Here is fun game to play at home: think back to last weekend, anytime before Sunday’s kickoff. What was your gut telling you about the Vikings chances at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia against the Eagles? If you’re being honest and your answer was something to the effect of “bubbling with confidence,” chances are you’re a new-age Vikings fan. If you answered any version, “oh sweet Jesus, I know what is coming and it could be ugly,” you would indeed be a Vikings lifer.
See because anyone who has suffered through the deep, dark depths of Minnesota Vikings fandom knew in their heart, no matter what their eyes saw in the first five weeks, that the wheels are always this close to flying off the Viking bus sending another season careening into a ditch. I could illustrate this further with a laundry list of laughable outcomes and gut-wrenching defeats but why belabor the point? However to be fair, I did warn y’all!
Ask anyone who has followed this team for any extended period of time, Sunday’s loss was about as Vikings as the Vikings get. Undefeated, Super Bowl favorites, best defense ever—all the ingredients of the inevitable-letdown recipe so many of us have acquired quite the taste for. And while I told you (I mentioned that already, right?) that this could happen and as a fan base we need a collective break pumping, now would not be the time to throw your arms in the air, roll your eyes and start the, “same G-D Vikings,” mumbles.
The punch Minnesota took in Philadelphia was troublesome—I even said if the Vikings lost it would be a sign that we ARE WHO WE THOUGHT [WE] ARE!! But after a few days to digest, watch the tape again, recharge and get back to neutral—let’s take a collective breathe.
Philadelphia didn’t expose any weakness the rest of the NFL wasn’t aware of. There is no blood in the water. So you’re saying the Vikings struggle to pass protect? You don’t say! The Eagles have a top-tier defensive front—against a good offensive line or bad, they’re going to impose their will. And if we are being honest Sunday’s issues weren’t just about Jake Long, T.J. Clemmings or Jeremiah Sirles (but that’s three tackles you say? I know, I don’t understand rotating them either) but a collective pass protection failure. From play calling to quarterback to tackles, guards and running backs it was all a cluster.
Is that an issue that’s going to get notably better? No. (and Joe Thomas ain’t walking through that door.) But with the guys the Vikings have it doesn’t have to be that bad. Long will work himself into better game shape, not every front will be as oppressive as the Eagles and no other team on the schedule has the intimate knowledge of Sam Bradford’s strength and weaknesses. Sure future opponents may look at the way the Eagles over loaded their blitz packages, but now the Vikings can try and adjust. These kind of games and breakdowns are simply the punch, counter punch every team faces throughout the course of a season.
If the team itself is any sort of reflection of its fan base then it was time for a cold shower. Don’t forget Minnesota has big-time flaws, but also remember so does everyone else.
So what did we learn: the offensive line is an issue (duh); the offense struggles in the red zone (totally out there idea: play Laquon Treadwell); Norv Turner’s old schemes don’t mesh with this team sans Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson; the special teams unit is human and will have the occasional blunder (finally we can cut Marcus Sherels like everyone has pined for, right?! Or nah) Translation: not all that much. Still the same team we were in weeks 1 through 5.
Ready for some crazy Berserker Viking spin zone: this loss wasn’t all that bad (what a scorching take!). Mike Zimmer, mutilated stuffed animals and a beheaded bear aside, has his team’s attention now. Turner is officially (in my mind at least) on notice—get with the program or the keys to the offense will quickly be turned over to Pat Shumur. The offensive line can no longer be lulled into a false sense of accomplishment.
So sometime before Monday Night’s game in Chicago play that fun little Vikings game. Feeling a little too confident against the basement dwellers of the NFC North, take a step back remember who exactly you’re rooting for. And if you’re sick to your stomach because you’ve seen this song and dance so many times before, take a breath—the Vikings ship hasn’t run ashore yet.