The Vikings are 4-0. The national media have been paying attention to them all season thanks to Favre, but now the media are beginning to also take them seriously as a contender, which opens the door on a whole different level of scrutiny. A team that came into the season as a question mark now bears the burden of genuine expectations.
For instance: The Vikings, by virtue of being 4-0 and having an arsenal full of offensive and defensive weapons, are expected to roll into St. Louis today and do to the winless Rams what Woody Harrelson did to that zombie with those big old shears.
Adrian Peterson, who’s been quiet for a couple of weeks, is expected to have one of those crazy 200-yard, 3 touchdown games. Brett Favre is expected to go something like 23/26 with a couple of TDs. The defense is expected to lay waste to the pitiful, putrid and disgraceful Rams offense.
If the Vikings win by anything less than 17 points, it will look like they had a bad game.
If they should, by some fluke, lose the game, all that talk of Super Bowl contention will turn to chatter about the purple being overrated.
If the Vikings lose, people will point out that two of their wins came against bottom-feeders Cleveland and Detroit, one was a last-second act of prestidigitation against a team that should’ve beaten them and the fourth was just Favre getting pumped up to beat his old team.
Of course all those things are true going into the St. Louis game. Fact is, the Vikings still haven’t put together 4 solid quarters of football. They’ve had two slow-starters that turned in the second half because Adrian got hot, and two quick-starters that deteriorated as things went along, but ended up in the win column anyway because of #4.
I don’t need to point out that #4 is now officially 40. How many more heroic efforts can we really expect from him? Sure, we’re awed by the things he’s done this season – we now understand why Packer fans came to love him so – but the plan wasn’t for Brett to carry us. The plan was for AD and the defense to carry us, and Brett to chip in here and there.
AD and the defense have, at times, fulfilled their roles. At other times they have looked like they are not up to the task.
The D looked awesome most of the Packer game, especially Jared Allen who tore up would-be blockers like Kirstie Alley ripping apart a buffet, but it also looked absurdly porous late, letting the Packers nearly sneak back in. And the run defense overall has not been as dominating as in years past, which gives one pause going into a game featuring Steven Jackson, a great player stuck on a horrid team.
And I don’t need to remind everyone how human Adrian has looked the last two weeks. You could sort of understand it against the Niners, who have a nice defense; but against the Packers, a team that normally gives up running yards in mammoth chunks?
Watching Adrian struggle against the Pack was, to put it mildly, disconcerting. At some point you can’t just chalk that up to teams stacking the box either. They stacked the box against him last year and he still led the league in rushing. You have to wonder if Adrian, a guy who punishes defenders and his own body with equal abandon, isn’t already starting to show the effects of those blows. You also have to wonder about our run blocking.
And another thing: someone might want to explain to Adrian that it isn’t necessary to bounce every play outside. Yes, that looks like a great move when a tackler misses you and you pop it for twenty, but when you’re constantly getting stuffed for negative yardage on plays where going straight up the middle might’ve gotten you 2 or 3? It looks like you still haven’t quite absorbed that lesson about taking what the defense gives you.
Young Adrian still gets impatient, I think. And he definitely still needs to work on ball security. That strip-6 by Clay Matthews was about the worst-looking fumble I’ve ever seen in a professional game.
But there I go accentuating the negative again. I forgot that we’re playing the Rams. This should be a walk-over. A mauling. A felonious assault.
This should be one of those games that makes people call for the slaughter rule in the NFL.
So why do I have this creeping little feeling in the pit of my gut? Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the Vikings wilt a few too many times under the burden of expectations. Maybe it’s because “we should win that game easy” is normally a prelude to a stunning upset, or at best a squeaker win.
Yes, I expect the Vikings to destroy the Rams. But if it doesn’t happen? I will not be shocked. And neither will anyone else who’s watched this team for the last 20 years.