Wednesday, March 1, 2017

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Merry Christmas, Vikings fans

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Christmas came early for Xavier Rhodes and the Minnesota Vikings defense, who will host the New York Giants — sans Odell Beckham Jr. — this Sunday night. The team’s star wide receiver was suspended for his conduct in yesterday’s game against the Carolina Panthers. Beckham was flagged three times for personal foul penalties and could have been ejected for his actions, which included pushing, shoving, and exchanging punches with Panthers cornerback Josh Norman.

The two engaged in a series of violent encounters throughout the game, with the most dangerous and brutal coming on a play that didn’t even involve Beckham. According to SB Nation, Beckham is the first offensive player to ever be suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit:

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Mike Zimmer jumped the gun when he gave his team “Beat Green Bay” shirts before their Week 11 matchup with the rival Packers. Although they’d won five straight games and led the NFC North at that point of the season, many wondered — “Are the Vikings ready to challenge Green Bay for the division title?”.

The answer was a resounding “no.” Minnesota was blown out at home, losing 30-13 to a Packers team that had struggled offensively all year. They played more like the team that was embarrassed Week 1 than the team that dominated opponents on the ground and with an up-and-coming defense. And after losing two of their three games following that dreary November night, they looked more “pretender” than “contender.”

In three short weeks, though, Mike Zimmer has learned the value of the proverbial bulletin board. It’s an age-old metaphor in sports; coaches pin negative quotes up in the locker room or play sound bites to motivate their players before games. Listen to what the media and fans are saying, and use that as fuel to your fire when you’re on the field. Some players — especially veterans — don’t always respond to that method, but for a young team in Minnesota, Zimmer’s tactics seem to be working.

They entered last week as heavy underdogs against a red-hot Arizona Cardinals team, but found a way to not only keep the game close, but competitive. If not for Teddy Bridgewater’s fumble on the last offensive snap, the Vikings could have easily sent the game into overtime. Their surprising performance came without three of their top defensive players and in the face of public doubt. Instead of buying t-shirts or feeding the swirling hype, Zimmer put the onus on his players to believe in themselves despite the negative noise:

“Really, when teams believe – everybody in the world thought we were going to get killed by Arizona and we went out there and we played and fought – and sometimes you have to have something that happens within your football team, that you can believe. You can believe these young guys are going to go in there and play and play good. You can believe no matter how much we’re up against the wall that we can continue to fight. That was kind of my message all week long. This is the team we have to be, this is who we are, we have to prepare with the same focus and I was on their rear ends pretty hard this week.”

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Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Last week, despite fumbling the game-winning drive away, it was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater that stole this weekly award via your votes. He’s got a great chance at doing it again this week, under happier circumstances, which would give him his third win of the year here at VT.

There is no doubt that Mike Zimmer has improved greatly in an enormously important section of the standings – division record – and the team is still in a position to win the NFC North with just two weeks of football left.

Sunday’s convincing 38-17 victory against Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears is significant in that Minnesota has swept two of their NFC North opponents in 2015. Only the Packers, a team Zimmer has yet to beat as Head Coach, remain on the schedule and that final regular season is still a potential matchup that determines the division championship.

A number of Vikings players stood out on Sunday, and there is plenty of reason to celebrate them, and what better way than by nominating them for this heralded (by me) award? Your Week Fifteen nominations are…

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Teddy Dave Bridgewater silenced a lot of critics Sunday with his four passing touchdown, zero interception and one rushing score performance at The Bank lifting the Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings over the Chicago Bears 38-17 in a crucial game for the final playoff push. We recap the game that was and explain why it might have happened…..

Control Our Own Destiny Talking Points Include
• Teddy Bridgewater Quieted The Haters
• Teddy Ballgame
• Props to Norv Turner for Calling a Solid Game
• Freed McKinnon
• The Offense is Better Without Adrian Peterson
• Welcome Back Stefon Diggs!
• Take a Bow, Brian Robison
• The Defense Played Well Without Key Starters
• The Vikings Kickoff Coverage Game Needs Work.
• Mike Zimmer Coaching Nuggets
• Random Thoughts
• Giants Coming Up
• We Control Own Desitny: 2 Wins Get the North

All this and other “I’m not smart enough to figure out playoff scenarios” nonsense on this edition of the Purple FTW! Podcast!

An Andy Carlson Joint.

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Teddy Bridgewater gave his best Cam Newton-like performance throwing for four touchdowns and leaping over the goal line to add a rushing score as the Vikings rolled past the Chicago Bears 38-17 at TCF Bank Stadium.

The Vikings put the game in the bag early in the third quarter when Brian Robison pressured Jay Cutler in the pocket forcing and recovering a fumble that set up a 33-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs on an underneath crossing route to take a 24-10 advantage.

Cutler was sacked five time by the Vikings defense as the front seven consistently hurried and harassed the QB all game. The Vikings were playing without Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr and Linval Joseph, but the defense successfully dialed-up enough timely big plays to keep the game out of reach. Justin Trattou intercepted Cutler in the fourth quarter and rookie Danielle Hunter had another good game with 5 combined tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Zach Line added the final touchdown for the Vikings as he dove to the pylon with just under two minutes to play on a 4-yard rollout dump-off from Bridgewater. However, it was the Vikings perfectly orchestrated first possession on the game’s opening score that actually set the tone. Backed-up at their own 7-yard line, Bridgewater guided the Vikings on a 14-play drive that ended with an outstanding over the shoulder 15-yard reception from Bridgewater to Diggs in the corner of the end zone giving the Vikings an early 7-0 lead that they never relinquished.

Adrian Peterson was limited and missed some action because of an ankle injury but finished with 63 yards on 18 attempts. Bridgewater was 17 of 20 for 231 yards without a turnover and helped the Vikings take a significant step toward clinching a playoff spot. The Vikings improve to 9-5 on the season and control their own destiny in the NFC North.

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