Territory Journey.. “The Jungle”
In order for me to take you to the jungle I have to take you to the preseason first. After 20 months of football without fans at US Bank stadium the Vikings opened the preseason in a match against the Denver Broncos. With all the excitement most fans treated the game like a regular season affair fully decked in purple gear and ready to cheer on their favorite players.
Mike Zimmer had other plans as he decided to not utilize any starters after they had gone full strength just a couple of days earlier at a joint TCO Performance Center practice with the Broncos. It was an odd move as normally starters play some in the first preseason game to get in rhythm. Fans were disappointed and the team was steamed rolled by the Denver first team quickly.
Things hardly got any better in the second game against the Indianapolis Colts as Zimmer decided to now use a mix of starters and reserve players. The Colts minus Carson Wentz and Quenton Nelson still came out on top and the Vikings were off to a 0-2 start in the preseason. Preseason scores matter little but the team cohesiveness seemed off.
Last contest on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs surely the starters would not play to avoid any last minute injuries. Well in an even stranger move Zimmer decided to start his first team minus the super stars on offense and defense. The upcoming star TE Irv Smith Jr did play and tore meniscus on his knee and is out for the season. WR Chad Beebe also suffered a season ending injury. The Chiefs first team offense once again embarrassed the Vikings mixed defense. Rookie QB Kellen Mond had a good performance as one positive take away. Minnesota ended 0-3 in the preseason.
On to Cincinnati for week 1 of the regular season. Once again I was mesmerized by the amount of Viking fans that made the trip to Ohio. The Vikings were still in preseason mode during the first half committing a myriad of penalties and looking exactly like the lackluster team from the preseason. The cats were ready to play in their jungle with an aggressive game plan and with QB Joey Burrow making his return from injury.
Rookie WR Ja’Mar Chase embarrassed experienced two time SB player Bashaud Breeland time and time again. Joe Mixon was running wild in the jungle for over 100 yards with the Vikings highly touted defense missing 14 tackles for the game. Incredibly Minnesota was only down by a score at halftime.
The second half was a different story. Some players woke up from the off season and began having great individual performances that were good enough to crawl back into the game. Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce, Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, KJ Osborn and Nick Vigil had great games. Kirk Cousins led the charge late and with a last second long field goal by K Greg Joseph in the 4th quarter the Vikings took it to overtime in Ohio.
After a defensive stop the Vikings were marching down the field for a sure attempt at a game winning FG. Bengals fans were leaving the stadium in disbelief and disgusted at Zac Taylor for going for it in 4th down in a key play in regulation instead of punting. But the ghosts of a bad preseason hunted the Vikings down with a Dalvin Cook controversial fumble that the referees were too afraid to overturn in a hostile environment at Paul Brown stadium.
Another painful loss for the Vikings in a close game. A game they never deserved to win with the amount of mistakes the team made as a result of a poorly managed preseason. Next is the desert where the task is much more difficult against the Arizona Cardinals and QB Kyler Murray.