Why Did the Vikings Play Starters?
In the week leading up to their final regular season game against the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell announced his starters would be playing. Week 18 meant little in terms of positioning for Minnesota, and not much on the field in production made sense. Why did the Vikings play their starters?
Coming into the contest against the Chicago Bears, it was relatively evident that head coach Matt Eberflus’ team was begging to be beaten. Justin Fields was held out with an injury, and despite already being among the worst teams in the NFL, Chicago was forced to start Nathan Peterman at quarterback.
Why Did the Vikings Play Starters?
Chicago had lost former Vikings backup Trevor Siemian earlier this season, so Peterman would go against Minnesota. Arguably the worst rostered quarterback by a professional team this season, Peterman will never shake his famous five-interception game as a rookie. Getting behind and looking inept early, Peterman was replaced by Tim Boyle. Eberflus was forced to bring Peterman back after Boyle threw a pair of interceptions, one of which looked like little more than an arm punt.
This game would never be close, and the Vikings needed a miracle for it to matter. San Francisco was hosting a David Blough-led Arizona Cardinals team, and they needed to lose to give Minnesota back the two-seed. It was in forcing the 49ers to show up that O’Connell suggested starters would play, but it never felt like the action went beyond that of a preseason tilt.
With Kirk Cousins standing behind a makeshift offensive line and Justin Jefferson suiting up on the outside, there was hope that Calvin Johnson’s record could be tracked down. Whether by design or otherwise, Jefferson was never fully involved in the offense, and third option K.J. Osborn put up his second career 100-yard game.
Chicago came into the game allowing wide receivers to roast the secondary, and they were walking wounded in the cornerback room. Jefferson had burned this club for 154 yards in their matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium, and being on the field suggested at least the possibility of being force-fed to new heights. Ultimately Jefferson’s five targets, even with that of rookie Jalen Nailor, went for just 38 yards before he was given the afternoon off.
Knowing that the Vikings had a new offensive line to break in, it made some sense for Cousins to be under center and get those game reps. He wasn’t going to be out there without the full complement of his skill position players, but selfishly it would have been nice to see them used more traditionally.
At the end of the day, it’s a great thing that Minnesota avoided any serious injuries. Dalvin Cook was in the medical tent for a brief time but returned to action. The Vikings didn’t lose anyone else up front, and despite playing for a complete half, the top of the roster remained intact for a playoff performance next week.
There is still hope that Garrett Bradbury could replace Chris Reed at center, but Oli Udoh is now locked in for Brian O’Neill at right tackle, and helping that group gel together was a must. That pairing, along with rookie Ed Ingram played through the whole game, and they’ll need to pair the reps with a strong week of practice.
Maybe the Vikings starters playing shouldn’t have brought on feelings for more production, but either way, it’s a win as an outcome with no one being hurt.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.
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