by Mike Marek
Thursday night went about as well as you would expect it to go. It was a short week, both teams were tired, and the Vikings were playing at home. It wasn’t a score-fest; however, the Vikings found a way to execute well enough to bring home a victory, propelling themselves to a a spiffy 6-2 record. This win wrapped an impressive first half of the season which looked to be in doubt after a painful end to the first quarter of the season.
The surprising turnaround started after the world seemed to be ending after a week four loss at the Chicago Bears. What the Vikings did during their next four games is exactly what they need to do to start to capture the imagination of the Minnesota faithful. The man responsible for most of it continues to be the man whom was the most criticized of the bunch after a 2-2 start.
Cousins continues to impress. He showcased against his former team the attributes that made him worth investing in. These included great decision making, high accuracy, and a solid deep ball. These are all things that have been hallmarks of the Vikings offense over the last four weeks. You can see a marked difference between the offense of last year versus the offense of this year, the main components being a balanced offense with a very effective running the game. The power running game has significantly opened up the play-action-loving nature of Cousins, and as a result it has been able to pay major dividends for the entire offense. Not everything is ticking as well as the offense, but it appears that the Vikings have been getting lucky as well as being good.
The biggest blunder of the year came on a fourth-and-one conversion attempt on the wrong side of the 50. Zimmer, coming off one of his boldest play-calling games earlier in the week, decided to roll the dice again with a Kirk Cousins’ QB sneak up the middle. This time the gamble didn’t pay as Kirk was rejected at the line. I appreciate the new maverick play calling; however, I am glad that Zimmer got caught speeding on this one with little to no damage to show for it. Luckily Anthony Harris had his coach’s back, and quickly intercepted an errant Washington pass on the next series. Decisions like the fourth-and-one call could be much more costly later on in the season. I am hoping that Zimmer took his medicine this time around, so we don’t need to repeat this episode again in more important games. Speaking of more important games, the next four look to be the true meat of the schedule for the purple.
I would argue that the Vikings are now entering their hardest part of the season slate. Their Sunday match-up against the Chiefs will likely be without reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes; however, the offensive weapons of Kansas City are still present and accounted for. That and an opportunistic defense and a raving home crowd will likely spell trouble for the Vikings.
They follow the Chiefs game up with a visit to Dallas, a home game against the Broncos, and finally a trip to rainy Seattle, where they seem to never be able to win. My best guess puts the Vikings at a respectable 8-4 following the third quarter of the season.
This all sets up for a potential tremendous ending for a quarterback trying to find his way, an established defense, and a coach that may only have a few runs left in him. I’m still treating this season as a week-to-week project, but it’s starting to get tempting to look forward to later games, and think, what if? For now, I am going to continue to hold steady, and hope the Vikings do too.