We wrote about it. Some of you read it. Others said it aloud. Most of us believed it.
The Vikings overall performance during Week 5 in Seattle was so competent that it seemed the ship was turning in the right direction. The gameplan was executed to perfection. The only items that derailed a victory were two weird turnovers in the third quarter and Russell Wilson’s late-game heroism.
Nipped by no preseason games — was our collective synopsisfor the Vikings early woes. Getting over that four-week hump was hence the moment of truth. The Vikings played the Seahawks ultra-tough, probably should have won the damn thing, and the pieces were finally coming together.
With that optimism in-hand, it was glorious that the hapless Atlanta Falcons were coming to U.S. Bank Stadium. They were supposed to be terrible. Hell, they just fired their head coach, had not won a football game, and their defense was an embarrassment. Instead, we learned that interim coach Raheem Morris’ mother didn’t raise no fool. It was irrelevant that Atlanta was winless through five games because, low and behold, they were hungry and motivated. And, the defense suddenly began flapping its dirty wings. They were instantly turnover-forcing savants.
The fissures of ineptitude on display in the Colts game during Week 2 proved to be real. Many Vikings loyalists had relegated that shoddy showing to its own little box labeled OUTLIER. Yet, the entirety of the Week 6 game versus Atlanta (sans garbage time) affirmed that Minnesota’s downfalls were more than a one-day situation.
As the Vikings traded haymakers with the Seahawks in Week 5, we were fooled to believe a V-shaped recovery was on the way. Instead, the competitiveness of that game was a mirage. The debacle against Atlanta confirmed it.
We Tricked Ourselves
In his song “Tricked” from earlier this year, rapper Royce da 5’9″ writes, “Trick, trick, it’s a trick, we’ve been tricked.” This effectively encapsulates everything that happened to the Vikings last week in the lead-up to the Falcons game. Russell Wilson “only” outdueled the Vikings because it was Minnesota that blew two huge plays – both of the fourth-down variety. Had the opposing quarterback been a pedestrian one — like Carson Wentz or Baker Mayfield — the Vikings would have concludedthe strangulation of the opponent. It was an enthusiastic mindset to explain how Minnesota could go blow-for-blow with arguably the NFL’s best team.
We shouldn’t blame ourselves for subscribing to this bullishness. It made sense. Ordinarily under Mike Zimmer, the Vikings are a formidable football team that is the annual hunt for the NFC North crown. Undergoing an about-face against a Top 3 team felt like the world returning to its axis.
But it wasn’t. The game in Seattle was an example of Mike Zimmer scheming a familiar team quite masterfully. Also, Seattle is a very different place when no fans are present.
When the Vikings came within mere inches of winning that Week 5 game, the zeal for a turnaround was palpable. Fast forward one week, and the Falcons mess ostensibly proved we jumped the gun on Minnesota’s resurrection. A team cannot go Ali-Frazier with the best and then get beaten up by a middle schooler – and expect to be taken seriously.
Seahawks Defense is Awful
We also conveniently glossed over the fact that the Seahawks defense is atrocious (for now, at least). All five of Seattle’s dance partners have put up at least 23 points on Pete Carroll’s defense. Yes, even the Dolphins.
The Vikings were able to move the ball at will in Seattle. Because the Seahawks are labeled as an upper-echelon team, the opinion was that “the Vikings must be good if they can advance the ball on the Seahawks like this.”
That is false. Everybody is doing this to the Seahawks. In fact, it would have been strange if the Vikings played poorly on the offensive side of the ball. Pete Carroll’s team does not have a defensive identity as safety Jamal Adams has been hampered.
Overall, we fell into a trap. If the Vikings could score points on the Seahawks, they must be a lot better than originally perceived. It was a very easy thing to do because of wishful-thinking and excitement. In reality, the Vikings scored a bunch of points on a trashy defense in an empty building.
Reestablishing the Ceiling
The NFL enacted a 16-game schedule in 1978. Since then, 148 teams have started a season with a 1-5 record, which is wherethe Vikings stand after Week 6. Two of those teams – the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs and 2018 Indianapolis Colts – have revitalized to make the playoffs.
The NFL added another playoff team to each conference for the first time this season, so the gates of entry have widened. Nonetheless, Minnesota does not currently feel like one of those teams that will defy the odds and rally. Their defense has simply not improved or matured at the breakneck velocity required to necessitate a playoff push.
The average end-season record for an NFL team that starts a season 1-5 in the last 40 years is 5-11. It is more likely that the Vikings are headed toward something in the neighborhood of 5-11 than an auspicious turnaround that nets 10-6.