Minnesota Vikings: A Fan Perspective

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

It is hard to be a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. After four straight losses, read a fan’s perspective on the state of the franchise this season and after that.

The Minnesota Vikings have now lost four straight games. At 5-4, the Vikings are in second place in the NFC North behind the Detroit Lions (5-4). Frankly, I have written enough about how the season isn’t over, and how the Vikings still have an opportunity to turn it around.

Fans tend to shackle themselves as prisoners of the moment. I have been trying to look at the big picture of the season despite the four losses. It’s easy to fall under the trap that the Vikings are in a hole that is much too deep after four consecutive losses, but what about the five consecutive wins?

Vikings deserve the benefit of the doubt

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The 2016 season began with tragedy for the Vikings, but fans quickly ignored it, blindly believing in Ws. Nobody knows how incredible or disappointing Teddy Bridgewater’s season was going to be. What we do know is that Teddy Bridgewater fixed his deep ball in the preseason, his legs would have extended plays that the offensive line failed and he put up 11 wins with atrocious offensive line play in 2015.

Injuries, to continue, finally caught up to the Minnesota Vikings. Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson and both starting offensive tackles all fell off the roster early in the season. Fantastic, yet questionably sustainable turnover-happy defense kept the Vikings more than afloat. They looked dominant, and the scores reflected it.

Fans speculate that the bye week flamed out the Vikings, but did it really? Against the Eagles, the Vikings defense still played really well, only allowing 14 points. The offensive line crumbled and allowed four forced fumbles on Sam Bradford and many more hits. Against the Bears and the Eagles, Bradford never had more than one second in the pocket and the offensive game plan still didn’t change.

In other words, the overcoming adversity narrative that Vikings fans boasted transitioned to a myriad of diatribes. To me, this lull in the season is incredibly frustrating not because I don’t believe the Vikings can turn a positive corner, but because everywhere I turn there are negative projections on the team as if this outcome was hard to predict.

What did anyone expect?

Forget having to make drastic game plan changes, the Minnesota Vikings needed to make drastic season plan changes. The plan began with a lavish investment in the offensive line to protect Teddy Bridgewater who they certainly predicted to make a huge leap forward. To further reinforce the line, the Vikings invested in Tony Sparano to increase their toughness. On top of that, Adrian Peterson was going to help keep the Vikings offense on the field for long periods of time.

So, on one side of the ball, the Vikings made plans for a time-consuming possession-based offense. On the other side, the Minnesota Vikings quietly developed one of the most dominant young defenses in the league. When the Vikings ultimately lost their offensive line, mobile quarterback and the best running back in the league, that tilted the pressure completely onto a talented defense still in the process of grooming.

Since the bye week, the Vikings haven’t been able to overcome their issues on offense, and that has put an immense strain on the defense. They are on the field for longer, they are getting banged up and, according to Mike Zimmer, they are trying to do too much.

What’s next?

The Minnesota Vikings lost another piece on Sunday–starting left tackle, Jake Long. Long finally began to find his stride in the last two games, and he is expected to miss the rest of the season. Still, I believe the pass protection is on the upswing since Pat Shurmur’s faster offense took precedence.

The Vikings really didn’t need to beat Washington, but they will need to learn to beat teams better than Washington if they have any hope of playoff success (they might need a new kicker too). Their complete lack of ability in the run game will surely loom as their achilles heal in the playoffs if they don’t fix it. Perhaps Adrian Peterson will return by then, but they will still need to be creative with the current offensive line.

Beyond this season, the first rounder that the Vikings gave up for Bradford is starting to sting. By no means has Bradford been a disappointment, but the Vikings clearly need a difference maker on the offensive line. If Matt Kalil and Andre Smith can come back healthy, the Vikings will be a much more balanced team next year whether they move forward with Bradford or Bridgewater.

The main reason I have been able to stay strong through this ugly slump: most teams wouldn’t get this far with all these injuries. The Vikings have a top five coach and general manager, and they have a great young developing core of players.

Next: Zach Lavine Showing his Worth in his Third Season

Most of my lifetime watching the Vikings has been marked by bad quarterback play, terrible coaching and average rosters. Now the Vikings have one of the league’s best coaches, an incredible general manager and a young, smart and athletic roster with two good quarterbacks. If you back out of this dark moment and see the big picture, the state of the Minnesota Vikings is the best it has been in over a decade. What’s your fan perspective on the Vikings?  @eddiechisham