First, we have to talk about the news that Cook has a “nearly complete” ACL Tear. Sure they’re waiting for tomorrow’s MRI but these are the Vikings and I’m still amazed Teddy’s leg didn’t actually fall off. It’ll be referenced as we go through the game, but that just hurts. Ugh. For a guy that is known for cutting, you have to blame the turf for a non-contact injury like this. I know, “It happens”, but why does it KEEP HAPPENING to us?!? This is devastating to a Vikings offense that was utilizing him for about 30-touches a game and while Latavius Murray will earn his salary now… You have to feel like this team is cursed. That’s clearly not a new feeling but it’s not hard to feel like giving up at this point and while we’ll rally and show up next week (as fans and writers), at some point shouldn’t we not have to?!?
As the owner of purplePTSD.com, I don’t often write initial responses to Vikings games (Win or lose) for a couple of reasons (Joe Oberle does a MUCH better job, for one), and because I am a very, very emotional Vikings fan and I don’t want to essentially mar the site by posting angry rants/rambling (more than I already have/do). However, the site is called purplePTSD for a reason and when I watch games like the one I just witnessed, I just can’t help myself. So, if you want in-depth (and genuinely the best you can find) coverage of today’s game, check out OG Joe’s piece. But, if you’re like me, you might want to strap in and tell yourself that it’s okay to cry (inside or otherwise) about an NFL football game.
On this week’s purpleJOURNAL Podcast we talked about the Lions games in 2016 and how they were both “janky” games that the Vikings should’ve won, but somehow this team always finds a way to lose and that trend continued today. On that show, Luke Braun, the most objective and analytical of our writers, discussed this Lions team and how it wasn’t as good as its record. How they’ve gotten to 3-1 in an “unsustainable” way (most because teams keep giving them wins) and that at some point that will end. So, I couldn’t help but remember that as the Vikings literally gave this game away. I don’t just mean the fumbles, that was them literally giving the game away. I’ll get into those more below but it really just felt like the Vikings as a concept gave this game away. The Vikings being the Vikings, they started the game with a backup quarterback because of course the QB they gave a first round pick for out of sheer panic last season is also injured. Then, their rookie running back, who has shown in the first three games (and the first half of this game) of this season that he’s the real deal, obviously was going to end up hurt at some point because he wears a Vikings jersey and is doing well.
In the first half, especially, but even at the start of the second-half the Vikings were playing well on both sides of the ball, with the defense shutting down the Lions offense and the Vikings offense moving the ball well enough. I couldn’t help but remember something that Luke said on last week’s show about Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Shurmur is probably Luke’s biggest foe on the team and he has been pleasantly surprised by Shurmur’s calls so far this season, but has added the caveat that Shurmur seems to do well when he has to improvise (because the Vikings have a lot of great parts on offense or used to (God this Cook stuff is a back/soul breaker), but when he gets back to “being Shurmur” he ends up failing. That seemed to be the case on the first fumble, where the Vikings were in the middle of a decent drive when they decided to pull a wild-cat play and snap the ball directly to RB Jerrick McKinnon (who was a QB in college). The trick play backfired so hard that even Vikings general manager Rick Spielman’s brother (who has been doing the color commentary for the Vikings on Fox this year) was flabberghasted as to why they even tried the play in the first place. That fumble led to three points and a 7-6 game.
On the next drive, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook had a nice run/first down on a ten-yard scamper and fumbled the ball as he fell to the ground after his knee gave away because he was drafted by the Vikings. You can’t blame Cook for that, but you can blame whatever god(s) you believe in. Typically that type of injury/response means structural damage and while Cook looked better walking into the locker room than he did walking off the field, he was immediately no-dealed for the rest of the game and then diagnosed with that “nearly complete” ACL Tear. That turnover led to a touchdown/two-point conversion/winning score/proof I’ve made a mistake in this career choice and basically sealed the game. This is a hyper selfish take, as well, but I also JUST DROPPED Latavius Murray from my bench as I was holding onto him for this very reason. This is why the term FML exists.
Beyond that, though, the Vikings still had every chance to win this game. They drove to the five-yard line after also getting close enough to scoring for Kai Forbath to attempt a 39 yard field goal. Right after Fox put up a graphic showing that Forbath was tied for the best current record with 23 field goals made in a row, so you knew what was about to happen as Forbath’s kick was “pulled” right and hit the upright. Any momentum the Vikings had almost died on that play as did the hope in my Dad’s (who I watch every game with) soul as he literally reacted: “YEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHNOOOOOOOOOOOO! COME ON!”. That almost made the loss worth it.
But nothing could really make this loss worth it. Especially considering that the Vikes have lost their rookie running back in Week F’ing 4 of the season. Despite that loss, though, the Vikings ended up on the five-yard line on third-and-goal, with a chance to tie the game. In a play that should really put offensive line coach Tony Sparano on the hot seat, the Vikes right tackle Mike Remmers ended up double teaming the Lions DT instead of, you know, blocking the defensive end who literally just ran straight at/into Case Keenum and sacked him for a nine-yard loss. The Vikings went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 14-yard line and didn’t convert, as I heard from the front-yard as I left to smoke knowing that they wouldn’t pick that up. I wasn’t even a smoker before the game and I’m already a two-pack a day guy.
With a little over two minutes left on the clock the Lions ran it three times, forced the Vikes to give up their final two timeouts and the Vikings got the ball back in a classic two-minute drill situation. Without timeouts, the Lions were going to give up a ton of over the middle stuff, and the Vikes took advantage by throwing to Adam Thielen on first down. He caught the ball and… Yeah, you know what happened. That fumble sealed the game as the other three did but beyond that, they still had every chance to win this game (or at least tie it). Beyond the sack, the fumbles, the injuries, this team still was very much in this game. I planned on ranting about the lack of calls for defensive holding, but I know the response to that always is “Can’t win with a -3 turnover game/day!”, so… Actually, still. Those no-calls were garbage and the Lions knew who was officiating and took advantage, and that should NOT be an aspect to the game (especially a game as important as a divisional match-up) but it was and it almost universally and negativally impacted the Vikings. But, again, they had so many chances and this literally ended up feeling like a game that they handed to the Lions and that makes it so much worse. It also really makes me feel for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, as he seems to be the most cursed coach in the history of the team. Since his arrival, he’s had to deal with more injuries/controversies than any coach in Vikes history and it’s got to be wearing on him. It’s the NFL and every team deals with injuries, but this is ridiculous. Even had we won it would’ve been a dark day, with Cook being done for the year (minimum) and it’s one of those moments that you really question whether or not being a fan (or writer/fan) is even worth it.
I often question the people I meet who aren’t from Minnesota but still follow the Vikings (a surprising amount of our writers are non-Minnesotans). Most say that they grew up watching Randy Moss/Cris Carter/Dante Culpepper (to a much lesser extent) and that’s why they’re fans. But, I grew up really enjoying the breeze but that doesn’t mean that I’m a huge fan of Hurricanes. I’m not even sure that analogy makes sense, but at this point I don’t care. We’ve joked as fans (and on the podcast) that Vikings fans almost like when things fall apart because they’re so used to it. I don’t think that’s the case, I think people “like” it because then they don’t have to worry/wait for it to happen. We know that something bad is going to happen eventually, so when it does happen we’re more relieved than happy. That’s the best we can get as Vikings fans, that relief, and that’s something that feels really old right now. Granted, I’ll be up tomorrow morning at 5 a.m. to write articles and cover the team, but at this point I just want my site’s URL to not make sense. For people to ask “Where’s the “trauma?” because the team is so good/such a dynasty. I want the team to win and I want its players to stay healthy. I want to stop feeling this way. But, I guess I’ll focus on the “relief”, swallow my feelings and be back in the morning instead. At least I’m used to it at this point.