Okay Vikings. You beat the Browns on the road, with Brady Quinn looking pretty much terrible. Then you beat the Lions on the road, with Matthew Stafford looking for all the world like a rookie quarterback. Now you’re making your home debut, against a team that, like you, is 2-0. The sports media are poised to elevate you to elite status in the NFC…if you can bring the thunder.
And if, instead of bringing the thunder, you bring the fizzle? It will validate those who believe you are overrated. It will give ammunition to those who say you are all hype and no pay-off.
I believe this is what’s known as a “make a statement” situation.
Teams in a “make a statement” situation are generally those that have shown they could be contenders, but haven’t yet done anything truly convincing. Like, say, beat the living daylights out of an upstart team from the west coast.
Which still leaves open the question of whether defeating the 49ers really qualifies as a convincing statement. It all depends on how bad you beat them, no? Crush them by 21 and people will say, “Dang, these Vikings might be for real.” Squeak out a nail-biter with a last minute field goal and people will say, “Dang, the Vikes had the Niners at home and barely escaped.”
Lose this game and people will say, “Same old inconsistent Vikings, dropping games they should win.”
It’s only one game in the standings, but on the ever-shifting landscape of perception, it is a pretty big game.
And it’s an especially big game for the Vikings defense, which, in case you didn’t notice, wasn’t its old run-stuffing self last week against the Lions. Matter of fact, the run D looked positively porous at times.
That was against Kevin Smith, a pretty good up-and-coming runner. This week the Vikes face Frank Gore, a guy who is in the running with Adrian Peterson for the title of best back in the league.
If the Vikes stuff Gore, we will know that the run defense is intact, and the Lions game was only an aberration. If Gore runs roughshod over them? We will have cause to worry.
We already have cause to worry about E.J. Henderson, who will likely miss Sunday’s game with a bad shoulder. Yes, the run defense was still dominating without E.J. for most of last season, but I still like us better with him than without.
Health is also a concern for one of our newest, most exciting offensive weapons, Percy Harvin. Most think he will play after missing two days of practice with apparent migraines. Whether he will be effective after not practicing is another question.
The offense, I daresay, will not be as good if Harvin is not on top of his game. After just two weeks, Harvin has established himself as an integral part of the passing attack; in fact, it could be argued that he is already Brett Favre‘s most reliable target on third down and in the red zone.
Of course, when you say “Vikings offense,” the next words out of your mouth should be “Adrian Peterson.” AD also had health issues during the week – a bad back limited him in practice – but little dings mean nothing to a runaway freight train. Adrian will not only be ready to go against the 49ers, he will be ready to light them up.
Adrian knows all about making statements. He makes one every time he touches the football. And that statement is, “I am going to kill you if you don’t get out of my way. Like, now.”
Adrian has a long memory too. He recalls the last time he played the 49ers, a game at the tail end of his rookie season. He wasn’t very good that day; in fact, it was arguably his worst game as a pro, a frustrating 3 yard effort with the Vikes still alive in the postseason race. He’s been eager, ever since then, to get another shot at the Niners.
“As I was walking off the field, I’m like, ‘I can’t wait until we play the 49ers again,'” Adrian remembered this week.
He already tries to obliterate defenders every time he touches the ball. Now he has revenge on his mind as well. There will be some bruised and sore 49ers defensive players come Monday morning. A couple may even end up in the morgue.
Needless to say, if Adrian has the game he envisions himself having against the Niners, the Vikings will have made their statement. And that statement will be, “Look out NFL.”