Welcome to the Monday edition of The Cooler, where every bad memory is seared into our brains. Let’s get to it:
*The 2016 Vikings had their season undone by a leaky offensive line. That team had a bad plan going in, and it only got worse as injuries stacked up. They started out 5-0 and were the talk of the NFL, but that quickly disintegrated into an 8-8 finish.
Those woes were mitigated by an upgrade to nearly adequate line play a year ago — and to the good work Case Keenum did under duress — but injuries again caused the line to break down late in the year and contributed to the 38-7 loss to the Eagles in the NFC title game.
The line was again a concern this season, particularly as the retirement of Joe Berger, an injury to Nick Easton and the continued absence of Pat Elflein early in the year weighed on the matter. The history of new QB Kirk Cousins struggling under duress — including a fumbling problem — only added to the concern.
The Vikings had a bad plan coming into the season and tried to upgrade to adequate with some Band-aids. The offensive line was troubling in Game 1, better in Game 2 and a disaster in Game 3 against the previously winless Bills.
Cousins was under pressure all game and had two early game-changing fumbles. As the game wore on, it became clear that he didn’t trust his blockers and instead fired short passes all over the field.
It looked a disturbing amount like the 2016 season, when Sam Bradford set an NFL completion percentage record (71.6 percent) largely because he threw a ton of short passes to avoid pressure.
Cousins finished Sunday 40 for 55 (72.7 percent) for 296 yards. That’s 5.4 yards per attempt and a mere 7.4 yards per completion.
The sight of a Vikings QB wearing No. 8 and either running for his life, falling to the ground or getting the ball out quickly is all-too-familiar.
After their offseason and in-season moves to try to upgrade themselves in various areas, the Vikings have about enough cap space left to buy a cup of coffee.
Translation: the offensive line pretty much is what it is, and unless it gets better in a hurry the comparisons to 2016 will unfortunately continue.
*One thing to consider as you wonder how the Wolves will fare after the inevitable Jimmy Butler trade and put their faith in Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins:
Butler was the main reason the Wolves jumped from 31 to 47 wins last year, but he wasn’t the only reason. The supporting cast around Towns and Wiggins this season is improved from what it was two years ago (and will get additional pieces in return for Butler), and if the bench is at least adequate — after being atrocious each of the last two seasons, particularly two seasons ago — it could help Minnesota remain competitive.
*Three games, three roughing the passer penalties for Clay Matthews. The first could have cost the Packers but didn’t in a win over the Bears. The second cost the Packers a win in what ended up a tie with the Vikings. And the third contributed to a loss to Washington.
The call against the Bears was correct. The next two calls were questionable at best. And so I’ll leave this right here: