The latest Minneapolis Miracle? That anyone stuck around to watch the end of this game.
“My dad just texted me, saying he’s in the car, waiting,” Kirk Cousins said.
A man of taste might have gone to the car at halftime.
Thursday night football is a terrible idea poorly executed, but the Vikings’ 19-9 victory over Washington was necessary work properly done.
Before September ended, the Vikings had lost two stomach-acid-stirring games to primary rivals because of poor quarterback play and had prompted a star receiver to revolt.
Before October ended, they had righted themselves with four consecutive victories while pacifying the star receiver.
They reached the midpoint of the season at 6-2, with proof they are a dominant force at home (with a 4-0 record at U.S. Bank Stadium) and with remarkably good health.
“We get Thielen back, I think we’re right here with everybody else,” Dalvin Cook said.
As he has emerged as one of football’s best backs, Cook has also become a source of honed wisdom. He tells is like it is, briefly, and he’s right: Receiver Adam Thielen, held out of Thursday’s game because of a hamstring injury, should return next week.
“That’s good,” coach Mike Zimmer said of his team’s health. “It’s been a little bit against my nature, but I’ve taken care of these players pretty good. Hopefully we can continue to stay healthy. I think there’s a good chance Adam will be back next week and we were pretty healthy tonight, I believe.”
It seems that only the irrelevant football franchise from Washington, D.C., can make the Vikings boring, but, after a tumultuous half-season, they probably enjoyed a short-week victory short on drama.
Already this season, Cousins has been properly pilloried for blowing important games on the road — once with his interception in the Green Bay end zone, and then for looking like a bewildered rookie in Chicago.
Already this season, receiver Stefon Diggs has been fined more than $200,000 and then produced his most productive streak of the season.
After all the drama and suppressed controversy, the Vikings are on a winning streak, boast the third-best point differential in the NFL and are relatively healthy with nine more days to heal before visiting a Kansas City team that might be without star quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The Vikings also have a bye late in November, and have seen a few of their most daunting road tests — at Kansas City, Seattle and the Los Angeles Chargers — become more inviting.
Seattle has already lost two home games. Kansas City might need to use backup quarterback Matt Moore. The Chargers are 2-5.
“Pleased with where we’re at,” Cousins said. “ We could easily be worse, we could easily be better. We’re 6-2. I think we’ve got everything in front of us. We’ve got to go out and prove ourselves in the second half of the season.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position now where the second half of the season is going to be there for the taking, and that’s a really good thing.”
The Vikings have learned that their offensive line, when healthy, is more than good enough to support a winner, that Cook is one of the most valuable non-quarterbacks in the league, and that Cousins can bounce back from a crisis of confidence.
Against the Bears, Cousins looked uncertain. He has played with an ideal blend of fire and caution ever since, and Thursday night he didn’t let any negative feelings toward his former franchise coax him into unwise throws.
Cousins completed 23 of 26 passes for 285 yards and no interceptions. In a Thursday game against a bad team with a limited offense, avoiding turnovers was far more important than making spectacular throws. The only way Washington was going to win was as the recipient of gifts.
“Vikings optimism” is often a contradiction in terms, but if you are willing to pay more attention to this season than history, count Thursday’s victory as necessary and important.
The second half looms, and, a month after Chicago, the Vikings have every reason to welcome it.