The Vikings still haven’t played a perfect game this season, but on Sunday they played perhaps their most complete game — and the one that looked the most like the expected blueprint at the start of the season.
Through four games, the two most puzzling things about the Vikings were their defensive ineptitude and their inability to run the ball. The defense was sorted out last week in a big win at Philadelphia. And Sunday against Arizona, the Vikings finally had a strong running game to help Kirk Cousins.
Unfortunately, the other part of the expected blueprint — in addition to a dominant defense and strong offense with balance — was a questionable offensive line.
Cousins was sacked four times, including a strip sack returned for a touchdown. He was pressured and/or hit on several other dropbacks. We keep asking if this is sustainable. So far it is, but the line still has the potential to undo every other offensive positive.
• Speaking of Cousins, his touchdown celebration dance had Twitter howling with delight. He said on Fox after the game that it was inspired by Adam Thielen, though many on Twitter noted its resemblance to “The Bernie Lean” from the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s.”
• Vikings fans didn’t have much to sweat out while watching the 27-17 win over the Cardinals, but if you watched the end of the Dolphins/Bears game — one with big NFC North implications — you hopped on an emotional roller coaster.
Miami was poised to win in overtime before a goal line fumble gave the Bears new life. Chicago drove down and had a chance to win … but missed a field goal. Given new life, the Dolphins cashed in with the game-winning field goal in a 31-28 win. The Vikings (3-2-1) are now tied with the first-place Bears in the win and loss column, but Chicago (3-2) has played one fewer game and doesn’t have that pesky tie.
• Jon Gruden agreed to a 10-year contract worth a reported $100 million to leave the broadcast booth and return to the sidelines as head coach of the Raiders this offseason.
So far, Oakland’s return on investment is as follows: $100 million per win.
Gruden’s Raiders look like the worst team in the NFL and did nothing to dispel that notion with a wholly incompetent performance in a 27-3 loss to Seattle on Sunday that dropped them to 1-5.
Maybe things will get better in future years as Gruden reacclimates to the modern game and draft picks from the Khalil Mack trade bear fruit. Or maybe this will go down as one of the worst coaching hires in NFL history.
• Wolves guard Jimmy Butler practiced again with the team Sunday, and he later spoke with the local media for the first time since requesting a trade before training camp started.
He said plenty of interesting things, but perhaps most notable is how Butler is preparing to embrace the role of villain — in his own home arena.
“Boo me. Ain’t going to change the way I play,” Butler told reporters when asked whether he expects the Target Center crowd to let him hear it. “Probably going to make me smile more. Please come with it.’’
The Wolves open on the road Wednesday at San Antonio; the home opener Friday is against Cleveland. Winning might — might — turn some of those jeers to cheers. But if the Wolves play poorly in Butler’s return? It could be about as ugly a scene as you can imagine.
• Up a game already and leading 3-0 after six innings Saturday in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, the Brewers had a team of destiny look about them. But Los Angeles rallied for a 4-3 victory to stunningly change the narrative and tie the series 1-1 heading back to Dodger Stadium.