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Access Vikings

Breaking news and year-round coverage of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Access Vikings is the Star Tribune's blog covering team news, rumors, games and all things purple.

Despite disappointing 2016 season, Anthony Barr earns Pro Bowl invite

A few weeks ago, coach Mike Zimmer admitted that in his disappointing third NFL season Anthony Barr had showed "a tendency to coast."

Now the outside linebacker is somehow coasting to the Pro Bowl.

With Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley excused from participating in the annual all-star game because his team made it to theSuper BowlBowl, Barr has been named his replacement. It will be the second straight Pro Bowl nod for Barr, who was the ninth overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Last year, Barr was one of the NFL's top linebackers. This year, he played nearly every snap on defense but was nowhere near as impactful, causing Zimmer to note four weeks ago that "he can do a lot better."

Barr is now the sixth player from the Vikings to be invited to the game, which will be played in Orlando this upcoming Sunday. Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Everson Griffen and Cordarrelle Patterson were initially selected to play and Linval Joseph, like Barr, got in as an alternate.

Blowing 5-0 start to Super Bowl a year later? Vikings can follow Atlanta's lead

As you probably already know and are also probably sick of hearing over and over and over again, the Vikings in 2016 became the sixth team since 1990 to miss the playoffs after starting a season with five straight wins.

The fifth team to do it will be in the Super Bowl in a couple of weeks.

The Falcons started 5-0 last season before losing eight of their final 11 games, including one to the Vikings, to finish at .500. Sound familiar?

After their collapse in 2015, the Falcons didn’t make sweeping changes.

They did add in free agency Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who stabilized their offensive line, and wide receiver Mohammed Sanu, who caught five passes and scored a touchdown in Sunday’s beatdown of the Packers.

And they got immediate impact from the defenders they drafted, starting with safety Keanu Neal in the first round followed by Deion Jones in the second and fellow linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, the former Gopher, in the fourth. Rookie tight end Austin Hooper has helped, too.

Those offseason moves have paid off, but the biggest difference for the Falcons is that their defenders are now in their second year in Dan Quinn’s scheme and quarterback Matt Ryan is expected to be named league MVP in his second year with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

So the Vikings, after their stunning collapse this past season, don’t need to completely overhaul their roster to get back in the Super Bowl picture. But it is worth noting the Falcons were the only team from this infamous group to bounce back the following season and make the playoffs.

The first team since the NFL expanded the playoff field to 12 teams in 1990 to collapse after starting 5-0 was the 1993 Saints, who had former Vikings quarterback Wade Wilson under center. Wilson was replaced by Jim Everett in 1994 and the Saints went 7-9 that following season.

You probably don’t need a history lesson on the 2004 Vikings, who like their predecessors squandered a hot start and missed the playoffs.

The Giants in 2010 signed free-agent safety Antrel Rolle, let linebacker Antonio Pierce go and drafted defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and nose tackle Linval Joseph, now a Pro Bowler for the Vikings, with their first two picks. They ended up going 10-6 that year and still missed the playoffs.

After starting the 2009 season 6-0 before missing the playoffs, the Broncos in 2010 ushered in Tim Tebow Time, drafting the Heisman winner in the first round along with wideout Demaryius Thomas. They went 4-12 that season, with coach Josh McDaniels getting canned midseason.

This is obviously a small sample size, one with a wide range of outcomes, so there is no trend here. But given the talent the Vikings will return in 2017, if they can find a way to fix their offensive line, they are more likely to be back in the playoff hunt than the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick.

Final, 2/7 1 2 3 4 F
Carolina 0 7 0 3 10
Denver 10 3 3 8 24

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