A football team is a delicate three-part harmony requiring efficiency from offense, defense and special teams. Being truly awful in just one phase of a three-part game can wreck the whole thing.
The 2021 Vikings are wildly inconsistent and have had maddening sequences in all those phases through six games. But for all the ups and downs, the Vikings seem at least functional in all three of those areas.
That supports Patrick Reusse's assertion that the Vikings are good enough to be a playoff team and should be one at season's end — something we discussed on Monday's Daily Delivery podcast in the aftermath of Sunday's 34-28 overtime win over Carolina.
What has yet to emerge, however, is a clear identity — a nebulous term that nonetheless might explain why their 3-3 record feels unsatisfying and why every game seems to come down to a final play.
No, this isn't a question of culture over skill. Rather, it's a question of trust.
Pro Football Focus suggests that the Vikings should trust their defense. PFF has the Vikings as the No. 4-graded defense and No. 17-graded offense through six weeks.
And Mike Zimmer is still a coach that would prefer to win with his defense making a stop than his offense getting a score.
So the Vikings are clearly doing it right if they want defense to be their identity, correct?
Evidence to the contrary – with the Vikings this season and leaguewide for the last several years – suggests the game has tilted toward the offense. The Vikings have a premium offense when they allow it to run.
The defense the last two weeks has been great until the final five minutes of the game, which is kind of like saying your car dependably starts except when it gets really cold out.
The Vikings defense overall has given up a game-tying or go-ahead score in the fourth quarter or overtime in four of their six games this season.
Kirk Cousins has led six late drives (two against the Bengals, one against the Cardinals, one against the Lions and two against the Panthers) that have tied, won or could have won games.
It's great to have balance and to be able to win a variety of ways, but it also lets you lose a variety of ways.
Can you trust it when you need it the most? That's all that matters. And in the moments of trust, I choose the Vikings offense over the Vikings defense.
Coming out of the bye week, Zimmer should too.