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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.

When Rick Spielman decided to win a bidding war with Chicago for the services of right tackle Phil Loadholt, he was willing to make veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield a casualty by sending him packing.  At the time, I opined that the Vikings not only lost their best cornerback as a result, but that they also lost their best linebacker and defensive leader.

Then, through free agency and the NFL Draft, the Vikings refused to make considerable investment into the linebacker position despite numerous opportunities.  Some third day Draft picks, and injury-prone free agent Desmond Bishop, amounted to no immediate upgrade to the starting linebacker positions.  Instead, the team was willing to move forward with Erin Henderson manning the middle.

Now, I am on record as being supportive of Henderson.  I think he has played better than many fans give him credit for.  Until last week, he led the team in tackles.  Only ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison have more sacks than his three.  He leads the Vikings with nine tackles for a loss, is tied for a team lead with two interceptions, and leads all the linebackers with three defended passes.  Those stats, however, have not been enough for fans and analysts to grant Henderson immunity from criticism as the Vikings currently place 29th in pass defense and 24th against the run.

Henderson was expected to step up, take command of the defense, and instead the entire unit has been on a season-long campaign of collapse.  With Winfield gone, and Kevin Williams and Jared Allen clearly on their way out, it seemed natural to look for a leader on defense to ease the transition.  Instead, Henderson has been at the center of a defense that has shown no ability to stop opponents, and instead of being a vocal leader that speaks of consistency and accountability he has found himself in the center of controversy.

That is exactly what you don’t look for in a team leader.

Last week, news broke that Henderson had been picked up for DWI and possession of a controlled substance.  The details are murky right now, and he claims this isn’t the “personal reason” he had for missing last week’s game, but Henderson has a long ways to go before anybody will consider him a legitimate leader on defense.

Henderson counts as the third Vikings player in three weeks to hit the police blotter, which prompted General Manager Rick Spielman to release a public statement, and the Vikings brass cannot be happy about any of this.  Surely this issue will come up when end-of-season evaluations of Henderson’s value are being performed and I can’t imagine the front office will be content relying so heavily on him in 2014 and beyond.

Perhaps the best case scenario, for Henderson, is to end up back at the weakside spot.

That would certainly seem like a preferred alternative to being out of a job.

I mentioned during our Monday night live chat that I didn’t think the Vikings could manage to swing a trade that sent Jared Allen to a contender while stockpiling draft picks for the upcoming offseason.

My reasoning was simply that there were too many obstacles standing in the way of a deadline deal.  Allen’s age (31), dipping production, and price tag would make potential suitors balk before shelling out anything lucrative.  In addition, Allen could really only be considered by teams running the 4-3, which eliminated roughly half the league right off the bat.  The demand is also just not there, as evidenced by how long aging defensive ends with big names sat on the open market this past offseason.

Now, the Vikings were undoubtedly willing to listen to offers today despite all of the obstacles, and a roller coaster ride of reports indicated Allen was drawing at least some interest.  All of the various reports essentially culminated to the following: The Seahawks and Broncos expressed interest, and the Vikings wanted a second round pick or possibly a third rounder, but a deal couldn’t get done.

Thus, Jared Allen will be a Viking for the remainder of this season as expected, and is likely to move on to another team after his contract expires and free agency opens.

Now, a lot of people have been providing bad information regarding a potential 2015 compensatory pick the Vikings could get for Allen’s departure.  The Vikings will not be eligible for a third round pick.  Allen is over 30 years old and has ten years of NFL experience, which means the best pick the Vikings could receive for letting him walk is a fifth rounder.  This little known rule apparently has some NFL reporters confused, but the Steelers learned this lesson the hard way when Alan Faneca bolted as a free agent, and it even impacted the Vikings back when Jerry Ball departed Minnesota.

Jared Allen has provided us with some of our favorite memories in recent years, and he will be missed, but at this point it seems like he will be leaving for good and the Vikings will get very little in return for letting him.

As the Vikings get deeper and deeper into the 2013 season their losses are becoming more and more embarrassing.  A playoff team one season ago, the Vikings of today are putting some of the most putrid displays of football on the field that I have ever seen, and I’m counting the high school competitions I’ve watched… including junior varsity… in Alaska.

This team has been so awful in so many ways that it is difficult to diagnose any individual problems.  There are some obvious players to pick on, guys that lack certain skill sets, but all 32 teams in the league have guys like that.  There is something different about this Vikings team.  Something that just isn’t right.  Something that can’t be explained away by citing an overall lack of talent.  This team isn’t old, but it isn’t so young that it should be this bad.  In the past I’ve talked about Christian Ponder just not seeming to have that elusive “it” trait, which is a hard thing to explain about an individual player, but now I venture to say that this entire team just doesn’t have “it” this year.  How that happens to a collective group is even harder to explain.

Still, I have to do something other than pretend my website doesn’t exist.  I can’t just let you guys down and stop writing, no matter how much of a chore it feels like these days.  I can clean my gutters before I write, however, which is exactly what I did.  Despite the dirty task, Tuesday night has already been more of a success (and more enjoyable) than Monday night was.

There were no hidden treasures in my gutters tonight and, homers be warned, there are no hidden treasures in my analysis of last night’s debacle.  Here are 10 things that the Vikings need to fix prior to 2014 and I attempted to prioritize them:

10.  We Need A New Guard

Whether their regression is permanent or an anomaly, the Vikings will go into the future with their current starting tackles and center on the offensive line.  The guard positions are a different story, however, and if this team is going to make a move along the O-Line it will come at these spots.  Brandon Fusco hasn’t been too terrible this season, but Charlie Johnson should not be starting in the NFL, and these guys collectively need to be held accountable for their share of the Vikings struggles both running and passing.  It is once again time for the organization to bring some serious competition to the line and make a statement:  Continuity within the unit needs to be earned, not gifted.

Josh Freeman stole most of the headlines regarding the Vikings this week, but Wednesday brought a flurry of activity from Winter Park, and here are your resulting roster updates:

McLeod Bethel-Thompson:  Many Minnesota fans hoped to see “MBT” sneak onto the practice squad after he was the casualty cut following the Freeman signing.  Not only would retaining him have allowed the Vikings to continue developing him, but it could have provided them greater flexibility and leverage in potential trade scenarios involving either Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel.  Instead, the San Francisco Forty-Niners claimed him off waivers.  MBT started his career with the Niners, but has yet to see any regular season playing time with any of the teams he has signed with since 2011.

Brian Robison:  One of my favorite Vikings is defensive end Brian Robison, mainly because of his unheralded consistency on the left side, so I was elated to hear that the Vikings signed him to a four year contract extension.  The deal is reportedly worth $28.3 million, with $13.1 million in guarantees and a $5 million signing bonus.  Robison has been one of the best 4-3 left ends in the NFL, particularly in the pass rushing department, so it is no surprise that the contract incentives are tied directly to sack numbers.  Robison, the class act that he is, joked with reporters that the quality of bass fishing in Minnesota was a major factor in his decision to re-up.  Defensive ends Jared Allen and Everson Griffen are also in contract years.

Justin Trattou:  The Vikings also made a waiver claim on Wednesday and they were awarded defensive end Justin Trattou who was recently released by the New York Giants.  Trattou was undrafted out of Florida in 2011 and has bounced around the Giants practice squad and active roster over the last couple of years.  He has very limited playing time and is mostly an unknown at this point.  Still, the Vikings front office thought highly enough of his potential that they jettisoned defensive end George Johnson to make room for him.

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