Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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It was an ugly game in the midst of an already-ugly season.
In his six weeks as an in-season NFL head coach, Mike Zimmer has dealt with everything from a suspended star to an injured starting quarterback to a gunshot free agent to kidney stones.
Sunday, he may have preferred kidney stones to what he witnessed.
His defense, which had played so well, gave up a literally last-second touchdown and the Vikings lost, 17-16, at Buffalo, sending the Vikings to 2-5.
A victory would have left the Vikings 3-4 with a trip to Tampa this weekend and a chance at .500. Instead, Zimmer must feel like he’s staring into the abyss.
Zimmer’s defense led the way, pressuring Kyle Orton and injuring the Bills’ two best backs in a physical performance against a team that has beaten the Bears and Lions this season. Everson Griffen and Anthony Barr, two players expected to benefit from Zimmer’s system, made plays all over the field.
Teddy Bridgewater looked overwhelmed early, but then regained his poise and began finding his long-lost wide receivers, even hitting Cordarrelle Patterson with a touchdown pass.
But the offense’s inability to produce more than one touchdown cost the Vikings a victory.
The Vikings had 10 days to prepare for a home game against an injury-depleted divisional opponent.
They looked like they needed 100.
All that time, and their game plan included one interesting wrinkle – rookie running back Jerick McKinnon making his first NFL start.
They didn’t find a way to make Cordarrelle Patterson a bigger part of the offense. They didn’t fix their offensive line, which was dominated by Detroit’s strong front seven. And offered little support for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who found himself under pressure all day.
The result was a 17-3 loss that was easily explainable, given Detroit's strong defense, but unsightly nontheless. The result was another horrid offensive performance and another division loss.
The Vikings are 2-4 after the toughest six-game stretch of their schedule. Had they emerged from this stretch with Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph and a confidence-boosting offensive line, the record would not be worrisome.
The way they’re playing is.
The only bright spot on the offense was McKinnon, who looked explosive with the ball and even handled most of his pass-blocking duties well.
But on a windy day that made passes flutter, the Vikings couldn’t run the ball or throw it downfield, and Bridgewater often looked like a man painfully aware of his circumstances.
Greetings from the press box at TCF Bank Stadium, where Team Strib is preparing for the Vikings-Lions game.
At the beginning of the season, I thought that if everything went right - Matt Cassel played well and stayed healthy, Adrian Peterson performed well in the Vikings' offense, Kyle Rudolph had a breakout season and Mike Zimmer's defense worked well - the Vikings might win two of their first six games.
Despite all of their problems - injuries, suspensions, turmoil - the Vikings have already won two. In a division in which there are no sure things, and with Calvin Johnson's injury short-circuiting what looked like a possibly dominant Lions team, the Vikings have a chance to jump into contention today.
They face the Lions without Johnson and Reggie Bush, at home, in the rare game at TCF Bank that will be considered an advantage for Minnesota. The Lions rarely play well outdoors, and the loss of Johnson and Bush will make them much easier to game-plan against.
Here are the two most prominent aspects of the game I'll be watching today:
-Can Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner help Teddy Bridgewater get comfortable against a surprisingly strong defense? Can he involve Cordarrelle Patterson and Jerick McKinnon, his two most talented players?
-Can Harrison Smith run well on his sore ankle? Can the Vikings stuff running back Joquie Bell, and limit Golden Tate's ability to run after the catch?
If the Vikings can do those two things, I believe they win. And if they win, they'll be in contention for a playoff spot despite all of the terrible things that have happened to them so far.
The importance of any individual NFL game becomes overblown because of scarcity. There just aren’t many games, so they all seem important.
This one might actually have been. The Vikings faced the prospects of falling to 1-3 if they lost at home to Atlanta. That would be 1-3 with an injury-depleted roster, with Adrian Peterson perhaps never carrying the ball for them again, and with under pressure being placed on key rookies.
A couple of rookies earned the Vikings a 41-28 victory on Sunday over Atlanta.
Teddy Bridgewater made his first career start and completed 19-of-30 passes for 317 yards and no interceptions, even running for a touchdown. He looked cool and comfortable until he injured his ankle in the fourth quarter, causing Christian Ponder to finish the game in relief.
Bridgewater’s longtime running partner may be rookie running back Jerick McKinnon, who for the first time was a big part of the game plan. McKinnon rushed 18 times for 135 yards.
An NFL team’s prospects change week to week, but if Bridgewater and McKinnon can remain healthy, they could have a lot more days like they had on Sunday.
Bridgewater became the first rookie quarterback this season to pass for 300 yards, while making his first NFL start. McKinnon displayed the strength and speed that made him a third-round draft pick.
This might sound strange, but it's true: The Vikings might not be missing Adrian Peterson for long.
In their first trip to the Superdome since Brett Favre was brutalized in the 2009 NFC title game, a Vikings game swung on a roughing-the-passer penalty.
It wasn’t exactly a makeup call.
In 2009 (actually January of 2010), the Saints smashed Favre at every opportunity, leaving him with a grotesquely swollen ankle and a severe limp. They were not called for their hits on Favre.
Sunday, the Vikings’ defense was remarkably effective at bothering Saints quarterback Drew Brees. In the third quarter, on third-and-13, Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn sacked Brees, pulling him backward. Brees landed on his neck and head.
The officials called roughing the passer, even though Munnerlyn did not bring down Brees violently.
Given a first down, the Saints drove for the touchdown that gave them a 20-9 lead. And that would be the final score.
The Saints drove for touchdowns on their first two drives, with the Vikings offering little resistance.
Then the Vikings’ defense began stuffing the run, and forcing Brees to move his feet, disrupting the timing of the Saints’ intricate passing game.
Teddy Bridgewater replaced Matt Cassel after Cassel suffered a foot injury early in the second quarter. Bridgewater wasn’t brilliant, but he looked poised and threw accurately, giving the Vikings a chance to get back into the game.
And he might have had the opportunity to give the Vikings the lead, if not for that strange penalty call on Munnerlyn.
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