We have all been there, one moment the world couldn’t hold more color, the sun couldn’t shine brighter and then suddenly it stops. Your days turn gray and the sun gets lost behind some clouds. If you’re a Viking fan, like me, you’ve seen many days like this come and go.
The 2017-2018 season started like any other, a solid draft by Vikings GM Rick Spielman and his staff led by a solid off-season training program. Minnesota truly did seem like they were on the cusp of something special. Week one I was there, the home opener in US Bank Stadium, the loudest venue I have even been apart of (sorry KC fans I’ve been to two games in arrowhead and nothing gets louder than a SKOL chant on Sunday afternoon). Sam Bradford and the new look Vikings offense wage war on the New Orleans Saints led by future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. This game would set in place a season marked by loss and fortunate events. Sam Bradford lights it up his first game out 27 of 32 attempts found their mark for a staggering 346 yards and 3 touchdowns you throw in 22 carries and 127 yards for a solid 5.8 yards per carry from rookie Dalvin Cook its hard to think of anyone stopping the machine certainly while backed up by arguably the best defense in football.
The first fracture comes here Bradford goes down with a knee injury a bone bruise maybe it’s a torn ligament or scar tissue I don’t think anyone really knew. So this is it, like a free delicious sample at a store, just enough to show you how good it could be but not enough to satisfy your craving. In steps Case Keenum the best way I can say it is if Sam Bradford was your vintage Porsche that you’ve restored after some dents and scratches, then Case was like having to drive your old Geo Metro with a hubcap falling off, a crack across your windshield and you just had to crank the key just right to get it to start. That’s what Case was before Minnesota but Pat Shurmur the Offensive Coordinator and Kevin Stefanski the Quarterback Coach they were the fairy God Mother of the Vikings dreams. They turned the beat up broke down Geo Metro into a formula one car that came in the form of a gunslinger Minnesota hasn’t seen since Favre suited up in the purple and gold. After all he just needed to manage games with Dalvin tearing up defenses and let the defense win it for you…sounds familiar doesn’t it? Minnesota leans on a loaded defense and dominant run game to mask the short comings of their passing attack. Not so fast, not this year after all Minnesota had pro bowl Tight End Kyle Rudolph pro bowl Wide Outs in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen they even signed former pro bowler Latavius Murray who came from a spread it out offense in Oakland. The Vikings had the pieces, they just needed the glue or a beat down broken Metro.
Case Keenum didn’t break down, in fact, he posted a career year tallying 3,547 yard 22 tds and only 7 ints not bad for a falling off hubcap, but then week four, Dalvin Cook tears his ACL on a non contact football move and is gone for the season. The Vikings lose that game to the Lions 14-7 and that’s the season, it’s over, another year of what ifs. This is the second fracture of the campaign. The team rolls in to week five and limps out with a 20-17 win over Chicago, and then week six they catch fire. Anthony Barr injures Aaron Rodgers, Minnesota claims a 23-10 win and wouldn’t see another loss until week 13 against the Panthers losing 31-24, all the while quietly posting a historic season. Mckinnon and Murray silently post a 2nd place finish in regular season rushing for a running back tandem behind Jay Ajayi and Legarette Blount of Philadelphia. Case Keenum posts his remarkable year. The Vikings defense posts a 25.2 third down percentage the best the league has seen since 1991 when the Saints set the mark with 26.1 and in modern-day football that’s unheard of.
So here we are the 2nd seed Carson Wentz is on a campaign to be the leagues MVP in Philly goes down with a knee injury. Teddy Bridgewater returns and plays in a game during garbage time and I feel the sun I see the colors and I think this could be it the pieces are falling into place perfectly. Then comes the divisional round. I see Philly and Atlanta play in a snooze fest and I figure well, if Minnesota can beat the Saints it just about books a trip home to the Super Bowl after all Philly was the weakest 1st seed ever…ha, so naive. Minnesota would break out to an early lead against the Saints, it looked like a no contest early and then, Xavier Rhodes turns an ankle and the premier shutdown corner of the NFL is hobbled, Michael Thomas and Drew Brees the duo, light up Minnesota like a Griswold family Christmas display and I see the clouds rolling in. Then it happens the Saints take a late lead and I realize it’s over, the seasons done, that magic flickered out, ha! so naive. I learned my lesson that night to never give up on your team, because with seconds to go Case Keenum would write his name into Viking lore forever, a high pass which hung in the air for what seemed like forever was rescued by Stefon Diggs and as he fell all I could think of was get out-of-bounds, please for the love of God get out of bounds, and then it happened, pandemonium. Marcus Williams makes one of the worst tackle attempts of all time taking out Crawley, Stefon Diggs does the best impression of an Olympic speed skater I’ve ever seen on grass, bending parallel to the ground catching himself with his hand turning and finding nothing but history. That run was in slow motion, go ahead, key up the titanic music and get some tissues because as I stood there eventually dropping to my knees I witnessed a miracle. My grandfather who has seen it all since 1961 and I hugged we watched the replay and we thought no way not this way these plays never play out for us. Example, Blair Walsh or Gary Anderson, maybe everyone recalls the greatest run by a QB in NFL history when Michael Vick turned into a human video game to win it in overtime for Atlanta. This was ours though and you couldn’t beat destiny you couldn’t halt fate.
You can’t beat destiny, but you can break her heart. It still hurts….Minnesota rolled into Philadelphia the team of destiny. The first team to ever play a Superbowl in their home stadium, a historic defense, a miracle man in Case Keenum with enough offensive sidekicks to make the justice league jealous, it just seemed like a formality. The first drive the Vikings look like they are about to run rough shot over the Eagles and then, a bolt comes loose on the hubcap in tune of a pick six to tie it. Then another screw with a deep shot to Alshon Jeffrey…then the tire falls off the car goes crashing rolling flipping and diving and before you know it…its over. Heartbreak…it ends, and you’re numb, how could this team do what it did the week before and then have it come to this? Emotional hang over? Was Philly just that good? I say no to both. The Vikings just crumbled under the weight. In reality, they don’t go on that run and they shouldn’t have. In reality, as well I would know better than to let myself believe the hype, but in reality Minnesota is that pretty girl that you know is going to wreck your heart but you can’t help but go for it anyway. That’s the 2017-2018 campaign the records the memories and the miracles they’re all for nothing. What lasts is the hurt and the dark clouds the gray and lack of color. It’s mid February and I still can’t see an Eagle without being sick to my stomach, but that’s this game we play. I know this feeling all to well, being a Viking fan, but come April when Roger Goodell stands at that podium and he says with the 30th pick in the NFL Draft the Minnesota Vikings select. I will be there in my purple seeing all the colors soaking in the sun because no matter how many times I say I’m done I always come back for more. I’m not sure what 2018-2019 holds for Minnesota, hopefully a Superbowl birth. It will hold a few things I feel are guaranteed. The return of the prolific Dalvin Cook, an embarrassed elite defense looking to make a point with something to prove, another year in the west coast offense to see Rudolph, Diggs, and Thielen go off. Who gets them the ball? Will it be the restored Porsche? The Geo Metro missing a wheel, how about the Camaro salvage from wreckage rebuilt and left under the tarp. Whether its Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, or Teddy Bridgewater, or maybe a rookie, whoever it is I will love this team, because whats love without a little heartbreak in between?
– Matt Corum (Guest Writer)