Three Positives Vikings Fans Can Pull From Wild Card Weekend

Photo: Adam Bettcher - Getty Images

I will not apologize for sinking into my couch all weekend and watching 48-straight hours of football. The NFL always delivers and nobody should’ve expected 2020-21 Wild Card Weekend to be any different.

We saw four of the six road teams pull out victories, a cursed franchise exercise its demons in Pittsburgh and an ex-Minnesota Vikings QB, Taylor Heinicke, go toe-to-toe with Tom Brady.

But there was one gaping hole in the playoff schedule. There was no Minnesota Vikings game. The day was bitter-sweet because of it, but I’m not here to dwell on the negatives. Let’s look at THREE positives that Vikings fans can take away from Wildcard Weekend.

The Vikings would’ve been better vs the Saints than Chicago was.

You wanna talk about a slow and boring death? My god… that’s what we witnessed on Sunday afternoon when an aging Drew Brees overcame the Bears defense. This game was never in doubt and only a late game non-consequential Chicago touchdown saved a blowout final score. But my oh my was it slow-going.

Mitchell Trubisky can only play Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville and Minnesota’s defenses for so long. The Bears scored just NINE total points in Sunday’s loss, tallying an uninspiring ELEVEN 1st downs, while going 1-10 on 3rd down. It was the fourth time this year that Chicago’s offense has scored less than 14 points…

A Minnesota Vikings vs New Orleans Wildcard matchup would have at least given fans a game worth watching. Regardless of how unfathomably bad Minnesota’s defense was at times this season, they would’ve been a far better matchup to expose the Saints defense.

Minnesota’s offense was lethal in 2020, scoring 55 offensive touchdowns, which ranks second only behind the epic 1998 team that posted 58 TD’s. The Vikings averaged 4.88 yards per run play and 393.3 total yards per game, both good for 4th in the NFL.

Weekend was a win for heartbroken franchises across the NFL

I have to say, I was entranced on Sunday night seeing the Cleveland Browns win a playoff game for the first time in 26 years. Snake-bitten franchises are like a cult.

We look out for each other and share an emotional bond that fans of successful franchises will never know. Even when the Browns went up 28-0 in the first quarter, there wasn’t a Vikings, Lions or Browns fan watching who was ready to declare victory.

Cleveland was without their head coach and multiple starters, they hadn’t practiced in two weeks and they were playing on the road. Still, the Browns delivered a stunner at Heinz Field.

I find great joy in watching fanbases like Cleveland and Buffalo celebrate after a huge victory. It’s all too relatable. We all know the history of the Vikings’, having four Super Bowls with no wins to show for them. Nights like Sunday give me just a tad of optimism. If the Browns can win a playoff game, then maybe one day…

You can still win with a defense-first mindset.

I love watching the Kansas City Chiefs play football but I do think organizations have fallen victim to an unachievable dream, when it comes to their own team’s offense. Not everyone has Patrick Mahomes nor Andy Reid.

Sure, having an explosive offense is going to win games, but as the NFL continues to evolve, one thing stays stagnant. Playing solid defense wins in the playoffs. Averaging 30+ points only gets you so far and if you run into a good defensive scheme, then playoff dreams often come to an end.

After watching what the L.A Rams defense did to Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, it became clear that the Minnesota Vikings’ number one priority this offseason needs to be on the defensive side of the ball.

Sean McVey may be known for his offensive genius but it was his defense that put on a show Saturday afternoon. They held Wilson to just 174 passing yards passing and the Seahawks to 20 total points.

In 2020, the Rams ranked No. 1 in total yards allowed, passing yards allowed, passing TDs allowed, first downs allowed and points allowed. And guess who is playing again next weekend?

Defense, Defense, Defense…

A good defense is still a necessity in this modern day NFL. The same story was told by the Baltimore Ravens, who beat the Tennessee Titans with the same formula on Sunday. They stuffed the man who gave them nightmares all offseason long. after booting them from the 2019 playoff field.

Derrick Henry was held to 40 rushing yards on 18 attempts, for a measly 2.2 yards per carry. It was Henry’s fewest yardage total and YPC average in a game since Week 6, 2019. Lamar Jackson got his first playoff win but, after posting just 20 points in the victory, he needs to thank his defense.

Yes, defense still means something in 2021.

Stephen Strom | Minnesota Sports Fan