimmer took over the reigns in 2014, he gave the Vikings an identity. Defensive prowess was the foundation of that identity but as the defense has aged and regressed back towards the mean it has been Cousins and the surplus of offensive weapons who now shape the Vikings in their likeness.
The Vikings +84 (Kirk Cousins $84 million contract, Irv Smith first touchdown?!) point differential 11 weeks into the season is the best of Zimmer’s tenure despite giving up the second most points (205) during that stretch. It is becoming clearer each week that this isn’t the Vikings we grew up on or even have become accustomed to in recent history. Gone are the days praying the offense could muster just 21 points (and so is the confidence that the defense can hold opposing teams to under 21 points). Now the Vikings have an offense and a resiliency it could possibly ride to a playoff run.
The five games following the bye will go along way to solidify my notion that this Vikings team is just different than what we are used to. But win, loss or draw things feel different than the norm and that should make Vikings fans ecstatic.