After the heartbreaking wide left kick that ended last season for the Minnesota Vikings, expectations for this season were noticeably higher, especially since there is a brand new stadium with expensive seats you can purchase for an expensive fee to keep the National Football League solvent. Vikings fans might get their hearts broken again, but at least not at the coldest game in the team’s history.
The Vikings spent money bringing in a couple of new offensive linemen to shore up what was the weakest part of the team, even though Adrian Peterson led the league in rushing last year. Imagine what he could do with an offensive line that...oh, I don’t know...opened holes for him instead of letting him get hit in the backfield almost as often as Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater was out for the season after a freak injury, but pickings were slim for backup quarterbacks, and nobody out there was a notable improvement over Hill. Next thing we know, the Vikings pulled a trade with Philadelphia for Sam Bradford, who was not the Eagles’ backup but their starter. Even though Philly had signed Bradford to a two-year contract, they also traded up to draft Carson Wentz, which was a clear sign to Bradford that he was not the Eagles’ long-term quarterback.
I was optimistic about Bradford. With his ability to throw the deep ball and an opportunity to play for a better team (one with a premier running back), he could help the Vikings the same way Carson Palmer worked wonders with the Arizona Cardinals.
We were hoping the NFL would schedule the Packers for the first official game at U.S. Bank Stadium. The demand for tickets would be so high the regular Packer fans who show up at a Vikings home game would be significantly reduced. That indeed happened. The problem was beating the Packers, which the Vikings did 17-14.
On the down side, Adrian Peterson went out with an injured knee. We were not devastated by this injury, because Bradford sure looked like he could do the job. With almost two games under his belt, Peterson only averaged 1.6 yards a game. Surely his replacement could do better than that.
Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata averaged 3.0 and 3.3 yards a carry, which is pretty much double what Peterson was getting. Twice as good would be pretty good under most circumstances, but not when it is twice 1.6 yards per carry. No wonder the Vikings are at the bottom of the rushing stats.
Peterson came back, and with his fourth carry, finally had a run of more than 10 yards. At which point he fumbled, but at least his average is now up to 1.9, so there is that.
Then the Vikings went after the record for most tackles lost in one season. Phil Loadholt retired; Matt Kalil was lost after the Packers game; newcomer Andre Smith left two weeks later; and Jake Long, who was brought in to help, saw the end of his career when he wrecked his knee in the final seconds of the loss to Washington.
At that point, the Vikings did the only reasonable thing to do in response to a rash of offensive line injuries: They released kicker Blair Walsh.
To replace Walsh, they brought in a kicker who does not like to kick off, which is, like, half the job description. But if Coach Mike Zimmer can force the offensive line to actually block, then he can force a kicker to kick off. He should be able to do that even with one eye.
The Vikings defense is solid (more so when it is healthy than when it is not), but they need offense to pick up. I have looked at the stats and I see a possible solution: After the first 10 games, Bradford had 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions. So for every pick, he is throwing six TDs. That is a great ratio. The only starting QBs with better ratios are Dax Prescott (17:2) and Tom Brady (16:1), who happen to be on teams with the best records in each conference.
So it follows that if we can just get Bradford to throw more interceptions, he will also end up throwing more touchdowns. If he would just average one measly interception per game, then he would also be throwing a mind-boggling six touchdowns per game. If you give this Vikings defense 36 points per game (Vikings fans do not count on extra points anymore), they should be able to win almost every single game.
But in his last four games Bradford only threw two interceptions to go with only two touchdowns, so another statistical theory bites the dust. The Vikings season would best be defined by the stupidest turnover of the year at Green Bay when center Nick Easton simply left the ball on the ground when he hiked it. Seriously?