The big national story to emerge from the Vikings’ 24-10 victory over the Giants on Monday wasn’t the fact that Minnesota is now 4-0 (one of two NFL teams with that record and one of three undefeated teams along with the 4-0 Broncos and 3-0 Eagles).
No, the big national story is Odell Beckham Jr.’s ongoing battle with self-sabotage after he sputtered through another in-game mini-meltdown Monday on the way to being held to three catches for 23 yards.
Sure. Fine. Beckham plays in the biggest market in the league, he’s an electric player and in a game bereft of anything else truly special happening that was an obvious angle.
Fair or not, it probably allows the Vikings to keep dodging the spotlight a little. They have neither the pedigree of the defending Super Bowl champs nor the natural feel-good story of a rookie QB when compared to the other undefeated teams. Among other preseason contenders: the Patriots are fascinating. So are the floundering Cardinals and Panthers.
The Vikings? They’re like a technically magnificent boxer that wins every bout via a grinding, efficient decision.
That’s hardly a bad thing. In fact, it might be the ultimate compliment for a Mike Zimmer team. The Vikings coach, not one for hyperbole, nevertheless gave a pretty good quote after last night’s game to ESPN.com:
“I thought our team did a lot of good things last year, but I didn’t know if we were ready,” Zimmer said. “I don’t know if we were really ready to go that far. This year’s team? I don’t know how far we can go, either, but this team is kind of special.”
Zimmer has said variations on those things at other points this year, but “kind of special” (aside from being so very Minnesotan) hints at just how good Zimmer thinks the Vikings are.
If you had to one single ingredient that stands out with this year’s Vikings and their ascent from very good to elite (particularly on defense), the secondary just might be it.
The Vikings already had a standout defensive line led by Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph. They already had two young, elite, playmaking linebackers in Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. But now Harrison Smith is getting even better. Xavier Rhodes is getting even better. Trae Waynes is a player. Terence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn are very solid. All five of those guys were among the top six graded defensive players on the Vikings on Monday.
It’s to the point now where every level of the Vikings’ defense is at least very good if not elite.
That probably had something to do with the frustration of the volatile Beckham last night (particularly the DBs), even if the effect and not the cause wound up as the big story.