By Patrick P. Marek
Let’s admit it. Any loss is bad, but a gut punch of a loss in prime time on Sunday night can bring on a case of Vikings heartburn that no Rolaids, Alka Seltzer, or Pepto Bismol can cure. It’s tough to sleep when you see images of Russell Wilson completing impossible fourth-down passes dancing in your head. Wilson gave us 94 reasons that prove he is worthy of MVP consideration. That’s the amount of yards the Seahawks gained in 1:42 with one timeout at crunch time. It was painful, but impressive to watch Wilson’s athleticism and creativity as he eluded purple defenders and converted three fourth-down opportunities, including a six-yard dart to D.K. Metcalf for what turned out to be the winning touchdown with 15 seconds to play in a 27-26 win. That is what greatness looks like.
However, there were some positives to bring home from the loss. First, the Vikings hadn’t beaten the Seahawks in the Mike Zimmer era. They were taking on a 4-0 team in one of the toughest places to play in the NFL. Nobody gave them much of a chance to win, yet in a driving rain they sacked Wilson four times, and went into halftime with a 13-0 lead. The defensive scheme dropped the safeties deep, protecting their young cornerbacks, baffling Wilson and the Seahawks’ offensive brain trust. Dalvin Cook’s blend of elusiveness, power and speed was almost unstoppable. Cousins was his usual skittish self in the pocket, but managed to complete tough passes to all of his receivers. Second-year tight end Irv Smith Jr. finally showed some of the luster promised last year, and rookie sensation Justin Jefferson continued to prove that he is one of the top young receivers in the game. Adam Thielen looked like his old self, running precise patterns and showing off nimble feet and sure hands while ultimately hauling in nine receptions and two touchdowns.
There were a lot of things to like about Minnesota’s first-half performance, but they paled before the sudden, amazing knowledge that I could predict the future. It was uncanny. Even though I had just watched one of the most dominating halves in Vikings’ history, on the home turf of the first-place Seahawks no less, all I could think about was Shakespeare. That’s right. I couldn’t shake a recurring image of Romeo and Juliet. It’s a tragedy that features a first act full of humor, swordplay, family intrigue, and the passions of incendiary young love. It is one hour of Shakespeare at his joyful, witty, adventurous and uplifting best. Unfortunately, there is a second act, and it is full of duplicity, violence, dashed dreams, and (spoiler alert) Romeo and Juliet die in the end. Ouch!
It didn’t take long for the Vikings’ dashed dreams of my Shakespearian vision to appear in the second half. Nobody died, but on his first play from scrimmage Dalvin Cooked limped off the field with a groin injury after a swing pass. His absence took the wind out of the Vikings’ sails, while giving hope to the Seahawks’ defense. Cook returned to the field for only one play. He was a decoy on a play-action pass that Cousins floated for one of his patented third-quarter interceptions. Seattle scored three touchdowns in only 1:53 of game time.
It looked like the Seahawks were on their way to a route when the Vikings showed some pride and fought back, ultimately regaining a 26-21 lead and facing a fourth-and-one from the Seattle six with two minutes left. A chip-shot field goal would force Seattle to score a touchdown and two-point-conversion for a tie. Zimmer consulted the analytics, and sent Cousins and the offense in for the win. It was at that moment that another vision jumped into my mind with crystal clarity. Mattison would get stuffed at the line, Wilson would slice through the Minnesota defense like a hot knife through butter, and the Seahawks would score a touchdown on fourth down with seconds left on the clock. It all came true. I was beginning to think that I should retire from my newspaper job and pick winning lottery numbers. The only thing that I didn’t predict was Cousins twirling another “fumble pass” on the last play that ultimately decided the defeat.
Alas, I feel my physic powers fading, but here are some predictions while I still have a glimmer of the future. Kirk Cousins will continue to build up his statistics while consistently failing the team at crunch time (I didn’t have to be Houdini to come up with that one). Pat Elflein will return, and after Dru Samia’s dreadful performance on Sunday, Vikings fans will actually welcome him back. Minnesota will show an abundance of caution with the Dalvin Cook injury, holding him out at least until after the bye. Finally, the Vikings will absolutely destroy Atlanta next week, padding their stats and egos while destroying their chance to “Tank for Trevor,” in the draft.
Hey, it could happen. Stay purple my friends.