Snakebitten Again: Vikings Bungle Certain Victory

3 Things Vikings Can Learn from 2021 ARI Matchup
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NFL teams that begin a season 0-2 throughout history reach the postseason just 12% of the time. Along with a seven-team per-conference playoff format, the Vikings must circumvent those low odds to somehow change the course of the 2021 season.

The first two matchups — on the road at Cincinnati and Arizona — ended in heartache, with a rip-your-intestines out special on Sunday versus the Cardinals.

The Vikings played in a pinball match with the Cardinals, trading blows back and forth via breathtaking plays by both teams. Kyler Murray was unstoppable, pulling a rabbit out of his hat on multiple occasions. Kirk Cousins was marvelous, too, using his feet a few times for first downs while delivering three touchdown passes to no interceptions. Cousins has not turned the ball over in 2021.

In the end, though, the franchise was snakebitten when Greg Joseph missed a 37-yard field goal as time expired which would’ve netted a 36-34 victory for Minnesota. But, nope.

Earlier in the contest, Joseph drilled two field goals beyond 50 yards, fully convincing Vikings loyalists “this guy was different.”

He wasn’t.

A nearly identical happenstance beset former Vikings kicker Daniel Carlson in Week 2 of 2018, but that game resulted in a tie at Lambeau Field with the Green Bay Packers. Minnesota cut Carlson the next day, causing the rookie kicker to eventually land with the Las Vegas Raiders. There, Carlson has been damn good. It is unclear if Vikings management has “learned its lesson” regarding the Carlson fallout — or if the team will sever ties with Joseph after his Week 2 blunder. Betting money suggests they’ll stick with the South African kicker.

In any event, add this one to the list. You know the one — certain victory needlessly canceled by fluky heartbreak. While this game was not in the playoffs, the Vikings own extensive history of conducting heartbreaking operations, often a byproduct of horrendous kicking.

The menu gets no easier. Arguably the second-best quarterback in the world travels to Minnesota next week, and his name is Russell Wilson. The Seahawks quarterback has never lost to the Vikings. He’s defeated different variations of the Vikings seven times, in fact. The only solace this time is the venue, U.S. Bank Stadium. The Week 3 game will be the first Vikings-Seahawks game to take place in Minnesota since the 2015 season.

Oh yeah, that one ended in gut-wrenching agony, too.

Minnesota must rally in the next three games to keep head coach Mike Zimmer’s job secure. Before the season started, the theory was he probably need to reach the postseason — and win games in January. That feels like a grim task to undertake at the moment. Zimmer was even responsible for some curious miscues — a strange squib kick to the Cardinals at the end of the first half. Then, as the clock ticked down to nubbins in the fourth quarter, he elected to trust Joseph rather than ride the hot hand owned by Cousins. Of course, any kicker should nail a 37-yard field goal with ease, but this is the Vikings we’re talking about. And Zimmer should know that better than anyone.

Thankfully, the team proved it “belonged” with the bigboys like the Cardinals. But that’s only a consolation prize. If Minnesota cannot beat Seattle or it cannot beat Cleveland the week after, hanging tough with good teams won’t matter.

At some point — like now — the team simply has to win.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).