The Vikings are a Loss or Two Away from Droves of Fans Devolving into Stat Chasers

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011, Jared Allen put together a sensational season for the Minnesota Vikings. Unfortunately, the team as a whole couldn’t mirror the pass rusher’s excellence.

Instead, the listless Vikings sunk down to a 3-13 record, good for last place in the NFC North. Allen’s 22 sacks could only go so far. An awful lot of folks who followed the team in 2011 allowed their fandom to sink down to just rooting for Allen to surpass Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record. If the current trajectory continues in 2023, the Vikings are going to have fans pursuing a similar objective.

Vikings Legendary Pass Rusher Jared Allen Named HOF Finalist
Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings Jared Allen (69) is inducted into the Ring of Honor against the Arizona Cardinals at half time at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Football, a remarkable team sport, exists in a paradoxical realm insofar as the 11-vs.-11 format so easily lends itself to focusing on a single player or two. Yes, coaches will commonly point out that it’s a matchup game, and that speaks to the paradox we’re discussing. Just take last week’s Justin Jefferson and Darius Slay duel as a prime example. Minnesota’s WR1 got the better of Philadelphia’s CB1, giving the good guys a puncher’s chance of overcoming the bad guys.

The end result, of course, was another loss, sinking Kevin O’Connell’s squad down to a worrisome 0-2. Seeing Minnesota tack on a couple more losses to the total may lead to plenty of fans devolving into stat chasers. More often than not, starting 0-3 or 0-4 is too much for a team to overcome.

The Vikings are a Loss or Two Away from Stat Chasers

Cheering for Justin Jefferson to excel is a beloved pastime in Minnesota. Since joining the NFL in 2020, Jefferson hasn’t been shy about smashing NFL records, a trend that doesn’t appear to be slowing down as Year 4 gets going.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
Aug 5, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during training camp at Twin Cities Orthopedic Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

After a pair of games — and against top-level defenses, no less — Jefferson boasts a whopping 309 yards. Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Darius Slay, and whoever else has been trying to slow him down (emphasis on trying) hasn’t had much luck.

As the Vikings were collapsing on Thursday Night Football, Luke Braun (a bit tongue in cheek) floated the idea of simply pumping up Jefferson’s numbers: “alright JJ statpad time I guess.” When a win isn’t happening, the focus shifts to player stats.

Jefferson won’t be averaging 150 yards per game. If he did, he’d finish the season with an eye-popping 2,550 yards. What about a more modest but still elite 125 yards per game? Certainly more plausible, especially since he’s playing for an extension. Achieving the gaudy per-game benchmark would result in 2,125 yards by the season’s end.

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Rachaad White (1) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) and defensive end Dean Lowry (94) and linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (40) as guard Luke Goedeke (67) attempts to block during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Jefferson is the team’s undisputed best player, but he isn’t alone in terms of elite talent.

Like the receiver, edge rusher Danielle Hunter is playing for his next contract. His opening pair of games have led to 4 sacks. The 28-year-old defender was undaunted by Philly’s top-tier offensive line, putting together a trio of sacks on the normally elusive Jalen Hurts.

Kirk Cousins has been struggling to hold onto the football (like his teammates). Piling up yards and passing TDs hasn’t been much of an issue, though. His current pace — 3 TDs and 354 yards per game — would lead to a season featuring 51 TD passes and 6,018 passing yards.

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Some fans won’t be inspired by the numbers. After all, we’re still discussing a team sport, one that’s ultimately about snagging wins rather than impressive stats.

Others, though, will be persuaded by the notable statistical benchmarks. When team success becomes unattainable, the focus can shift toward seeing individual players put their name down in ink for the NFL’s all-time records. Very likely, some Vikings fans are still disappointed to see Adrian Peterson sitting in second place to Eric Dickerson’s all-time rushing yards record when Minnesota ended up going nowhere in the playoffs.

What’s more valuable to a team: a swift defeat in the Wild Card Round or seeing their RB1 make history? In 2012, the team opted for the Wild Card Round but not all fans have the same perspective.

Of course, all of these words won’t amount to very much if the Vikings find a way of turning on the jets. The NFC North remains within reach since the Lions, Bears, and Packers didn’t feel like capitalizing on the golden opportunity that’s been handed over by O’Connell’s crew. Minnesota is just a single game back of the division lead.

Maybe O’Connell has what it takes to get his team to climb back into contention, resurrecting a season that appears dangerously close to devolving into a situation where fans simply cheer for individual guys to put up tremendous statistics.

The Week 3 contest takes place on Sunday, September 24th at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.