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Past Minnesota Failures Will Not Stop 2017 Vikings

past Minnesota failures Keith Allison via Flickr

NFL

Is This Vikings Team Different From Past Minnesota Failures?

As a Vikings fan, the 2017 season has been a dream come true. It started with the Vikings sticking it to Adrian Peterson in Week 1 — his anything but spectacular ‘revenge game.’ After that, reality struck Minnesota fans when Sam Bradford suffered a knee injury that seemingly no one saw coming. It is a recurring theme for Minnesota sports fans. Everything starts off okay, and then in the blink of the eye, the world is on fire, and we cannot stop losing. However, this year, this team has found a way to overcome every obstacle thrown its way. Is this Viking team different from past Minnesota failures? We have yet to see that answer, but so far this year, the Vikings are doing everything they can to prove that they are, in fact, different.

For me, a Vikings fan, this is scary. We got the same feeling in 2009 when Brett Favre gave us the false hope that he was our savior before Naufahu Tahi accidentally was the 12th man in the huddle, and we all know what happened next. Moreover, don’t even get me started on field goal kickers. Gary Anderson and Blair Walsh are names that will make any Vikings fan’s skin crawl.

Like all those years, this year has a very different feel to it. There is a difference in 2017 though. As a fan, you have to keep telling yourself this. There are many reasonable explanations as to why this year’s team can break the curse of past Minnesota failures.

Reason 1: This Team Is Resilient

Although many obstacles have been thrown their way, this Minnesota team has managed to overcome them all. Past Minnesota failures did not have as much success in that area. As a rational football fan, there is no way that this Vikings team should be 10-2, but somehow they have found a way. No matter what the issue is, this team finds a way. Injuries have been lighter than last year, thankfully. Still, they have hit at key positions. So that is where this team is different.

Quarterback

The Vikings quarterback “controversy” has been covered by the national media almost all season now. Thankfully, Case Keenum has been able to come in and put all those talks to rest. In Week 1, the starting quarterback for Minnesota was Sam Bradford. Everyone expected him to start the whole season, and then when Teddy got back he would be backup unless needed. All that changed shortly after that Week 1 game versus the Saints. Bradford’s knee issues came back, and all of a sudden, the Vikings were stuck with a guy named Case Keenum.

Week 2 had many people giving up on the season. No one was sure when Bradford would be back, and the Vikes had just gotten beat to a pulp by the Pittsburgh Steelers where the offense did absolutely nothing. Magically, Week 3 came around and Keenum played out of his mind. Throwing for 369 yards and three touchdowns, Keenum played like a man on a mission. Low and behold, Week 14 is here, and Keenum is just that. Keenum has taken the quarterback controversy and found a way to make it disappear. Third-string quarterback success is not common for NFL teams. When a quarterback goes down for a team, the team should play like, well, the Packers have in 2017. Case Keenum has taken advantage of a crazy situation, and he continues just to play ball.

Running Back

The first pick for the Vikings in the 2017 NFL Draft was Dalvin Cook from Florida State. Cook looked to be a unique talent during the initial weeks of the season, but again in real Vikings fashion, Cook tore his ACL trying to make a cut against the Lions. As Vikings fans, we had this happen a few times with Adrian Peterson, and each time it felt like a kick in the teeth. Cook’s injury had that same feeling.

Fortunately, Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon were up to the task of filling Cook’s shoes. So far, Murray and McKinnon have combined for 986 rushing yards on the season and have been a critical weapon in the Vikings balanced attack. As the season goes on, the balance of these two running backs seems to be getting stronger. It brings an excellent balance to the Vikings offense. If one running back is not working, there is a good chance the other will be effective.

Other Injuries

This season, the Vikings have had a handful of players go down. Stefon Diggs has missed two games this year, but somehow the receiving corps has not missed a beat. Last season, Laquon Treadwell and Jarius Wright were non-existent when getting into games. Presently, they are playing at a level that is serviceable to the team. Add into that the emergence of Adam Thielen, and somehow the Vikings have managed an elite level receiving corps.

Everson Griffen is one of the best defensive ends in the game of football. Had Griffen been on other teams, his injury would not have been overlooked the way it has with this Vikings team. Brian Robison was an essential replacement for the Vikes in the clutch road win over the Washington Redskins. The loss of Griffen should have been catastrophic, but the veteran play of Robison was able to neutralize the issue.

Every Vikings fan knows how costly injuries on the offensive line can be. Last season was terrible for this, and I know that, for me as well as other fans, the battered offensive line of 2016 will haunt our memories for a long time. However, this season the Vikings have taken the injuries on the line head on and continue to play at a high level. Rashod Hill has stepped in as a backup on numerous occasions and has taken the opportunity by storm. Danny Isidora and Jeremiah Sirles have also relieved at the guard position at a competent level.

Being able to overcome numerous injuries this season has been a significant factor separating them from past Minnesota failures. As the season goes on, injuries are becoming more frequent. This team continues to play at an elite level.

Reason 2: We Can’t Stop Winning

The Vikes just keep winning games, and they are safely doing so. This Vikings team is not overly reliant on any side of the ball. They sit at 10-2 with zero defensive and special teams scores. Winning games this way is a much safer way to win than relying solely on one of these units to make a play. In the playoffs, you play teams that play at a very high level. Turnovers are a rare occurrence, so when your team can win without forcing any, you know that you are in good shape.

Kicking struggles are something that lingers in every Vikings fan’s mind. I know because they remain in mine as well. Kai Forbath has struggled at times, but the good news is, this team manages to keep winning even with kicking struggles. Last season it seemed to be an every game issue. Thankfully, Forbath has not been entirely that bad. For now, it is best just to put our trust in Kai and allow whatever happens to happen.

Reason 3: This Season Has A Different Feel

I know it is very cliché to say it, but this season has a different feeling. After last season’s devastating collapse, this season feels like it has all the makings of something special. The Vikings just overtook the one seed in the NFC’s side of the playoffs, and as it stands right now, the road to the Super Bowl in Minnesota runs through Minnesota. This season is as good a chance as ever for Minnesota. The 2017 Minnesota Vikings are battle tested and ready to make their splash. They have handled four playoff teams so far this season and have shown that they can throw down with anyone in the league.

As the games go on and the Vikings keep winning, many fans’ fear grows more and more. Stop. Except for the Patriots, multiple Super Bowl wins are a rare occurrence. As fans of this Vikings team, we should embrace how well they are doing. Do not let the past Minnesota failures linger in your head. This group is a different team, and as fans, we owe it to the players of this team to put our faith in them. Something past Minnesota failures was unable to do: overcome obstacles. That has not been an issue for the 2017 Vikings. This team will not let anything stand in its way, and as a fan, you have to believe in that. Enjoy the winning while it is here in Minnesota. Hopefully, it will stick around for a long time.

Photo by Keith Allison