The Minnesota Vikings showing versus the Green Bay Packers last weekend was the worst defensive output for Week 1 game in team history. The team has been around for 60 years, so this feat is quite brutal. The Vikings let in 43 points which was one more point than the 1984 Vikings allowed to the San Diego Chargers some 36 years ago.
It was also close to the worst defensive performance of head coach Mike Zimmer’s tenure. It was certainly those most points his Vikings have ever allowed in a Zimmer-coached game, but the 2018 Los Angeles Rams hung more yards on Minnesota in a Thursday Night Football contest two years ago.
The panicked reaction – exacerbated by the Digital Age in which we reside – is to denounce the defense as toast and start thinking of new, sexy collegiate names for a rebuild. Just the hint of Aaron Rodgers’ ability to waltz up and down the turf of U.S. Bank Stadium was fodder for folks that proclaim this defense as kaput.
We do this all the time, and it’s a relatively new phenomenon. In 2014, the New England Patriots had some uncharacteristic losses that led many pundits to write Beantown obituaries for the dynastic duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Unsurprisingly, it was all kneejerk tomfoolery, and the Patriots won a Super Bowl about three months later. And then they won two more after that.
If you firmly believe that the Minnesota Vikings defense is a dying cluster of talent, you largely ignore three glaring ingredients to the recipe. Or, you know, you jump to conclusions along with the minute-to-minute to news cycle of our times.
Here’s the deal.
Danielle Hunter and Yannick Ngakouehaven’t joined forces yet
Most Vikings loyalists had nary a premonition that the team would initiate a trade for a formidable pass-rusher after lifer Everson Griffen rode down to Texas. The depth chart felt solidified with Danielle Hunter and Ifeadi Odenigbo flanking the defensive line. We were wrong.
Minnesota sent a couple of draft picks to Jacksonville forYannick Ngakoue and folks woke up the news that Minnesota now flaunted a top-three defensive end tandem in the business. The immediate future was alluring. Speed time up a bit and Hunter was confirmed to be hampered by a mysterious neck injury. The debut of the terrific twosome, Hunter and Ngakoue, would have to wait for a few weeks.
And that’s where we’re at. The two men have yet to play on the same field in a game, not one iota. In a one-game sample size, we have already decided that the temporary Ngakoue-Odenigbopartnership is futile. Nevermind that Ngakoue was matched up with [probably] the best tackle in the NFL, David Bakhtiari.
Unless the Vikings front office is blatantly lying about the scope of Hunter’s neck ailment, the 25-year-old should return to the field within a month. No funerals for Mike Zimmer’s defense should be scheduled until we see some Hunter-Ngakouecinematography.
Evaluate all 102 Mike Zimmer games – not just one
Zimmer has skippered the team for just over six seasons. From the start of 2014 until the end of the Week 1 Packers game, he has coached 102 Vikings games including playoffs.
In those six years, the Vikings rank second in the NFL in defense via points allowed. Only the Patriots have outdone Minnesota in these past six years from a defensive standpoint. Instead of forecasting gridiron Armageddon, perhaps some deference should be given to the entire body of work Zimmer has provided rather than one pandemic-riddled, fanless game. This is a totally above-board courtesy to extend.
Is it possible that Mike Zimmer is abruptly a subpar defensive mind because he has a few rookies, is feeling the absence of his keynote defensive end, and for the first time had no preseason contests to prepare? Is this really the circumstantial cocktail that sinks reputable NFL coaches forever?
Or is it more likely that Vikings had a feces-like presentation in a game that they showcased a newly determined and motivated rival quarterback?
The defense is still peppered with Pro Bowlers
Yes, the Pro Bowl is a questionable barometer by which to measure talent. The voting process for Pro Bowl honors isflawed, but that does not mandate that the accolade is utterly useless.
Upfront, the Vikings possess Danielle Hunter and Yannick Ngakoue. In the middle, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr rhythmize the pulse of the defense. Patrolling the secondary is Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris. Five of these men are Pro Bowl-caliber names, and Harris isn’t far behind.
Youngsters indeed live in the cornerback room and average players outfit the interior of the defensive line. But the foreshadowed, potential shortcomings of those handful ofplayers is not enough to sink an entire defense – one laden with six other ultra-talented players.
If you can get over one-game, cataclysmic thinking, rational thought should prevail. One tawdry performance is not enough to be prophetically indicative of the future.