The Minnesota Vikings are sitting pretty at 6-2, but fans are capping their excitement due to last season’s second-half collapse. Why can we expect a different result this season?
Minnesota Vikings fans are showing optimism in regards to their team’s great first-half, but in most cases, it’s a cautious one. This all due to last season’s epic collapse that saw Minnesota blow a 5-0 start and miss the playoffs at 8-8. Given the team’s success this time around, most fans are smart enough to protect themselves from the potential heart-wrenching disappointment that could occur if things were to yet again go south in the second-half.
While I generally agree with where many fans are coming from, I’m not so sure the events of last season should impact us as much as they seem to. Yes, I’m no stranger to the disappointment the Vikings have brought us over the years, especially last year. But, it’s hard for me to see things end in a similar fashion.
Sure, I’m a believer that history can repeat itself, to an extent. Basically, I’m not such a believer in the history of long ago affecting the present. Rather, it’s recent history that tends to repeat itself. At least, when it comes to the world of sports. I mean, just take a look at how the Atlanta Falcons are playing this season. Undoubtedly, the team hasn’t played with the same level of confidence as they had prior to their Super Bowl collapse against the New England Patriots.
That’s not to say there aren’t other factors that enter into the equation. Each season is uniquely its own and circumstances surely change year-to-year. Even so, it’s also fair to say there’s a good retention rate of players on most teams, meaning there’s a good chance for recent history to have its way with a team.
In the case of the Vikings though, I’m not convinced this year’s team will relive the events of the last one. Of course, much of the team is intact from 2016. Yet, there’s one overarching difference from last season that should not only give the team, but also their fans confidence moving forward. That is, the offensive line.
When you look back at why Minnesota fell apart last year, the lackluster offensive line comes to mind. That may be harsh, but in reality, it’s the truth.
Essentially, the offensive line failed to create holes for the Vikings running backs and put Sam Bradford in many poor passing situations. Not to mention, he faced lots of pressure, mainly due to T.J. Clemmings taking over at left tackle due to a couple of major injuries. As good as Bradford played given the unfortunate circumstances, the offense struggled sustaining drives and capitalizing on red zone opportunities. As a result, the Vikings defense clearly wore down at season’s end.
Heading into this season, the line was revamped. They cut bait with Matt Kalil, T.J. Clemmings, Alex Boone and Brandon Fusco. In their place, they added tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, along with center Pat Elflein. At left guard, they decided to roll with third-year man Nick Easton, while Joe Berger was the only holdover at right guard.
Thus far, the Vikings remade offensive line has meshed as well as anyone could imagine through the first eight games. They’ve only allowed 10 sacks, tied for second best in the league, and lead the ninth-ranked rushing attack after ranking last in 2016. Most importantly, they have depth, already having to call on Jeremiah Sirles (who’s a better guard than tackle), Danny Isidora and Rashod Hill off the bench due to minor injuries to the starting unit. Unlike last year’s backups, they’ve stepped up and performed well in relief.
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One year ago, Minnesota didn’t have this kind of depth. As the season wore on, they simply ran out of options on the line and even veteran starters like Alex Boone and Brandon Fusco mightily struggled. Looking back, it’s truly amazing to see how Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer have reshaped the entire outlook of the unit in one offseason.
While the Vikings could still run into injury problems on the front this year, the difference is they have the depth to carry on as usual. Better yet, they have young talent in Isidora and Hill that look like they’ll develop into future starters on the line. With plenty of offensive playmakers and an elite defense around them, it’s harder to see another breakdown happen as a result.
In the words of Everson Griffen, “this is the best team I’ve ever been a part of, from top to bottom.” In reality, he may not be wrong. The quarterback situation may be the greatest unknown heading into the second-half. But, if we’ve learned anything from the first-half, solid offensive line play can make the average quarterback look good. So, regardless of who’s at quarterback, they’ll likely find some level of success.
In the end, Maybe my Vikings fandom is getting the best of me here. Maybe the Vikings still find a way to blow a fantastic first-half, but altogether, the odds of a fallout similar to last year feels slim. Furthermore, It’s hard for a team to relive the past when the source of the problem has indeed been fixed. With that, let’s move forward in faith that this team can pick up where they left off and finish the season strong! Skol Vikes!