dust frost finally settling on the latest heartbreaking loss, Vikings fans are left with little else to do other than nickname their latest addition to the lore, and reflect back on the season that was. Some might even speculate on what could have been.
We’re going to have plenty of time for reflecting on the season as a whole, but right now we are narrowing our gaze to the playoff loss at TCF Bank Stadium at the hands of the defending NFC Champs.
As you can probably expect, given the complete void of touchdowns produced by the Vikings, this final batch of nominees is a tad defense-heavy. This is the final time, until September, that you’ll use your collective votes to bestow this heralded (by me) award upon one lucky Minnesota Viking.
Before we get too far along, I want to take a look back at the season schedule, with the weekly award winners listed on the right.
Player of the Game
|1||SEP 14||at 49ers||L 20-3||Anthony Barr|
|2||SEP 20||Lions||W 26-16||Adrian Peterson|
|3||SEP 27||Chargers||W 31-14||Harrison Smith|
|4||OCT 4||at Broncos||L 23-20||Linval Joseph|
|6||OCT 18||Chiefs||W 16-10||Stefon Diggs|
|7||OCT 25||at Lions||W 28-19||Stefon Diggs|
|8||NOV 1||at Bears||W 23-20||Stefon Diggs|
|9||NOV 8||Rams||W 21 -18||Linval Joseph|
|10||NOV 15||at Raiders||W 30 -14||Terence Newman|
|11||NOV 22||Packers||L 30-13||Teddy Bridgewater|
|12||NOV 29||at Falcons||W 20-10||Anthony Barr|
|13||DEC 6||Seahawks||L 38-7||Nobody|
|14||DEC 10||at Cardinals||L 23-20||Teddy Bridgewater|
|15||DEC 20||Bears||W 38-17||Teddy Bridgewater|
|16||DEC 27||Giants||W 49-17||Harrison Smith|
|17||JAN 3||at Packers||W 20-13||Everson Griffen|
The Nominees From Wild Card Weekend
Teddy Bridgewater’s “game manager” skills were on full display Sunday, but he was unable to do much else other than efficiently and safely take what a very dominant defense was giving. He completed 70% of his 24 attempts for 146 yards and zero turnovers. The numbers will not blow anyone away by any stretch of the imagination, but the box score doesn’t tell the full tale of Bridgewater’s confidence and poise under extreme pressure behind an offensive line that did the offense few favors all afternoon.
Getting the big man back in the middle has helped the Vikings control opposing running backs in back-to-back weeks, which was step one in (mostly) containing mobile quarterbacks in back-to-back weeks. Joseph has arguably been the best defensive tackle in the NFL this year, when healthy, and Christine Michael’s 3.3 yard average should not be underestimated as an easy task. Joseph registered three tackles on the day.
What I saw out of Griffen on Sunday gave me an enormous amount of faith for what the future holds. I’ve previously noted how I thought facing mobile quarterbacks were an Achilles heal for this Vikings squad and while a slippery Russell Wilson still made a big play when it mattered, Griffen’s maturation into a smart player was incredibly visible on Sunday. He was tasked with arguably more responsibility than any other player against Seattle, having to play well against the read option on a great many occasions, and was only caught out of position in a couple of instances. His discipline was huge for this defense as Wilson was pressured, the run was largely bottled up, and the scrambling quarterback was contained. Griffen ended the day with six tackles, one for a loss, a sack, and four hits on the quarterback.
Speaking of amazing performances along the defensive line, Floyd was as on point as anyone else. He contributed plenty of havoc of his own, in both the run and pass game, and could easily give his fellow lineman a run for their money in this voting. He ended up registering three tackles, two for a loss, and a sack.
How about this rookie class and how all of them contributed in a playoff game? The experience should help, for sure, but I’m not even sure Eric Kendricks needs it. The guy was flying all around the field making plays like a savvy vet, not like a rookie that didn’t start the season atop the depth chart. Kendricks led the team with eight tackles and also defended two passes on the day. This kid looks like the real deal and already has me excited for next season.
The Seahawks didn’t have a receiver with more than 42 yards on Sunday and that is a direct reflection of how well the Vikings secondary played, led by Xavier Rhodes. Not only did Rhodes add another shutdown performance to his resume, but he showed impressive strength on a couple of occasions and certainly didn’t shy away from making a tackle when one was needed out of him. Rhodes had four tackles and two pass deflections to his name in this one.
I debated whether or not to include Walsh in this, but decided to go ahead and do it. If you don’t like it then, by all means, move along and cast your vote for someone else. Through 59 minutes and 33 seconds of Sunday’s game, however, Walsh was arguably the best choice for the game’s MVP honors and it wasn’t just for his three field goals (22, 43, 47 yards out). In a close game, a cold game, it seemed likely that special teams would end up making a huge difference (and boy did it) in the outcome. For the Seahawks, the player most likely to make that difference was certainly return demon Tyler Lockett who Walsh was able to basically erase as a factor on his four kickoffs. Despite the cold working against him, Walsh was successfully able to create touchbacks on three of those four attempts, and Lockett only gained 12 total kick return yards through the entire contest. In the end, however, Walsh is the clear goat of this one for what happened with 27 seconds left in the game… and we’d all be little weird if we also gave him the MVP honors, wouldn’t we?
Of course, there were others worth mentioning that didn’t make my cut. If I missed the guy you think deserves the Player of the Game award then be sure to click “OTHER” and cast your vote in the comments section.