Vikings Continue Finding Ways To Win
The Minnesota Vikings got off to a fast start against the Chicago Bears, jumping out to an early 21-3 lead. You would forgive those new to Vikings football for thinking a comfortable afternoon lay ahead.
However, those au fait with how a Vikings game usually plays out found the carnage that followed as no great surprise. In the end, Minnesota found a way to beat Chicago and move to a 4-1 record, including three victories in the division. Somehow, some way, the Vikings continue to find ways to win.
A Win is a Win
To quote KJ Osborn post-game, “a win is a win.”
Since cruising to victory in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings haven’t been able to knit together anything close to a complete performance. Just as it seemed like that might happen, the Vikings special teams unit went into meltdown. A shanked punt and a pair of missed field goals – one of which was blocked — swung momentum in Chicago’s favor, and they took advantage.
And these items were typical of the season the Vikings are having. There was also a huge special teams play by Akayleb Evans. As the Bears went for a surprise onside kick, Evans would not be caught napping and pounced on the bouncing ball to recover possession for the Vikings.
The Bears went on a 19-point run of unanswered points to take a 22-21 lead in the fourth quarter. Minnesota’s defense continues to be an enigma. At times the defense looked inept, especially during that 19-point run, but they continued the trend of making game-defining plays when it mattered. Cameron Dantzler stripped the ball from former Vikings wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette to end the game.
The Vikings defense has given up a lot of yards but managed to keep a lid on conceding points. Through five games, they have allowed 102 points, an average of 20.4 points per game. Last year, the Vikings defense allowed 25.1 points per game, which means there has been nearly a five-point improvement.
With the offense the Vikings have at their disposal, asking them to score 21 points to win games isn’t a big ask. Can the defense maintain the relatively low points totals? That’s the big talking point regarding the Vikings right now.
Meanwhile, the offense came out firing on all cylinders, and Kevin O’Connell has the unit humming five games into the season. Dalvin Cook ran all over the Bears defense on his way to 94 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Concurrently, Kirk Cousins broke Tommy Kramer’s franchise record for consecutive completions, eventually tallying 17 straight before finally missing his target.
The Vikings scored on three consecutive drives to start the game but couldn’t maintain that pace. They failed to put points on the board on their next four drives. The slump started at the end of the first half and continued into the 3rd quarter. That particular quarter is becoming a big problem for the Vikings. Minnesota has scored 115 points this season, but only six have come in the 3rd quarter. For whatever reason, the Vikings offense can’t get going after halftime.
The 4th quarter is an entirely different story. This season that is when the Vikings are producing some of their best football. Outscoring their opponents 37-14 in the final quarter explains how the Vikings continue to find ways to win. Three weeks in a row, Cousins has overseen a come-from-behind rally and produced a game-winning drive. With the game in the balance, Cousins conducted an epic 17-play, seven-minute drive down the field, including an escaping-the-pocket scramble for a first down and finished off with a quarterback sneak for a touchdown.
In a perfect world, the Vikings will find more consistency in all three game phases. That was always likely to take time. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the Vikings came into this season with not only a new head coach but also a new defensive coordinator. Every coach except Keenan McCardell was replaced, and the Vikings changed both offensive and defensive schemes. There were always going to be growing pains.
It is somewhat of a surprise that the results have gone so well. Everyone yearns for the perfect game where the offense racks up the points, the defense smothers the opposition, and special teams are on the money. Complimentary football is a term often used for teams who are doing well. It’s what the Vikings are doing right now.
When one unit is struggling, the others pick up the slack. It’s a very encouraging sign in the early days of O’Connell’s tenure. Everything may not be perfect, but there is plenty to work with, and getting wins behind you provides the ideal platform to build.
Should the Vikings continue to find ways to win while the players continue to learn the ways of the new coaching staff, it promises to be an exciting three months ahead.
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