Believe in the 2022 Vikings—They Do
Believe in the 2022 Vikings—They Do
If you could have mapped out the 2022 Minnesota Vikings season before it got started, would you have ever drawn up something like this? (Stephen King might have imagined it).
The Vikings are 11-3 and winners of the NFC North Division with the second-best record in the league and a chance to host two postseason games at U.S. Bank Stadium. Okay, some of you might have foreseen some of those things prior to the mauling of the Green Bay Packers on opening weekend, but no one would have imagined how the Vikings got here—particularly not after witnessing games like the 39-36 overtime victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday.
That game was not on anyone’s bingo card, so don’t anybody go saying it was. No one was predicting the biggest comeback in NFL History against a four-win team with an interim coach (who had no prior NFL coaching experience) and nothing to play for except a good draft position.
Nobody had that.
Now, to be sure, if you were to make the biggest comeback in NFL history, doing it against a 4-8-1 Colts team probably makes it a little easier to accomplish, but they are still an NFL team with pride, a veteran quarterback, and a fairly good defense. Spotting them 33 points at halftime was just an improbable amount to overcome no matter who you’re playing. This was just as unlikely a win as you could ever imagine in a season full of them.
And each time it happens—the Vikings have 10 one-score victories out of 11—they have simply responded as though they are the NFL version of the Journey rock and roll band—you know, “Don’t Stop Believing.” The post-game locker room was, once again, filled with the Purple-clad players saying how they never stop believing that someone will make a play and they will win a game as long as there is time on the clock (and they aren’t down by three or four scores). Well, they were down by five scores at halftime, and I am going to say right now that I don’t think “Don’t Stop Believing” was playing on any player’s headphones as they sat before their lockers at the break.
No offense, but that weekly sound bite sounds a little trite and a little canned.
This game was over. I heard about one local radio personality who said at halftime they should rest the starters so they don’t get hurt in preparation for next week and beyond—and then he reportedly left the stadium and passed on watching the second half. My brother went shopping. The seats at U.S. Bank Stadium lost a number of the fans; presumably, they were going home to shovel (and not Kirk Cousins’ driveway). I, too, had begun writing up my podcast agenda and my first thought was: “It was 33-0 at halftime, please explain, Mark (Craig, from The Star Tribune).”
This game was over. And if you didn’t believe it was, the Vikings started out the second half with a three-and-out to put an exclamation point on it.
The defense, which installed a slightly different scheme in this one (more man coverage and more blitzing) took the first half to learn the scheme and the second half to perfect it (they gave up on three points in the next 40 minutes). The special teams went from a huge liability in the first half (very bad kick coverage, a blocked punt for a Colts touchdown, a failed fake punt) to lashing themselves to the mooring and righting their ship (Greg Joseph was five for five on kicks in the second half). And Kirk Cousins went from throwing a terrible pick-six in the first half to throwing four touchdown passes in the second, plus 460 yards on the game. He threw a pass to running back Dalvin Cook—who was mostly bottled up except for one 40-yard run (followed by a fumble the next play) in the first half—that went for 64 yards and a score as he pin-balled through the Colts defense for the longest touchdown reception of his career. JJ and KJ caught everything coming their way—and together with Adam Thielen, who was shut out in the first half—each had a touchdown reception.
The Colts had to be every bit as shell-shocked after the game as the Vikings were following the first 30 minutes. It’s just hard to believe it all happened.
So, what are we to make of this team? A team that each week confounds us with the “journey” they take to the finish line. A team that either gets blown out or wins on the last possession (both happened in one game on Saturday). A team that we have hoped for many weeks now would win and prove that there is something to hope for about them in the postseason.
What are we to make of them? Well, perhaps take them at their word.
They feel like they are never out of a game—and this win certainly took that notion to the extreme. They say they feel that someone will make a play and get them back in it—and so often they have done so. They say they never stop believing in each other. So, when we hear them say that, maybe we have to start believing them.
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