Last Man Standing — Vikings Head Into Bye Week 5-0

Vikings Training Camp 2016 - 039

After five weeks, the only undefeated team left in the entire landscape of professional football is the Minnesota Vikings. Starting quarterback, gone. Starting, Hall of Fame running back, gone. Starting left tackle, gone. Starting right tackle, gone. Despite all that, 5-0.

At this point it’s old news to talk about the greatness of the Vikings defense. Five weeks into the season, they are on a historic pace of shutting opposing offenses down. The Vikings defense has better defensive statistics through five weeks than the heralded, 1985 Chicago Bears defense. Let that sink in for a moment.

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Minnesota Vikings Week 3 – Review, Preview and Talking Points

Teddy Bridgewater copy

If expectations had been higher, the past few weeks would go down as one of the most painful times in Minnesota Vikings history. Fortunately, even the brightest-eyed and bushiest-tailed fans (like myself) only predicted an 8-8 season before kickoff in St. Louis. Now we can just savor the fact that if our season is on its way to a dark, sad place (like it probably is) we’ll get a decent draft pick and won’t have to get the let down of just missing the playoffs.

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Minnesota Vikings Week 2 – Review, Preview and Talking Points

Peterson greatest viking of all time

In my semi-professional opinion, nobody in Viking-land wants to read about the 30-7 route of our beloved team this past Sunday. Other than the painful reminder of how underwhelming the men in purple are without their star running-back, the game helped to put optimism on hold (and the bandwagon keys back in the drawer).

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Minnesota Vikings Week 1 – Review, Preview and Talking Points

mike zimmer - vikings head coach 2014 training camp

Nobody predicted that our Vikings would be walking away from St. Louis with a blowout win. Before Rams quarterback Sam Bradford re-tore his ACL, the most common prediction among fans was an 0-3 start to our season; but with Bradford gone a victory seemed possible, if not slightly likely. Yet, the thought that the Vikes would score over 20 points through the Rams defense seemed laughable, even by me.

But then they went ahead and won 34-6.

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Minnesota Vikings Breakdown — Vikings Take Down Cardinals With Last Second Score

Vikings win preseason cardinals

With eighteen seconds left in the game while fans were chanting “Teddy!” Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater capped a desperation drive with a two-yard touchdown pass on a right fade route to second-year wide receiver Rodney Smith to steal back a 30-28 victory from the Arizona Cardinals.

The Minnesota Vikings needed such a drive after an extremely strange ruling gave the Arizona Cardinals a touchdown on a scooped-up fumble with just over a minute left in the game.

Of course, in preseason matches, the score doesn’t matter so much, but the situations do.

“Teddy was calm. He was smart. That whole series was a lot of blitzes,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told the Associated Press.

Bridgewater went 16 for 20 for 177 yards and two scores, the first of which was to backup tight end Allen Reisner. Bridgewater looked mobile, showing an ability to escape while consistently keeping his eyes downfield.

In his second preseason start, quarterback Matt Cassel went 12 for 16 for 153 yards and a score to tight end Kyle Rudolph (four receptions, 89 yards) on a 51-yard catch and run. Cassel also ran for 30 yards, proving he can keep up with the young quarterback.

Bridgewater looked poised and tough in his work, but I don’t think it is enough to take the top spot away from Cassel. With Cassel playing against the starting defense and Bridgewater playing against the second and third string players in the second half, I think their similar performances leave Cassel in the pole position.

teddy bridgewater - vikings

I think the Vikings would like it that way as well (they showed it by only giving Cassel one series in the first game). They aren’t planning a Super Bowl trip, so why throw Teddy to the wolves when Cassel knows how to play? There will be a ton of pressure on Teddy when he eventually does start because fans are hoping he will be the savior of the franchise.

There have been a lot of positives in the quarterback competition and throughout the roster there are other up-and-comers who deserve a shot at a roster spot or a starting position.

Looking at Rodney Smith, he is a 2013 undrafted free agent with 4.4 speed who spent last season on the Vikings practice squad. The 6-foot-5-inch wideout was second on the team with 55 yards on 4 receptions, all on the final drive, including a 37-yarder.

I liked what I saw from him as well as some of the other receivers, including fan favorite Adam Thielen (4 receptions, 54 yards) who was returning punts last week.

Adrian Peterson sat out of the preseason game again (he won’t touch the ball in the preseason), so Matt Asiata got the start. After last year’s four-touchdown breakout against the Eagles, he looks to be a formidable backup. Saturday night, he was largely ineffective, carrying 10 times for 19 yards.

blair walsh - 2014 vikings

Joe Banyard led the team in rushing with 64 yards, with 56 yards coming with 1:30 left in the third on a run to the left side that moved the Vikings down to the five-yard line, setting up the third of three Blair Walsh field goals.

Electric rookie running back Jerick McKinnon touched the ball twice on offense for -2 total yards, a disappointing outing. However, he did have a great downfield block on Rudolph’s touchdown catch. I still expect to see some great scatback and versatile abilities out of McKinnon in Norv Turner’s offense.

Luckily, we have Peterson, and there is definitely extra talent at the position to take the additional carries.

On the defensive side of the ball, the other first-round draft pick Anthony Barr garnered another sack and last year’s first-rounder Sharrif Floyd put some pressure on the Cardinals’ starting offensive line. The two have impressed me with their development so far in their young careers.

anthony barr - vikings 2014

In the linebacking corps, besides Barr’s sack, former starting middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley showed up for six tackles against Audie Cole’s two as both hope to take the starting spot.

University of Minnesota product Marcus Sherels filled in at the third cornerback spot with Josh Robinson out, notching a game-high nine tackles and also returning two punts for an average of 17 yards. He came out to play and I was happy with his performance because he is a both a sure-handed returner and a heady high-motor defensive back.

Kicker Blair Walsh knocked one field goal attempt off of the left upright and missed the extra point, which, mind you, are farther back this season, on the final scoring play. I think after getting more reps kicking outside at TCF Bank Stadium, Walsh will be fine and back to his terrific form — maybe not climate-controlled Metrodome form, but still a top ten kicker.

I’m cautiously optimistic about the prospects of this year’s Vikings squad. The defense didn’t play nearly as strong against the Cardinals as they did last week against the Oakland Raiders. I think Zimmer will tighten that up because he knows that his defense needs to play better. The Cardinals are in no way elite, but a win is a win, and considering last season’s string of last minute losses, it was great to see the Vikings on the winning side of a last minute score.

 

Photos by: Travis Bridell — Matthew Deery

 

 

Minnesota Vikings Breakdown — Training Camp and The Quarterback Battle

chad greenway vikings - minnesota vikings breakdown

It’s hard to believe that actual NFL football games are mere weeks away. This is the time of the year when fans are full of bright optimism, that this is the year their team takes the next step. Many Vikings fans from my circles have just that optimism, believing that this year the putrid defense of last cannot possibly fare any worse than they did in 2013 (they really cannot). Can the team rebound from a paltry 5-10-1 season under the new regime of Mike Zimmer?

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Disciplinarian Mike Zimmer Hired as Vikings New Head Coach

Mike Zimmer - Hired - Vikings Head Coach - 2014 - 9th Head Coach

The Minnesota Vikings have landed their ninth coach in their long history after Leslie Frazier was fired at the end of December — onto the Vikings head coaching throne now sits former Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, a move that is being praised by almost all. I have not heard one negative thing about Zimmer since he was announced to be moving to Minnesota, from league writers, players, and even Hall of Famers like Deion Sanders. And I have to agree — Zimmer seems like the perfect fit for this talented roster.

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Minnesota Vikings Breakdown — “An Instant Classic” — Week 14

Toby Gerhart - Vikings - Ravens - Snowstorm - 2013

The blizzard of a football game played between the Ravens and Vikings on Sunday had easily one of the most insane finishes I’ve ever witnessed. The game featured five touchdowns in the final two minutes and one second that had both respective fan bases thinking they’d just won the game in the final moments. Though Minnesota lost, this game is surely one all Vikings fans will never forget. And count your blessings, Adrian Peterson was not seriously injured when tackled on his ankle in the second quarter. Prayers answered.

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Minnesota Vikings Breakdown — “An Unexpected Victory” — Week 13

Adrian Peterson - Beastmode - Bears - Vikings - OT - 10000 yards - 2013

There have been few games this year that have been as entertaining as Minnesota versus Chicago — the first matchup went down to the wire, the Bears scoring late in the fourth quarter to seal their victory. The second matchup was back and forth all game, Alshon Jeffrey and Adrian Peterson exchanging blows which led to an overtime session that was far less entertaining than regulation.

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Minnesota Vikings Breakdown — “Kissing Your Sister” — Week 12

Packers - Vikings - 2013 - Tie - Adrian Peterson

Well I can guarantee no one predicted a 26-26 Vikings/Packers tie on Sunday. Ties happen so rarely in the NFL, who would have thought one of the oldest rivalries in the league would come up so vanilla. As the saying goes, tying is like, “Kissing your sister.” Both teams shot themselves in the foot enough on Sunday to justify not winning the game — so I guess you could say neither team deserved to win.

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