The Vikings have put together many different rosters in the two-plus decades I’ve been watching them as a passionate fan. While the players get changed frequently, and the quarterback carousel never seems to stop, the feeling I have when I watch them hasn’t changed much. When the offense is on the field, I expect bad things to happen.
I’ve had the pleasure to watch elite offensive talents like Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson and Adam Thielen in my lifetime, which is a privilege. Unfortunately, I’ve also had to watch quarterbacks like Sage Rosenfels, Joe Webb, Christian Ponder, Shaun Hill, an extremely washed Donovan McNabb and many more depressing signal-callers. The big exception to this list is Brett Favre in 2009, who had his best season as a 40-year-old. Favre threw a career-low 7 interceptions that season, and he often led the Vikings to victory instead of being the main reason for a loss. This being the best example of that.
Of course, an interception by Favre wrecked that season anyway.
Kirk Cousins is a much better quarterback than any one on the initial list I rolled out in the second paragraph. He’s made some of the best throws I’ve seen this season, somehow creating big plays with pressure in his face. Despite the positive things Cousins does, I get nervous every time I watch the Vikings play offense. Cousins’ 8 fumbles and 7 interceptions play a big role into that, but the offensive line deserves half of that blame as well.
It’s a strange feeling to want your defense on the field. That statement is slightly hyperbolic, but the Vikings have fallen right back into an old trend that has ruined many games, and entire seasons, in the past. This team relies on its defense to win games, which is proving to be more impossible as the NFL continues to become a much more offense-friendly league.
Watching the Vikings lose to the Bears on Sunday reminded me of so many Vikings game in the Mike Zimmer era, and it’s a trend that has been consistent all season. The only game this season that the Vikings’ offense was able to close out was the 37-17 victory over the Jets. Other than that, the offense has routinely helped teams stay in games, or not given the Vikings a chance to come back. Here’s how every game has played out so far.
Week 1: A Mike Hughes pick-six contributed to the 24 points the Vikings scored in this game, and was needed to pull out a 24-16 win. Kyle Rudolph scored a touchdown with 4:53 left in the third quarter to put the Vikings up by 18. The offense would follow that up with four straight punts.
Week 2: This is the one example of the offense being able to comeback and give the Vikings a chance to win. Cousins led three fourth-quarter touchdown drives to force overtime, but we can all be honest and say the refs actually saved the game from ending after a terrible roughing the passer call that erased a Cousins pick.
Week 3: No comment.
Week 4: There’s a narrative that the Vikings defense has not been nearly as good as last year, which is true because last year’s numbers are nearly impossible to reach. With that being said, the defense has been very good this year, but this game destroyed their season averages. The Vikings gave up 38 points and 556 yards, which is bad. But I don’t think there’s a defense in the league that could travel over 1,000 miles, two time zones and play on a Thursday night and not get torched by this Rams offense. The defense came up with the one stop they needed to, giving the offense 2:30 to score a game-tying touchdown. Four plays later, Cousins fumbled and the game was over.
Week 5: The offense scored one touchdown the entire game, and if it wasn’t for Linval Joseph scoring the best touchdown in the NFL this season, the Vikings would’ve lost. I will give the offense credit for a drive that lasted over six minutes in the fourth quarter and resulted in a field goal that helped ice the game, but the lack of more scoring in the second half almost plagued them.
Week 6: The Vikings should’ve beaten the Cardinals by over three scores. The defense suffocated them the entire game, but a Cousins fumble led to a Budda Baker touchdown in the second quarter to tie the game at 10.
Week 7: The aforementioned Jets game where the offense did its job.
Week 8: An Adam Thielen fumble set up a go-ahead score for the Saints right before halftime. A Cousins pick-six sealed a win for the Saints as they went up by 14 midway through the third. The defense held Drew Brees to 120 yards, but the offense had no life in the second half.
Week 9: The Vikings led 17-6 at halftime against the Lions, then the offense scored zero points in the second half. That would’ve been enough to win, but the Danielle Hunter scoop-and-score felt like the insurance touchdown the Vikings needed, something the offense couldn’t provide.
Week 11: Mitch Trubisky was begging for the Vikings to stay in the game. He threw two picks that the offense turned into three points. The offense only scored late because the Bears let up after Cousins threw a pick-six to go down 21-6.
Relying on the defense led to the 10-9 loss to the Seahawks in the 2015 playoffs, as the offense continued to drive and not come up with a touchdown. Relying on the defense halted the 2016 season, as the offense couldn’t score due to what felt like 12 injuries to the offensive line (plus Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson). The offense had to have a miracle happen in last year’s playoffs because they couldn’t add to a 17-0 halftime lead (which I’m not complaining about, that was awesome).
The Vikings spent $84 million this offseason to finally end this trend, but it just seems to be getting worse with Cousins. He already had a shaky past with turnovers (62 interceptions and 45 fumbles in 72 games) and not playing well in big games (his record in primetime games fell to 4-12 on Sunday). The Vikings are hosting the Packers this Sunday in another primetime game. If they rely on the defense to consistently stop Aaron Rodgers, they’ll be third in the NFC North by the end of the weekend.
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