1, Time to draft, groom a quarterback
Vikings backup quarterback Sean Mannion had a goal heading into Sunday night’s 21-19 regular-season-ending loss to the Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. “To have a really clean operation,” the fifth-year veteran said after falling to 0-2 as a starter. Then, on the game’s second snap, he pitched the ball too low on a simple toss sweep and was credited with a lost fumble when running back Mike Boone couldn’t adjust. With the Vikings playing backups against starters, Mannion posted a passer rating of 35.1 with 12 completions in 21 attempts for 126 yards. His first interception wasn’t his fault and the second one was a Hail Mary as time expired. But Mannion also proved that the reason he’s on the roster is he’s cheap labor ($805,000). With his deal up this year, the Vikings should consider targeting a quarterback as high as Day 2 of the draft. Higher? Stay tuned.
2, Boyd got under Robinson’s skin
Bears leading receiver Allen Robinson II wasn’t happy with how physical the Vikings’ backups were. After an 8-yard completion on third-and-6, Robinson came up jawing after he and rookie Kris Boyd tumbled out of bounds. “I don’t know what he was saying,” Boyd said. “I wasn’t listening. I don’t get into that talking stuff.” Boyd said he heard an official warning Robinson to zip the lip. “I seen [Robinson] cross my face, and I looked away,” Boyd said. “And then they threw the flag.” And that’s when cameras caught Boyd using his index fingers to track the flying flag. “I was just letting [Robinson] know, ‘There it is,’” Boyd said. “I ain’t got to talk.” Robinson had nine catches for 71 yards for his fourth-lowest average (7.9) on the year. Boyd had two tackles for loss and was part of the reason the Bears scored only one touchdown in five red-zone trips.
3, Keep an eye on 23-year-old Watts
He’s not as big as Linval Joseph. Then again, who is? But LJ is 31 and somewhere on the back nine of his career. That’s why the Vikings drafted Armon Watts in the sixth round out Arkansas. The 6-5, 295-pounder was invisible for nine games. Then he played seven snaps while notching half a sack in the win at Dallas. Then he played 11 snaps at Seattle while batting the pass that Anthony Harris returned for a touchdown. Sunday was Watts’ seventh game and his first start. He didn’t disappoint. He had a sack, a forced fumble and was the key force in stopping Mitch Trubisky for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Chicago 42. “I was just thinking get penetration, knock [center Cody Whitehair] back as much as I can,” said Watts, who gained perfect leverage. “I think I’ve made the most of some opportunities this year.”
4. 166-pound Hollins packed a wallop
The longest reception of Sunday’s game was a 35-yarder by Alexander Hollins. All 166 pounds of him. The undrafted rookie out of Eastern Illinois spent Weeks 2-12 on the Vikings practice squad before being added to the active roster Dec. 2. Sunday was the fifth game he’s played, but his two catches for a team-high 46 yards were his first two in the NFL. Meanwhile, former No. 1 draft pick Laquon Treadwell also played and was held without a catch on two targets. The 6-1 Hollins, who caught 80 balls as a senior, made a nice read and adjustment on the 35-yarder. “It’s a play we run on the quick,” he said. “I saw man-to-man so I knew where to go based on that. Sean [Mannion] threw a good ball and I helped the team.” Hollins’ other catch was an 11-yarder on third-and-7.
5. Long journey back for Collins
Two years ago, Aviante Collins was an undrafted rookie when he played his first 28 offensive snaps as a tight end/third tackle in the season finale against Chicago. “And 2018 was going to be a big year for me,” Collins said. But then he tore his biceps and missed 2018. “Then I tore my MCL in training camp this year,” Collins said. He finally played three special teams snaps against Denver. His next action came Sunday when he started at left tackle and finished at left guard. “I’ll cherish this the rest of my life,” he said. The most glaring error up front came when Boone was dropped in the end zone for a safety. “Just miscommunication,” Collins said of linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski going unblocked. “Overall,” Collins said, “it was a good experience for a lot of guys going into next year.”