The overtime victory against the rival Bears on Sunday was a positive step for Vikings fans that just wanted the team to prove they still know how to win football games, but a step back for those that want to see the Vikings nab the first overall selection of the 2014 NFL Draft.

The mixed emotions about this win don’t end there, though.  A win is a win, but this was not a pretty one, and there is certainly a great deal of things we saw on Sunday that were beyond worrisome.  I’ve decided to split the difference and will look at five things I liked and five things I didn’t following the 23-20 victory.

FIVE POSITIVES

1.  Matt Cassel Shows Stones

When Christian Ponder had to exit early it was Matt Cassel, not Josh Freeman, who was dressed and ready to take the reigns.  Cassel came in as a reserve, but played in a way that should clearly give him a leg up in the quarterback conversation in Minnesota.  He went 20 for 33 and a touchdown.  His lone pick was not his fault in the slightest, as tight end Rhett Ellison bobbled a perfect strike, and it really should have ended up being a second touchdown on the statline.  The only reason it wasn’t a touchdown for the Bears, by all appearances, was Cassel’s hustle as he chased down linebacker Khaseem Greene after he returned the ball for 49 yards.  Cassel may not be the starter next week against Baltimore, because no decision regarding this team ever seems to be the obvious one, but he showed up big after the Vikings offense netted just 16 passing yards through the first half with Ponder at the helm.

2. Nobody Does It Better

Much was written about Adrian Peterson’s greatness Monday, after the future Hall of Famer broke the 10,000 rushing yard threshold Sunday, but I’m so in awe of his everyday accomplishments that I can’t even begin to put into words how prolific his career has been thus far.  Peterson ran for 211 yards on 35 carries (6.0 yard average) against the Bears and seemingly willed the offense down the field at times, including moments in the fourth quarter and in overtime, and you just know he is the still a player that makes his team a competitor week-in and week-out.  Even when they are a bad team.

3.  Audible To Audie?

Watching Audie Cole play at middle linebacker is exciting.  It might have more to do with our desire to see an underdog rise to greatness than it does with his quality of play, but it is hard for anyone (yes, including me) to argue that Erin Henderson should get his job back.  Henderson didn’t play a snap on Sunday and Cole held up, once again, fairly well at the spot.  Cole registered nine tackles and made a game-changing play when he deflected a Bears pass that was hauled in by lineman Kyle Long who Cole then targeted and forced a fumble on, which was recovered by Marvin Mitchell.  If Cole can continue to build a consistent presence on defense, and further show his knack for finding the football, then we just might have seen the last of Erin Henderson at middle linebacker.  Vikings fans want to enjoy watching their team, and it is clear they want to watch Audie Cole, and the coaches would seemingly be foolish not to give the fans what they want at this point.

4.  First Rounders Playing Well

They each had rookie moments on Sunday, but it is nice to see each of the three first round rookies getting more involved and playing at a high level.  Patterson’s 33 yard touchdown run made him the first rookie in team history to score on a run, a catch, and a return in the same season.  Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd had a particularly nice second half, where he showed excellent gap discipline and disruption making it difficult for the Bears to run inside, and he ended the day with two tackles and a sack.  Xavier Rhodes was probably the most impressive of the three on Sunday as he was all over the field making plays and stops.  Rhodes ended the day with six tackles, one for a loss, and a defended pass.  I personally feel he deserved more than one single defended pass in the stat column, but that’s nit-picking, and he was the biggest reason the Vikings were able to hold Brandon Marshall to only four catches and 45 yards.

5.  Greg Jennings Finally Getting Some

As documented by the ever-talented Arif Hassan over at Daily Norseman, Greg Jennings has been open way more often than his depressing statline would suggest this season.  I’ve been saying all season long how refreshing it is to see us with such a fundamentally sound and sneaky good wide out that does all of the little things so darn well.  It’s been a while since the Vikings have had that.  After a silent first half, Matt Cassel made Jennings a favorite target after entering the game, and the results speak volumes.  Jennings ended the day with seven catches, 78 yards, and a touchdown grab.  Where Ponder seems to see nobody, Cassel and his quicker release are able to find Jennings, and it is evidence that Rick Spielman didn’t simply throw money at a name when he signed Jennings to a five year deal.  The guy is for real, but relies on his quarterback as much as every other wide out in the league.

FIVE NEGATIVES

1.  Chris Cook Is A Bozo

I already pegged Chris Cook’s inability to step up as a reason for this season’s early death, but it got worse on Sunday.  Cook was burned by Alshon Jeffery multiple times as the receiver notched a ridiculous 249 yards against us, including touchdown catches of 80 yards and 46 yards.  Cook looked like a second-rate pretender on both of those plays, but he continued to embarrass himself when he inexplicably made shoved a referee after the second touchdown and got himself ejected from the game.  Absent of his helmet, Cook jawed his way off the field in a fit of rage, and once again found a new way to leave his team scrambling to cover for his absence.  Norm from “Cheers” has as many career interceptions as Cook does (actually, no Vikings cornerback has ever intercepted a pass in the NFL) and is probably more dependable.  Cook didn’t speak to reporters after the game, hadn’t spoken to Leslie Frazier as of Monday afternoon, and hadn’t posted his normal Twitter nonsense as of me writing this post.  As is typical of him, he is avoiding manning up to his mistakes, and I can’t wait for him to be a former Viking.  In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that he might be worth a compensatory pick when he becomes a free agent, I’d be lobbying for Spielman to cut him right here, right now.

2.  Rhett Ellison gets Noticed

Tight end Rhett Ellison has done a great job of filling the shoes (and wearing the number) of long-time Vikings great Jim Kleinsasser.  He is often an unheralded and unnoticed grunt that is doing his job well, particularly when it comes to blocking for Adrian Peterson.  Ellison probably would have preferred to remain invisible on Sunday, but instead he made a pair of mistakes that almost cost his team the win.  First, Cassel hit Ellison right in the numbers on a short route that should have been an easy touchdown.  Instead, he bobbled the ball into the air and it was intercepted.  Then, his facemask penalty negated a winning overtime field goal from Blair Walsh, and Walsh missed his second attempt after the penalty backed him up.  The Bears gave the Vikings a final chance by missing a field goal of their own and Ellison is lucky the outcome was favorable, or else he’d be taking even more flak than he already is.

3.  Griffen Disappearing At The Wrong Time

With Jared Allen likely playing only four more games as a Minnesota Viking, I just want to point out that Everson Griffen is picking a horrible time to disappear.  He was once again quiet on Sunday, registering just one tackle and a quarterback hit, which is becoming a worrisome trend.  Granted he is limited in his opportunities, it would still be nice to see him create some more havoc than he has been, since he is the presumed heir to Allen’s throne.  A backup is hard to judge by his stats (which aren’t too out of line from last year), but it just looks like Griffen has regressed a little, and it would be nice to see him return to form before this offseason.

4.  Greenway On The Mend

After having to exit in overtime, before the game was over, Chad Greenway has revealed he broke his wrist in two spots in the team’s first game against Green Bay on October 21st.  Greenway, classy as ever, said the organization has been too good to him and his family not to finish out this season, but did not rule out the possibility of offseason surgery.  Greenway exited the game with a team-leading 10 tackles, three for a loss, and a sack.

5.  Draft Position Slipping Away Again

I can’t cheer for a loss.  I just can’t.  Still, it is hard to see my Vikings once again playing themselves out of prime draft position late in a lost season.  A loss to Chicago would have placed the Vikings at the second overall pick (at the moment), but following their ugly win they are now slotted to have the sixth overall pick (at the moment).  Of course, that difference could be enough to prevent them from picking a top-tier quarterback, like many assume they want to do if they can.  Wins feel good, but all knowing Vikings fans are also keeping their eye on that draft board this time of year.

Adam Warwas (Founder) is a case study in how the human male can allow a hobby to turn into a life-consuming obsession. After serving for about three years as the Editor at Vikings Gab, he decided to branch off on his own and start Vikings Territory, hoping someone might accidentally visit the site from time to time. Now, he is thrilled to present you with one of the most comprehensive and analytical Vikings sites that you are going to find. More than anything, he hopes you enjoy reading VT as much as he enjoys putting it together.

11 COMMENTS

  1. A very good read, Adam. Lots of good observations. I’m sure glad we don’t have to defend Peterson. Boy, are we on the same page regarding Cook. As far as the draft, I can only say that such things will take care of themselves. Look where we drafted AD and Moss. Look where the Packers got Rodgers. There is only one way to play any game, even if it’s Chutes and Ladders with my granddaughter (lucky little imp!).

  2. Adam, is it just me or did you change your view on a couple things since the live-chat? The Ellison stone hands moment and your opinion on Audie Cole for example.

    • Fair observation, Johnny. Here’s what I got:

      ELLISON: The thing about the live chat is instant reaction from a hack blogger has an even better chance of being wrong than a considered reaction from a hack blogger. After going back and paying more attention to the game, and less attention to Ole’s Dugan ramblings, it was clear both mistakes by Ellison were indeed mistakes.

      COLE: I never denied that Cole is playing well and never said he shouldn’t keep starting. I just don’t think he has played like a “star” as some fans and some in the media have suggested. He is playing well, he’s fun to watch, and he hasn’t been arrested in the last month… so, yeah, keep playing him.

  3. wow, seattle has it goin on tonight. i don’t feel a bit sorry for the aints, tho, and never will. they can eat my grits and return our rings

    yeah, that’s a good article, adam. i already vented a bit on last night’s thread, but i just spent some time looking at that piece you linked to by hassan, and now i’m even more pizzed, and reach was sayin, “guess he wasn’t open”, for keeerrriiissssttt’sss sake!

  4. Adam you hate Cook way too much. He’s not Revis or Sherman but he’s still a top 50 cb in the NFL. He’s not a ball hawk and won’t get many interceptions but he’s usually held up versus the best wrs in the NFL. The two AJ touchdowns were more phenomenal plays than bad coverage. As for the ref incident that was ridiculous he barely touched the guy trying to get his attention. I also have no problem with him being enraged about being ejected I’d probably have been even more upset.

    As for Audie Cole I’m not sure there’s enough praise here; he looks like a lb of the future might even make a pro bowl or 2 in his career.

    • Rhett Ellison immediately owned up to his mistakes after the game and took the criticism like a man. Chris Cook has gone into hiding. Sorry, Skol, but only one of these guys has my respect.

      Cook can never be depended on to play. He can’t be depended on to play well. He won’t have many interceptions because he doesn’t have any interceptions. You can have the best coverage int he world and it’ll still breakdown if you don’t lift your F’ing arms up to at least try and play the ball (we’ve seen a lot of that from him this year). Cook had been in the refs ear once before already, and I imagine the ref had enough. I’ve had enough of him, yes.

      Cole has a long ways to go before he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level.

  5. Nice article AK, your old pal enjoyed it very much.

    I agree with your comments on Artie Cole. Fun to watch, still pretty raw. It is nice to see a guy with some instincts for the game playing the spot. We shall see if he is the longer term answer.

    Greg Jennings needs to run block. Jennings still blocks like he’s on the Packers. On two different occasions, Jennings gave up on his assignment and if executed may very well have ended up with AP breaking a long one. I know he’s not used to this aspect of the game as Green Bay has had a miserable run game forever, but he needs work in this area.

    Let’s hope Red Ellison turns his Bear game nightmare into a career turning point, just like Jimmy K did back in the day when old number 40 fumbled and bumbled his way to losing a Bears game all by himself. Jimmy took responsibility that day and Ellison did the right thing by standing up like a man.

    Like you, there is no way Freds can root for a Viking loss.

  6. yeah, ok, I admit it, I watched Frazier’s pressor…….it was THAT slow at work…..I’m trying to get a feel for this guy finishing out this year…..1. the look on his face after a win reminds me of Ponder who runs 17 yds downfield in the 3rd quarter, jumps all over the receiver, having just completed his first pass of over 6 yds and getting his 2nd 3rd down conversion of the game…..2. a reporter asks Frazier if his QB decision will be based on what’s good for the future of the Vikings or based solely on best chance to win the next game…..his answer, it’s all about trying to win next week (sounds and looks like a coach trying to save his job instead of evaluating players now, in a season already lost)…3. he defends Ponder like it was Ponder’s 4th game as a pro, not his 4th season…4. yes, our mistakes are correctable and we’ll be watching some film and getting those mistakes corrected!

  7. i was shocked. i thought cheech ran, caught, and returned his rookie year. CP84 looks good, now lock up that route running and find an OL who can protect a lil longer! SKOL

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