You guys, the Minnesota Vikings are 7-2. They’re also in first place and presently the second seed in the NFC. Wait, what?
Nobody saw this coming and for those of you who are reading this saying, “I did”, you’re lying. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving it but when you lose your starting quarterback and starting running back for the second straight season it’s straight to woe is me, not rise to the top.
Still, that’s what the Vikings have done with another victory, their fifth straight, a 38-30 win over the Washington Redskins on the road. Below are five of the biggest things that are sticking out to me following that win.
The MVP(s) of the season so HAVE to be the Offensive Line…
In many respects the offensive line can be considered the foundation of many great teams. If you have a solid offensive line you’re likely to move the ball up and down the field. If you’re moving the ball up and down the field, you’re likely to at the very least split the time of possession. From there, it’s all about the execution.
This was one of the big problems for the Minnesota Vikings last year. Heading into the BYE the Vikings were 5-0 a year ago. Impressive yes, but those victories came at the hands of a few special teams and defensive touchdowns. Those are great but you can’t rely on that happening week in and week out so when the team hit the field again in Week 7, and those scores didn’t come, the pressure mounted on a patchwork offensive line that couldn’t live up to the pressure. The offensive line folded, the offense floundered forcing a multitude of three-and-outs and that cause and effect led to a tired defense that although talented just couldn’t keep up with the opposition.
It was the team’s #1 focus this offseason, finding offensive linemen that aren’t necessarily the most sexy but ones that fit the scheme, fit the talent and match the mentality of offensive line coach Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Enter Easton, Elflein, Remmers, Reiff and Berger, exit Boone and Clemmings. Offensive linemen with grit, that thrive in a zone blocking scheme and have the right attitude to push through adversity and thrive on the other side. Right now it’s working as they kept Case Keenum sackless on the entirety of the day Sunday.
Don’t forget about the coaches…
That first point rolls right into point number two, highlighting the job that the coaching staff has done this year. In the past, teams have gone after the biggest name players with the most accolades in free agency and the draft. While there is both a time and a place for that sort of behavior, the Vikings opted to buck that trend and bring in players that fit their scheme and fit their locker room both on and off the field.
Couple that with the fact that the offense has been completely revamped midseason for two years in a row now and you’ve got success on the offensive side of the ball. Pat Shurmer was thrown to the fire last year when Norv Turner resigned midseason, but by the end of the year there’s no denying the fact that his adaptations were starting to work. It was that experience and a full offseason that allowed Shurmer to better shape his offense to fit the players in the locker room at the same as preparing it to be adaptable if you lose a big name player or two along the way.
The depth, the planning and the execution from the highest ranks at Winter Park are being noticed and are a big part of pushing this team to their 7-2 record through 10 weeks.
Case Keenum could be a starter, the starter here in MN next year…
For one reason or another everybody has already written Keenum off as an option to remain in Minnesota next year. He’s signed to a one year deal and has spent the entirety of his career as a journeyman, but what we’ve seen him do this year has proven to everybody that Case is good enough to be a starting quarterback in the league.
Teddy’s return has thrown in an interesting wrinkle but what it, what it Case continues to lead the Vikings through the regular season and into the playoffs? He has to be a target for this team in particular, the team that has figured out how to maximize his talent, leadership and play through what is now a 5-2 record as this team's’ QB.
Adam Thielen is a freaking stud…
I wrote about it after the game because the national media is finally on the scent, but Adam Thielen is the man. Another huge game, another sweet catch, another solid effort all around.
Already this year Thielen has games of 157 yards, 98 yards, 96 yards, 98 yards again and then this week’s 166 yards. Now he’s also scored touchdowns in two straight games and people are taking notice. I mean it’s kind of hard not to when the guy has the third most receiving yards in the league this year (793 yards) behind Antonio Brown (882) and DeAndre Hopkins (803).
Do we need to worry about the Defense after this week?
There is an argument to be had surrounding the mediocre play of the Vikings defense this weekend. They did allow 30 points and more than 400 yards of offense, but they also stepped up big when the game was “on the line”.
That second part is more important to me. The defense was without what might be their best player in Everson Griffen. His presence alone changes things. It changes the attention of the opposition, changes the game calls, changes the personnel. That’s not to say he’s the only important piece, but it’s different. Then there’s the case of the back to back turnovers it hurt the defense with little rest and put them in a bad spot on the short field twice in a row.
On top of that, Washington is not a bad team. They can move the ball and they can score points. I’m not worried about the defensive side of the ball yet.