How Excited Should the Vikings Be About a Win Over the Sorry Rams?


Now that we’ve had our couple days of euphoric post-win celebration, it’s time to put away the party hats, sweep up the confetti and get back to reality.

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Yes it was a solid win for the Vikings against the Rams. Yes the team performed better than most people expected. Yes there is reason to be optimistic about this club.

However, unless you’re one of those crazy people who refuses to think about things at all objectively, there are a few nagging issues left over from this game that you can’t just avoid addressing.

There are a few small things that, if you’re being totally honest, have to put a slight damper on your enthusiasm.

First off, the most obvious point: the team the Vikings beat is an unholy mess. The Rams look like a sorry no-account operation right now, and could be poised to go off a cliff entirely. They could end up a two-win team before it’s over.

Well, maybe the Vikings are just that good? Maybe their greatness contributed to the Rams looking inept? Maybe. And maybe the Rams just stink so bad, they made a mediocre Vikings team look better than it truly is.

If you don’t buy the level-of-competition argument as a reason to be less jacked about the Vikings, then consider the Vikings’ performance itself.

How good was their performance when you really look at it?

In the second half, I grant you, the Vikings looked fairly sharp. But in the first half?

From the opening gun until the point late in the second when the game turned in the Vikings’ favor (Josh Robinson’s pick being the turning point of the contest), you could argue that the Vikes looked every bit as discombobulated and inept as the Rams.

I realize that some of the Vikings’ issues were related to problems with helmet radio communication, but that alone can’t account for a lot of the mistakes.

Much of the problem was on the offensive line, which in the first half was plagued by penalties and pass protection breakdowns. The Rams failed to fully capitalize on this, largely thanks to Norv Turner’s play calling which was deliberately tailored to minimize the impact of Robert Quinn and the Rams’ pass rushers.

No doubt, the Vikings went into the game with a better plan than the Rams, and for the most part executed their game plan more effectively. But it wasn’t some smooth-running operation. Don’t kid yourself.

When Mike Zimmer talks about needing to clean things up, he isn’t just being Mr. Coachy Coach, he means it. Especially on the O-line, this team does have a lot of things to clean up. It’s not a given that they will get those things cleaned up.

Sometimes things don’t get cleaned up.

And about that game-plan: It was great watching the Vikings execute screens and running plays, and no doubt those things will be a big part of the offense as we go through the season, but what about that vaunted Norv Turner deep game?

We didn’t need the deep game against the Rams, and indeed putting away the deep game was probably the right move given the strength of the Rams’ front line, but at some point we will need the deep game. And right now, we have no idea if we have a deep game.

Maybe the Vikes will be able to whip out the deep ball when they need it and/or the match-ups dictate that they should do it. But until we’ve actually seen it happen, we don’t know if they can get that part of their offense going.

If the Vikes don’t figure out some way to threaten teams deep, then teams will start loading the box. And those pretty screens and jet sweeps and edge runs? Won’t be so easy to pull off.

Cordarrelle Patterson is a weapon right now, but he’s a weapon on horizontal plays, not vertical ones. At what point do teams start game planning to stop Patterson the running back?

Just hit them with Adrian Peterson up the middle, right?

Well that brings us to another unpleasant question: is it possible that Adrian Peterson is just a guy now?

Adrian’s performance against the Rams was not exactly vintage AD. It was more like vintage Toby Gerhart.

Adrian did some good things and helped the offense, but he was far from explosive. Rust left over from not having any action in the preseason? Maybe.

Or maybe Peterson has hit the steep part of his downslide. I know a lot of fans don’t want to face that possibility, but it can’t be ignored.

Much of our dream of Vikings dominance is based on the notion that Peterson will eventually get it cranked up. But there’s a chance he never will get it cranked up again. Not to the old level.

Non-dominating Adrian Peterson might be enough if the Vikings can threaten the field at all levels. But the Vikings did not threaten the field at all levels vs. the Rams, and it remains an open question whether they can get to that point.

And consider the defense. Yes, it was a strong performance by the D. Their pressure numbers were outstanding, they picked off two passes and they mostly tackled well.

Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Josh Robinson, Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd…they all made big plays. We saw the talent flashing out there, a testament not just to the players but Mike Zimmer, who clearly understands how to put his talent in position to shine.

That’s great, but again…who were they playing against?

Shaun Hill started the game at QB for the Rams, and Austin Davis ended it. Hill wasn’t much but at least he got the ball out. Davis spent most of the second half standing in the pocket looking like a terrified forest animal.

The Vikings pass rush numbers look really great, but do they look less great when you consider that the QB for half the game was a guy who had no idea what he was doing and instead of at least scrambling just stood there taking hits?

The second half was a turkey shoot for the Vikings’ pass rush. They essentially were performing against a team that had, in play calling and execution, regressed to preseason levels.

But still, yes, it was a good effort by the defense. Anthony Barr is a monster, Harrison Smith was all over the place and, best of all, those interior D-linemen got penetration and blew up plays.

I love interior penetration. We didn’t have enough of it the last few years, and that’s part of the reason teams were able to dink-and-dunk us to death. If Linval Joseph, Sharrif Floyd and company can continue getting that push up the middle, the defense will continue to improve.

Just so you don’t think it’s all negativity in here, I’ll give props where props are due.

Yes, good things happened in Sunday’s game. Cordarrelle Patterson was unleashed. The Vikings executed the screen game well (mostly). Adrian Peterson ran the ball well enough to keep the offense moving. Matt Cassel avoided turnovers and big mistakes.

On both sides of the ball, the Vikings mostly looked like a professionally-run operation. That’s the bare minimum you can really ask of any team.

But getting carried away with enthusiasm on the basis of one early season win against a team that looks like it’s about to fall off a cliff, given all the glaring issues the Vikings still have?

Ignoring the pass protection problems, the lack of a proven deep game, the realities of Adrian Peterson’s age…overlooking all of that and putting this team in the playoffs?

I’m not ready to go there yet. Now that the euphoria has dissipated, it’s time to soberly consider the reality of the situation. That reality? We don’t know if the Vikings are a good team yet.

Sorry, we just don’t. But they looked solid against the Rams. So yeah, they have that going for them. I grant you.