It is taught that the best endings to the best stories are supposed to be both inevitable and unpredictable. The story of the 2014 Minnesota Vikings wasn’t a particularly good one and their playoff hopes, while inevitable, came to a very predictable ending on Sunday.
The loss to the Packers signals an end to any meaningful hope of a postseason appearance, but that makes this segment even a little more interesting than it previously was. Now, with plenty of Vikings football left to watch, evaluating individual players is the first step in looking down beyond the coming offseason in hopes of a more satisfying sequel.
Past “Player of the Week” winners here at VT were voted on as such:
WEEK ONE: Cordarrelle Patterson
WEEK TWO: Harrison Smith
WEEK THREE: Harrison Smith
WEEK FOUR: Teddy Bridgewater
WEEK FIVE: Harrison Smith
WEEK SIX: Linval Joseph
WEEK SEVEN: Everson Griffen
WEEK EIGHT: Anthony Barr
WEEK NINE: Everson Griffen
WEEK ELEVEN: Charles Johnson
The nominations for this week are:
JOE BANYARD: With Matt Asiata out with injury, it was expected that newly signed Ben Tate would help fill the void. While Tate filled a roster slot, it was Banyard that took over as Jerick McKinnon’s primary backup. Banyard didn’t see a ton of action, but he made the most of his opportunities, earning the praise of analysts and fans alike. He carried the ball five times for 26 yards (5.2 average) and also caught all three of his passing targets for 19 yards (6.3 average). Many articles have been written recently about the future of the Vikings running back situation, but none of them even mentioned Banyard. Perhaps that was an oversight?
CHARLES JOHNSON: For the second week in a row, the Vikings leading receiver was Johnson, who edged out Harrison Smith for last week’s honors as our Player of the Week. Johnson’s performance wasn’t quite as strong this time around, with dropped passes seeming to be an issue (although he was only credited with one drop) and his timing with Teddy Bridgewater looking less efficient. He scooped three catches for 52 yards (17.3 yard average) and a touchdown, but it took a whopping 11 targets to get those numbers. Hopefully Johnson can find some more consistency and continue to develop some chemistry with our young quarterback.
ROBERT BLANTON: I’ve been hard on Blanton since the moment he joined the Vikings, but yesterday he tied for a team-leading 10 tackles and played a generally solid game. Sometimes a major liability, causing certain hack bloggers to dream of Rick Spielman’s plan to replace him, I can’t help but admit Blanton played well against one of the league’s most potent passing attacks.
HARRISON SMITH: Smith was the other guy on this defense to get 10 tackles. He also added a tackle for a loss and a pass defended (a nearly game changing interception) in a game where he appeared to be balling out and doing everything within his power to turn the tide. One glaring missed tackle aside, Smith had another one of those games that has made him a mainstay option in these weekly polls of ours.
XAVIER RHODES: I was really quite impressed with how our defense held up against Aaron Rodgers and his stable of high-caliber wide outs. Chief among the cornerbacks, all of which had nice performances, was none other than Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes was credited with three tackles and two defended passes, modest numbers that do a poor job of accurately illustrating how well Rhodes blanketed his assignments on Sunday. According to Pro Football Focus, Rhodes only allowed two catches for 18 yards throughout the entire game.
BLAIR WALSH: Not only did Blair Walsh account for seven of our 21 points, three of which came on a 51 yard boot, but none of his five kickoffs were returned. Granted he failed to pin the Packers inside the twenty following a roughing the passer penalty that placed him 15 yards closer on the following kick attempt, but he should have been performing an onsides kick at that point anyways, so I give him a pass.
JEFF LOCKE: Another guy who gets plenty of flak, I’m not sure we could’ve asked much more out of our punter on Sunday. In four attempts, he placed three inside the 20 yard line, and put up a respectable average of 44.8 yards per punt. His longest punt went for 54 yards and only one of them was returned for mentionable yardage (17 from Micah Hyde). All in all, a decent showing for a guy that hasn’t been getting much love lately.