After watching the Packers rack up 522 yards while QB Aaron Rodgers breezed through the game with such calm that he probably didn’t even have to wash his jersey, it is tempting to declare this Vikings defense an un-fixable mess and decide that the season is over before it has really started.
The Vikings’ 43-34 loss to the Packers — a scorigami, in case you were wondering, in that it is the first time in NFL history a game has produced that exact final score — was as disheartening and frustrating as it was predictable.
In it some of the base fears about this team came to life: The new corners are raw and will need time after a strange offseason that curbed development; going against a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Game 1 was hardly an ideal introduction.
Remember two years ago when the defensive line was made up of Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Sheldon Richardson and Everson Griffen? Yeah, none of those guys dressed for the Vikings on Sunday, and three of them aren’t on the roster. The defensive line was bad.
And the Vikings offense sputtered early, unable to stay on the field. The usual suspects of below-average pass protection and magnified Kirk Cousins mistakes doomed the Vikings to a game of playing from behind.
It’s correct to be alarmed. But at the same time we need some perspective. Some important things to remember: It’s foolish to judge a Mike Zimmer team after even four games, let alone one. And attempts to deem the Vikings’ defense as being in serious trouble in the past have tended to be greatly exaggerated.
Maybe you did that in 2015, when the Vikings gave up a season-high 433 yards and 38 points to Seattle during the regular season and assumed the same would happen in the playoff rematch — only to watch Minnesota give up just 226 yards and 10 points in what would have been the story of the game if not for Blair Walsh’s missed kick.
How about 2017, when the Vikings lost 31-24 and were steamrolled by 216 rushing yards by the Panthers late in the season? Maybe you forgot that they won their next three games, allowing 17 points and 189 rushing yards combined in those three?
OK, then there’s 2018: They allowed 556 and 471 yards in a pair of losses early and late to the Rams and Patriots. They followed each game with some of their best defense of the season and didn’t allow more than 364 yards in any other game.
Or even last season: In the two games after they allowed a season-high 37 points and 444 yards in a loss to Seattle, they allowed a combined 17 points and an average of 288 yards in two wins.
As we are reminded often by financial product advertisements: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. But Zimmer has enough of a track record and history that he can be allowed a mulligan and a teachable moment.
“We didn’t make enough plays. Guys got out of position a couple times,” Zimmer said after the Packers loss. “We’ll just get back to work; we’ll be all right.”
If a lot of coaches said what he said, the temptation would be to roll your eyes.
Instead, let’s watch what happens on the field and in the box score next week against the Colts — and in subsequent weeks against the Titans, Texans and Seahawks, whose offenses will stress Zimmer’s defense in different ways.
If the corners and pass rush don’t improve in both scheme and results, you can ramp up your worry. Until then, treat Sunday — at least defensively — as a clunker instead of the start of a trend.