I’ve been struggling to explain the struggle(s) I’ve been going through as the Vikings have amassed eight-straight wins since before and after the Bye. A user on Reddit named pyrjus626 really helped find the answer to my question(s) about that feeling by stating the following definition the word Cherophobic, which sums up the collective feeling that a lot of us have:
It’s a feeling that a lot of people develop when they’ve either been abused or been consistently let down by someone or something that they love and because the Vikings have consistently broken our collective hearts, it hit the nail right on the head. Now, I know that there are the people out there that are consistently (and I’d argue, unrealistically) optimistic and that they’ll respond to this with some sort of “Chin(s) Up!” comment, and while that used to really, really bother me I can’t help but feel that they’re on to something this season (while also feeling like I need to point out the fans who are the weird combination of both in that they will attack you if you pick the Vikes to lose but also throw acid in your face if you mention the Super Bowl, while I understand why it’s still a really strange mixture if you take a step back, pour some baking soda on your face to neutralize the acid and realize that the Vikings have really done a number on all of us).
As I’ve stated in my other articles, this Vikings team actually feels like they’re different. That they’re avoiding the typical Vikings pitfalls and have been suceeding where the other Vikings teams would typically fall or fail. While I typically don’t really rely on stats or general facts when writing articles out a general laziness and spotty memory, I can’t help but rely on some today as I came across an article by the Star Tribune’s new hire, former ESPN’er Ben Goessling. Goessling covered the NFC North and the Vikings in particular for a few years over on ESPN.com and his stuff has been referenced here before. He knows his stuff and today he covered the Viking’s red-zone efficiency and really showed why this Vikings team has been one of the most anti-Vikings team in recent memory and perhaps anti-Vikings enough to actually get us to the promised land.
In his piece, titled In the Zone in the Red Zone (or Vikings no longer coming to a stop in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on nearly every trip if you check it out online) is basically the best evidence I’ve seen to show that this Vikings team is just different than the ones that we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. In the piece, which is brilliant, Goessling lays out how the Vikings have performed in the red-zone as compared to previous seasons. The most telling and compelling evidence is the following paragraph from Goessling’s piece:
“Red-zone issues dogged the Vikings through much of last season, when they ranked 28th in the NFL with a 46 percent success rate at scoring touchdowns inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Nothing had changed in the first eight games this year; the Vikings had scored TDs on only 46.4 percent of their red-zone trips.”
Now, the Vikings struggled in the red-zone in 2016 (and really every season since 2009’s magical mystery tour) and it’s not hard to see why. Not only did they lose Adrian Peterson (who has the most rushing touchdowns of any Vikings running back ever), but their offensive line literally fell apart and they were relying on Matt “3 yards and a cloud of sadness” Asiata to make something where nothing, especially help, existed). That struggle continued into 2017 as the team dealt with losses at the quarterback and running back position and their newly acquired offensive lineman worked on getting to know one another. According to Goessling (and Kyle Rudolph) the Vikings went into the Bye week basically with the ultimatum from head coach Mike Zimmer that they had to improve in the red zone. It’s something that Rudolph says the team solely focused on for “two days straight” and whatever that focus was, it seems to have worked.
The proof is in the pudding as the Vikings have played four games since the bye and in those four games, they have reached the red zone 15 times. Of those 15 trips, they’ve scored a touchdown 12 times, kneeled to run out the clock twice and attempted a field goal once. That’s AMAZING and really makes my Cherophobia flare up. I previously mentioned Adrian Peterson in terms of how the team was struggling because they had Matt Asiata in the backfield. That’s really not that fair to Asiata and definitely too fair to Peterson as even when the Vikings had Peterson in his prime, they weren’t very proficient in the red zone anyway (for a lot of reasons, mostly play calling). For example, as Goessling points out, during Peterson’s MVP season (2012), the Vikings were ranked 18th in the NFL in terms of efficiency in the red zone. They were ranked 19th and 24th in his final two seasons and were always in the bottom half of the NFL during his pre-MVP season, seasons…
That’s where the whole “This Team is Different, and Junk!” line of “reasoning” comes in. This is just something that we’re not accustomed to as Vikings fans, especially us younger fans who weren’t really paying attention to the specifics of wins in 1998, as our iMac computers weren’t really built to check stats during or after games. So, point being, outside of the fact that Ben Goessling is a beast, this Vikings team is really on to something and that something is terrifyingly amazing! The Vikings control their own destiny and that destiny includes the ability to play AT HOME in the Super Bowl. I know that bringing up those words is basically punch in the face worthy at this point but you know what… Let’s put it this way. Sure, Aaron Rodgers may return next week because the Packers have been good enough to beat bad teams in his absence. But, should the Vikings beat the Panthers in Carolina next week, as fans/writers we’re really going to have to realize that it’s time that we start looking at the playoffs and exactly who might be in the Vikings way to the glory that people have been waiting for since 1961.
So, stay tuned. We will be Live Chatting that game and crossing our fingers while taking a homemade mixture of Zoloft, Remeron, Hydroxyzine Pamoate and whatever other expired medication we can find to fight our Cherophobia, as this team continues to show that they’re the real deal. There’s a funny dichotomy that exists in that some of our readers argue against any negativity but also argue against any optimism (or at least optimism that goes too far… Basically the safest bet is to say that the Vikings are a great team but that things can change week to week in the NFL so let’s not get too cocky). So, you can’t say that the Vikings will lose, ever, but if you point out the Super Bowl you also get your hand slapped. Well, my hands are ready, and I think it’s getting near time that yours do, as well!