Like many Vikings fans, I expected Sunday's game at Soldier Field to be rough; something akin to what we saw in the Week 1 debacle in Detroit. Many of us anticipated that the Vikings would be sitting here at 0-2 (and 0-2 in the NFC North), in part because they rarely win in Chicago.
What I didn't see coming was the 31-30 roller coaster ride that has left me feeling woozy and unsure of what to make of this club. For every positive point in the Week 2 loss, there was also a negative side. For (nearly) every negative reaction, there was a silver lining. For example:
- The special teams delivered a kickoff return touchdown and three field goals... but they couldn't contain Devin Hester (again).
- The Bears' big-bodied receivers and tight ends (predictably) gave the Vikings defense trouble and Matt Forte piled up a ton of yards... but the defense also returned a fumble for a touchdown, picked off Jay Cutler twice, and recovered a Forte fumble. Four turnovers! Yes, four!
- Christian Ponder was horrible for the first 27 minutes (4-12, 52 yards, one INT)... but he then went 12-18 for 175 yards, one touchdown, and no turnovers over the final 33 minutes... but it's also clear that Bill Musgrave still doesn't trust Ponder in certain situations, such as 3rd-and-4 at the goal line with 3:23 left and a chance to put away the game.
You get my point. If you're a glass-half-full person, you can look back at Week 2 and see some positive signs that weren't there after Week 1. If you're a bitter lifelong Vikings fan, then you're probably thinking that the team simply found yet another way to punch you in the gut.
It will be very difficult for the Vikings to climb out of this 0-2 hole and make the playoffs... but there remains a small, one-month window for optimism. The Vikings don't have another "road" game until October 21. If they are going to pull out of their tailspin, the schedule is in their favor with the 0-2 Browns, 0-1 Steelers, and 0-2 Panthers coming up in three "home" games. The Vikings still have a reasonable shot at being 2-2 headed into the Week 5 bye and 3-2 going into Week 7.
Of course, we shouldn't be surprised if Browns, Steelers, and Panthers fans are all looking at their upcoming matchup against the 0-2 Vikings as a good chance to pick up a win and cure some of their woes, so any optimism about those games is cautious at best.
My hand is hovering over the panic button and I've started to dream about a purple "Bridgewater" jersey, but I'm not quite ready to go there. My stomach isn't ready for the "time to blow it all up and rebuild for the new stadium" plan. Ponder, Musgrave, Leslie Frazier, and many others likely have two more weeks - and possibly another month - to show that this current roster and coaching staff can build on the positives of the Week 2 loss and still make a run at the playoffs. If not? Well, this slope is going to get very slippery, very fast.