Tuesday Reflections: Opportunity Beckons

A 1-3 start isn’t what anyone had in mind. I previously wrote about how we needed to get to 2-2, and I’ve expressed optimism about the 2021 season on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, it’s been a rocky start to the season. How can our Vikings get back on track? We focus on that question at the outset. We then go on to discuss the reffing before finishing with Barr’s and Darrisaw’s injury status.

The Purple Path Forward

Here’s the thing: our Vikings still have a legit shot at getting into the playoffs.

I know we began last season with a 1-3 record before a Week 7 bye. Our 1-5 hole proved to be too much to climb out of. For this purple path to be feasible, our Vikings will need to snag consecutive wins in Week 5 and 6.

First up are the Lions. Dan Campbell may be doing his best, but they’re a talent-starved team. At 0-4, Detroit should be thinking about what QB they’re planning on choosing at the top of the 2022 draft. The Carolina Panthers await following the Lions. I don’t think they intimidate too many folks, but there’s a reason why they’re 3-1. Sam Darnold has played reasonably well. Their defense has also been good, and let’s not forget their Robby Anderson-D.J. Moore receiving duo. When Christian McCaffrey is healthy, they’re a tricky offense to shut down.

By no means, then, should we be guaranteeing a .500 record when we head into the bye. If we can get there, though, we’ll have a legit shot at making a playoff run. The Cowboys await on Halloween night, our first game post-bye. I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little scared.

The Brutal Referee Calls

On Purple PTSD, I made my case for why we still shouldn’t blame the referees for the Browns loss:

Indeed, let’s focus our attention on what we can control. The referees certainly didn’t force our offensive line to get bullied all day. The referees didn’t force our run defense to allow Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to both have productive days. The refs didn’t force Kirk to throw his first INT of the season. We could go on, recounting the various errors Minnesota made throughout the game, but you likely get the point. In Week 5, I’m expecting Minnesota to win. I’m expecting them to build up a big enough lead that the refs no longer matter in the outcome of the game. That’s what I’m looking for from this team. Forget the referees; we know we can’t rely on them to get things right. Instead, let’s play football at such a high level that even incompetent referees can’t snatch away a win.

Allow me to reiterate that the Vikings’ offense was completely uninspiring yesterday. If you want to assign blame, start with Klint Kubiak, Kirk Cousins, and the rest of the offense. Playing to our full potential keeps the referees out of the game’s outcome. That’s where the focus ought to rest as we move forward. As a team, can we play to our potential on a week-in, week-out basis?

If we can, the referees will cease to matter.

Barr and Darrisaw Are Returning

Good news: Christian Darrisaw and Anthony Barr are close to making a meaningful impact for our Vikings.

Darrisaw dressed for the Cleveland game. He didn’t play on offense; his lone snap came on Greg Joseph’s extra point following the opening touchdown. Obviously, we can’t really glean much of anything from this play. Be that as it may, it’s encouraging that he was out there. Expect him to snag the starting LT position in the coming weeks.

Mike Zimmer indicated in yesterday’s press conference that he expects Barr to be available in Week 5. His presence in the front seven should make a noticeable difference, especially in run defense. Coming into Week 4, Minnesota was allowing an average of just under 120 rushing yards per game. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt did little to help get that number down. Now, we may be without Michael Pierce for a little while, so getting Barr in there is more important than ever.

Both players should offer a boost to their side of the ball.

The Send Off

It wasn’t the start anyone was hoping for, but opportunity is still out in front of our Vikings.

Our Minnesota Vikings will have a reasonable shot at making the playoffs if they get into the bye at 3-3. From there, we focus on resetting and getting healthy as we look toward the final 11 games of the year. The defense ought to figure out how to slow the run better and the offense needs to do better at adjusting in the middle of a game.

It’s a fair bit to ask, but it’s where things stand for our guys in purple.