Thursday, October 19, 2017

bradford

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McKinnon
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Monday night, Jerick McKinnon became the Vikings’ running back.

Through his career, I’ve been lukewarm on McKinnon. Generally I think he has been an average runner whose shiftiness is more rumor than real and, basically, we think of him as better than he is because he shows potential.

But he won me over against the Bears. Monday night, McKinnon took the reigns as the lead of the Vikings’ timeshare and proved he’s capable of staying there. He was equally effective as a runner and receiver, showing burst through the hole and finishing runs with authority. McKinnon seemed to seek out contact at the ends of plays, picking up two or three crucial extra yards to make the following downs more manageable. Essentially, he did the things we appreciated out of Dalvin Cook before his injury.

McKinnon rushed 16 times for 95 yards and a touchdown, and also tied for the team lead with 6 receptions for 51 yards. He was a integral part of the offense in the second half, when the Vikings did most of their damage.

Latavius Murray played well, too, and he’ll still be a major factor in the backfield. But Monday, McKinnon stole the show. Remember, Murray/McKinnon was the plan before Cook unexpectedly fell to the Vikings in the draft, and if the win over the Bears is any indication, Plan A might work out just fine.

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Bradford
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

As we shift to offseason mode for the Minnesota Vikings, so begins the long and abundant period of speculation. Foremost on the minds of fans and media members is the quarterback position—namely, who will start in 2017?

Will it be Teddy Bridgewater, the team’s original quarterback who often looked like a budding star before a gruesome knee injury knocked him out for the 2016 season?

Or will it be Sam Bradford, brought in via trade to fill in in Bridgewater’s absence, who went on to throw for 3877 yards, 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and an NFL-record 71.6% completion percentage?

On Tuesday, Mike Zimmer provided some clues in his year-end press conference. There were no big revelations, because a.) coaches are rarely forthcoming with that type of thing, and b.) there are still eight months until the 2017 season begins, and a lot can change in that time. But reading into Zimmer’s comments, we can safely assume that at this point, he believes Bradford will be the starter.

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Five thoughts on the Vikings' loss to the Cowboys.

lose
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

1. They had it. They had the game won.

I don’t care what happened afterward. With 10:39 in the fourth quarter, the score was 9-7 and the Vikings had the game in hand. Dallas was punting and the defense was playing out of its mind. All they had to do was not turn it over. All they had to do was keep doing what they were doing; move the ball a little, pin the Cowboys deep, maybe get a field goal or two. They had it.

But then, the guy who never screws up—Adam Thielen—screwed up. He fumbled the punt in the red zone, and Dallas scored on the next play. The momentum that had been slowly built by long field goal drives was promptly sucked out of the building. Even during the final touchdown drive, and the two-point conversion attempt, and the missed facemask penalty on Sam Bradford, it seemed hopeless. They should’ve had it in the bag.

Even as a lifelong Vikings fan, it’s amazing to me how this team keeps finding new and creative ways to blow games. It’s impressive, really.

Wow. That one hurt.

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Five thoughts on the train wreck in Philadelphia.

blame
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

1. A lot of bad to go around.

In two of the three phases of the game—offense and special teams—the Vikings were somewhere between “lacking” and “unmitigated disaster.” The normally sound special teams units were uncharacteristically bad; the kickoff coverage unit left a gaping hole for Philadelphia returner Josh Huff, who returned it for the Eagles first touchdown, and Marcus Sherels lost a fumble on a punt return. On offense, the Vikings turned the ball over three times and got just seven points on four trips to the red zone, plus a 48-yard field goal from Blair Walsh. The offensive line was a factor in all three offensive turnovers, and played its worst game of the season, which is saying something. Sam Bradford wasn’t good, either; he missed a number of throws he usually makes, but it’s hard to put too much of the blame on his shoulders considering there was at least one defender in his face at all times.

For at least one week, the addition of Jake Long did nothing, and the offensive line went from liability to train wreck—even Mike Zimmer placed most of the blame for the loss on the blocking, saying, “We didn’t block anybody. We were soft. We got overpowered.”

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Bradford MVP
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

You’ve surely heard by now. On Wednesday, Peter King named Sam Bradford his MVP through the first quarter of the season. This elicited a wide range of responses, many of which amounted to boundless outrage —just look at the replies to this tweet for a sample. The idea was strongly opposed. And those in in opposition generally did one of the following: they offered a different candidate they found more worthy—Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson were named the most, and both are understandable choices—or, more frequently, they said something to the effect of “the Vikings defense is so good! How could Bradford be the MVP?!?!?!”

For his part, I thought King’s explanation made a lot of sense:

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