If you went into a winter hibernation Sunday afternoon and didn't wake up until Monday morning, you might not have been too surprised to find out that the Vikings and Wild had both won.
You would have been gobsmacked to learn, however, that they both won by the same 3-0 score. (You also would have been pleased to have slept through the three hours you could have devoted to watching an utterly dreadful Vikings game).
Indeed, unless you are a fan of pretty good defense (compared to completely inept offense) or couldn't stay away from the train wreck — as Patrick Reusse said he could not on Monday's Daily Delivery podcast — there wasn't much to like from the Vikings aside from the basic outcome.
As bad as it was to watch, please take a moment to give some sympathy to Kevin Kugler and Mark Sanchez, the Fox announcing team that had the unenviable task of trying to dress up what was for 58 minutes of game time and three hours of a real-time scoreless snooze-fest.
They tried to give Vikings starting QB Joshua Dobbs and Raiders QB Aidan O'Connell the benefit of the doubt. They asserted truths like, "Both defenses have played well. They've tackled well," as Kugler said midway through the fourth quarter of a still scoreless game.
But they also seemed desperate for something or someone — anything, anyone — to latch onto as a true positive.
Vikings backup quarterback Nick Mullens, with a very basic competence that looked like Pro Bowl QB play by comparison Sunday, became not just the hero the purple faithful wanted but also the hero Kugler and Sanchez desperately needed.
"A slightly low throw, but an excellent read," Sanchez said of Mullens' first throw, a 26-yard completion to T.J. Hockenson down the middle of the field that was deflected by a Raiders defender.
The Vikings ended up punting but had the ball back again with 4:35 left at their own 29, facing a 3rd-and-7. Mullens threw an out route to the right sideline for a 12-yard completion to K.J. Osborn — a critical completion, to be sure, but also a throw over the corner and in front of the safety that Kirk Cousins and plenty of other quarterbacks fairly routinely execute.
"Look at him just feather this ball over a defender to the outside, over the corner," a competence-starved Sanchez gushed. "He knew what he was going to get, and he threw it on time . . . understanding exactly what to do."
That was the first of three key third down conversions on the game-winning field goal drive led by Mullens. His next was a six yard toss to Hockenson while under pressure on a 3rd-and-3 from around midfield.
"Here's the difference. Dobbs would have ran out of here," Sanchez said. "But Mullens is just going to take his checkdown. Drifts for half a second and gets this ball off."
It was a good play by Mullens, to be sure, but again he was helped by a low bar. The final big conversion was a 20-yard sideline completion to Jordan Addison on 3rd-and-6 from the Raiders' 42 on a snap that came just before the play clock expired.
"What a job, getting up to the line of scrimmage, getting C.J. Ham back in the backfield . . . threw it just in time. excellent ball," Sanchez said excitedly. "The mechanics of the whole thing, in a high-stress environment, Nick Mullens was as cool as a cucumber."
Mullens finished 9-for-13 for 83 yards, good for a modest 55.8 Total QBR and 86.4 passer rating. But compared to Dobbs (17.7, 50.8) and O'Connell (16.8, 66.0) it looked like prime Joe Montana — or at least above-average Kirk Cousins — and was treated accordingly.
Here are four more things to know today:
*The Wild's 3-0 was far more impressive. Filip Gustavsson continued his strong recent play, while Matt Boldy's opening goal was a thing of beauty. Silky mitts, they say about plays like this one:
*Joe Rossi leaving the Gophers in a lateral move to become Michigan State's defensive coordinator is one that might raise a few eyebrows in the college football world. It's a huge loss for the program.
*A dramatic Gophers women's basketball victory was a nice palate cleanser if you spent too much time on the Vikings on Sunday.
*And if you are still trying to make sense of the Vikings' 3-0 win, Andrew Krammer and I will break down the film on Tuesday's podcast.