The Vikings are coming off a loss in which their quarterback erred and their injuries mounted, their receivers dropped passes and their run defense looked uncharacteristically lax.

Time to panic?

Might just as well be time to celebrate.

Every week, hundreds of statistics about the Vikings are spewed by reporters and social media, and yet perhaps the most important and remarkable statistic about this season largely has been ignored.

If the Vikings win their last three games, this would become the second team in franchise history to reach 13 victories.

The only Vikings team to have done so: the spectacular if ill-fated 1998 edition, which finished 15-1.

Context is required. Many of the best teams in franchise history played fewer than 16 games, making 13-win seasons impossible or unlikely.

But the 16-game schedule has existed since 1978. The 2009 Vikings were good enough to win a Super Bowl and enjoyed perhaps Brett Favre's most efficient season as a pro, yet won "only" 12 games.

The 2017 Vikings have a chance to win 13 games with a backup quarterback who went undrafted, a backup running back, an overhauled offensive line and a leading receiver who went undrafted.

This might be a good time to take a break from worrying about Riley Reiff's ankle and recognize that the Vikings' brain trust has built a team capable of lasting success, whenever health allows.

This might also be a good time to look at the 2016 season as something other than an epic collapse. It was that, but there's more to the story.

In 2015, the Vikings won 11 games and should have won a playoff game, if not for He Who Shall Not Be Named.

In 2016, they won their first five games before offensive line injuries became untenable.

In 2017, having remade the offensive line, the Vikings are 10-3 with a chance to win the first seed in the NFC playoffs.

The obsession with the collapse of 2016 obscures a larger and more important trend. Even with injuries at the quarterback position that would have maimed most franchises, the Vikings have won at a high level each of the past three years, with four different quarterbacks earning victories, as long as their offensive line has functioned at a rudimentary level.

That's a credit to General Manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer and his staff.

They have built one of the NFL's most talented defenses. They have fashioned a winning offense out of spare parts despite playing quarterback roulette and changing offensive coordinators.

Spielman's most egregious draft misses — Christian Ponder, Cordarrelle Patterson, perhaps Laquon Treadwell — always will haunt, but he has atoned for them with this team by fixing the offensive line, signing Keenum and finding and developing underrated prospects such as Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter.

In this year's draft, he landed Dalvin Cook, who was on track for a spectacular season, with the 41st pick, and center Pat Elflein, one of the team's stealth MVPs, with the 70th.

Zimmer and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur have given the Vikings a coaching edge in most games this season in a league in which Bill Belichick offers constant reminders of the importance of week-to-week strategizing.

These Vikings have beaten good teams, won tough games on the road and won games with two different quarterbacks. And they just won four of the five games that were presumed to be a season-defining test.

If the Vikings could have played 2016 with a functional left tackle, they'd be on a three-year run of double-digit victories featuring three different primary starting quarterbacks.

When the Vikings were 5-0 last season, I wrote that they had the best roster in the division and were set up to win big. Their collapse made that assessment look silly.

I'll double down. The Vikings have the best roster in the division, as proven by Detroit's mediocrity and Green Bay's inability to function without Aaron Rodgers.

Presuming a modicum of health and a little better luck with kickers, Spielman and Zimmer have set up the Vikings to win consistently, and perhaps in a big way.

Jim Souhan's podcast can be heard at On Twitter: @SouhanStrib E-mail: