The Defense Unfortunately Rests: The Case Of The 2022 Minnesota Vikings Season
Prior to the Vikings hosting the Giants on Sunday, I decided to watch a “Law & Order” marathon and only offer a passing glance at the Dolphins taking on the Bills. Sometimes I get just as into a good courtroom drama as I do a football game. Judge me accordingly – pun fully intended.
It was the perfect preparation in terms of an emotional spectrum. There was excitement, suspense, anger, relief, and sometimes dejection. Like so many games, the show can come down to the final minute. Eventually, the defense rests, you get a decision, and it’s all over.
It’s a scary correlation, isn’t it? The defense for the Minnesota Vikings seemed to be resting for the entire contest on Sunday. The problem was, they were on the field for over half the game.
Running backs, wide receivers, and even the quarterback from the Giants ran by defenders all day long, and suddenly a very exciting season for Minnesota was gone in a blink. It was a 31-24 home playoff loss, and with 431 total yards allowed, it appeared that the Vikings never tried to defend anything.
Maybe I should stop too. This could be my last gasp. I didn’t want to have to try, but somehow because the Vikings didn’t defend, I felt compelled to step up my game.
I’ve often defended my stance on being a longtime fan of the Minnesota Vikings a certain way. It’s how I was raised - and believe it or not, I’ve somehow enjoyed it. They’re rarely bad, but they’ve just never been “good enough” to win it all.
Yet, maybe that’s exactly what qualifies as “bad.” It was easy to find multiple reminders of the historically “painful purple past” by about 7 pm Sunday night.
If that means I like a bad franchise, I’m ok with it. Nobody will change my mind and get me to ditch my Vikings fandom.
Yet, that’s another reason I hesitated to defend anything. We tend to be a negative sports society, especially in Minnesota. It’s almost impossible to change the minds of others.
Kirk Cousins is a perfect example. I like him and his talents. I am glad he’s the quarterback for my favorite team. For those reasons, I’ve been called a “Kirk-apologist” many times.
If that label fits me in your opinion, great. If not, also great.
I’d rather apologize for so many who refuse to see the other players on the field, and solely focus on him – no matter how much that’s part of “being the quarterback.”
I assume these are the same people that ignore the basketball player who missed 10 layups and had five turnovers, so they can blame the player who had a double-double but missed the buzzer-beating heave. Perhaps these folks torch the goalie who made 55 saves but let a soft goal in on the 56th shot to lose the hockey game too.
The reason “Kirk-apologists” exist, by label or by sentiment; is because of the many who believe that Cousins can’t win a big game, he will fold in a big moment, and he just isn’t the quarterback who any team with Super Bowl aspirations should have on their roster.
Once again Sunday, if you took those statements at face value, you were proven right.
The Vikings lost their biggest game of the season, fell short of a Super Bowl again, and a major gaffe by Cousins sealed their fate. Yet does that render him useless? Does this loss fall squarely on him?
Cousins threw a completion for three yards when the Vikings needed eight on the do-or-die fourth down during their final drive. It ended the season and was an inexcusable play. There is no defending those actions. He got rightfully blasted by various media outlets and social media platforms. It was the proverbial big-moment meltdown.
Yet instead of feeling heartbroken, I felt relieved for those who loathe Cousins.
Without that play, they may have had to analyze all phases of a game instead of just spewing the same narrative.
It may have led to giving Cousins credit for playing well in a loss. Many experts did that for Josh Allen (rightfully so) in last year’s playoffs. Cris Collinsworth does that for Aaron Rodgers seemingly every season. I never want anyone to go that far, but the main point is that a quarterback can play well and still lose.
Cousins had an unacceptable play, while his defense had dozens. Still, the haters could still say Cousins lost the game, and in the most literal sense, be right.
One throw allowed for turning a blind eye to horrific defense. The Giants made plays the way we did during my childhood using the old Nerf Turbo football in the yard. The Vikings were routinely baffled.
I finish a 5K race in just over an hour these days, yet I think Eric Kendricks might still somehow end up trying (and potentially failing) to chase me down. On a day you hoped the defense could be the tone-setter, they certainly were – they set a tone that asked their offensive teammates to be perfect.
There were at least three major misplays preventing perfection.
Kirk’s last pass will top the list, but there was also Kevin O’Connell’s ill-timed resorting to trickery (a throwback pass to Kirk!?!?!) that led to a Vikings punt, and a converted QB-sneak on fourth down that was nullified by a false start. That penalty forced the Vikings to kick a game-tying field goal when it appeared they might be heading for a fourth-quarter lead.
The offense tried to continually respond while the defense played like the game was over countless times. Once again in Minnesota, it just wasn’t meant to be this season. Another year over, another off-season of polarization regarding Cousins.
I heard from those who despise him very quickly and frequently after the loss to the Giants. Yet some of the staunch haters I converse with managed to come around on Cousins as they watched another playoff debacle. They realized how much worse things could’ve been without his willingness to hang tough and perform under seemingly difficult circumstances. Will it be enough to keep him around? Let the debates begin.
There are a couple of topics that can no longer be debated: To those who said for several weeks that the Vikings would be “one and done” in the playoffs, congratulations, you nailed it.
I said in a previous column: If Green Bay misses the playoffs, and then Minnesota chokes at home in an opening playoff game (therefore spoiling a season filled with jaw-dropping comebacks and admittedly good fortune), the role reversal from recent years will be complete.
Since then, fans of the non-playoff team are basking in the loss by the division champion and being very “vocal” about it. The division champion fans are mad about that and calling out the non-playoff team’s fans for their lack of success this year. Then the non-playoff team’s fans are angry about being called out about it because “you started it years ago.”
Got all that? It’s the same juvenile garbage from both fanbases. For this and many other reasons, I need a break when it comes to football.
At least baseball starts soon, and I’ll always be excited about that. However, I do giggle when I think of how Joe Mauer was “my Kirk Cousins” for many years. I focused on the back end of his career and his offensive shortcomings. I couldn’t handle anyone being excessively optimistic about him because that was living in the past. He wasn’t THAT good anymore, and his teams went nowhere.
Perhaps I never properly appreciated him. Perhaps I never will. Remember those words.
Yet, Mauer was very good defensively, and if the Vikings were at all, they might still be playing.
Too soon? Guilty as charged. The defense rests.
Brian's show, 'The Northland Sports Page', can be heard Saturdays from 10 am to noon on the FAN 106.5 FM/560 AM. You can catch previous episodes on the Northland FAN On-Demand area of our website or on our mobile app.