By Patrick P. Marek
It’s been said that the Detroit Lions are chicken soup for what ails teams in the National Football League For the Vikings, their 20-7 win on Sunday was more like sipping a weak broth. You can live on it, but it was boring, and left a strangely empty taste in your mouth.
Don’t get me wrong. I might hate bland food, but I love boring victories. I’ll take a ho-hum yawner win over a thrilling, last-second comeback shocker any time. Fortunately, Sunday’s game had a few spicy moments and performances to counter the drives better spent with the appetizers and beverages.
It was refreshing to see Zimmer take the training wheels off the defense from the opening whistle. Danielle Hunter and the rest of the defensive line came out of the blocks fast, destroying the confidence (and completion percentage) of rookie third-string quarterback David Blaugh. Hunter collected three sacks in the first half, becoming the youngest player in NFL history to record 50 sacks. Remember when the Vikings drafted Hunter in the third round of the 2015 draft? He played at LSU and although he was an impressive physical specimen, had only 4.5 sacks during his college career. Rick Spielman has bet on a lot of inside straights on draft day over the years, but his choice of the Jamaican-born Hunter is almost enough to make us forget Christian Ponder and Troy Williamson.
The Lions’ rushing attack came up short all day, and Zimmer did a great job of disguising Xavier Rhodes with a three-man rotation at right cornerback. As it was, if it were any other quarterback than Blaugh, Rhodes would still have been beaten badly on several occasions. The clock is ticking on Rhodes … whose best disguise is on the bench. He is the only player in recent memory (not including quarterbacks) where fans secretly want him to get injured so he has to leave the field.
While the offense didn’t exactly dazzle, they managed to put up more than enough points to overwhelm the Lions. The offensive line did a great job in pass protection, allowing only one sack, despite the fact that you could time Cousins in the pocket with a sundial. Dalvin Cook had a workmanlike but effective day, but doesn’t seem to have the burst we all enjoyed early in the season. As one of the announcers, Chris Spielman (who was a fantastic middle linebacker for Detroit in his day), commented, “He always seemed one shoestring tackle away from breaking off a big run.” Alexander Mattison once again justified his high draft selection by energetically backing up Cook and delivering a highlight-reel hurdle over a hapless Lions’ defender. Mattison was a hurdler in college and it shows. Let’s hope an opposing defender doesn’t decide to stand straight up when the Viking running back comes soaring overhead … the result could be catastrophic.
Cousins has had only four interceptions this year, and two of them bounced off a Minnesota receiver’s hands, or helmet. However, he almost turned into “Bad Kirk” when he felt pressure in the second half and delivered the ball into the stomach of blitzing safety Tavon Wilson. Wilson coughed up the interception and the ball fell into the hands of Vikings’ center Garrett Bradbury for his first (and hopefully) only reception of the year.
The Vikings play their next game at San Diego, and then finish the season at home against the Packers and the Bears. Hopefully Adam Thielen will be fully recovered from his hamstring in time to take on our two NFC North rivals. Minnesota desperately needs his presence across the middle. Way too much of the offense is directed toward the sidelines, making the Vikings very predictable. It wouldn’t hurt to send Cook through the middle on play action, and then catch him in stride in the middle of the field. Everybody else is doing it to us.
Let’s hope next week’s game against the Chargers is intensely boring … in a good way. Until then, stay Purple my friends.