Tuesday Reflections: Seattle Is Now a Must Win

Starting 0-2 gives the year a certain urgency that wasn’t there previously. Our margin for error is considerably smaller than before, so we’ll need to fix the issues quick. Up first is Seattle, a team that has always played us tough. Our first reflection therefore focuses on the need to snag a W this weekend. After that, we turn to Greg Joseph’s role on the team and what ought to happen to see improvement in the secondary.

The Upcoming Seattle Game

Technically, no Week 3 game is a must-win. I mean, we could lose that game, dropping to 0-3. We could then, in theory, put together 14 straight wins, finishing with an impressive 14-3 record. Doing so would likely result in a first-round bye.

Of course, such a scenario is supremely unlikely. In all likelihood, our Vikings will need to grind out the season. The best case scenario is likely a 10-7 finish (give or take a game or two) that results in a wild card spot.

Over at The Athletic, Arif Hasan addressed Minnesota’s chances: “a one-in-nine chance isn’t zero, and with a 17-game schedule instead of a 16-game one, they have one more opportunity than teams in the past had when facing the same daunting climb.” Indeed, our Vikings don’t have great odds at this point, but there is still a somewhat reasonable path forward. It doesn’t help that our schedule, as Hasan notes, is so difficult, but there’s no time for excuses.

If we drop to 0-3, our chances of making the playoffs will plummet. Last season showed that an 0-3 start is supremely difficult to climb out of. The recent purple pattern further suggests that when we begin the opening month with a losing record, we don’t get into the playoffs. We therefore need to finish our opening four games at 2-2.

In some senses, then, we could say that the Seattle game is a must win for our Minnesota Vikings. Hopefully the Vikings don’t let down Cousins once again.

Blame for The Arizona Loss

Greg Joseph deserves credit for facing the media. He also deserves credit for repeatedly taking blame for the loss as he reiterated his confidence in his own abilities.

Moving on from Joseph, at least at this point in time, would be a mistake. He has hit three 50 + field goals, including the one that sent us into OT against the Bengals. After the opening week, everyone was willing to suggest our kicking woes were cured. Now, everyone is looking to move on to someone else. Both perspectives are misguided.

There’s simply no way of knowing whether Joseph will be the long-term solution in Minnesota. We need more time to evaluate him. So far, he has had some really great and some really bad moments. It would be much simpler to know what to do if he solely resided along one extreme, but that’s not the world we live in. Until then, we’ll need to be patient. The worst thing we can do is make a hasty, panicked decision.

Kicking in the NFL isn’t easy. If it was, I’d be an NFL kicker. Let’s take a breathe, collect ourselves, and give Joseph another shot.

I’m going to be very, very nervous if the game is on the line against Seattle when Joseph jogs onto the field. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

The Secondary’s Struggles

Perhaps the most disappointing part of the Vikings’ season so far has been the play from the secondary.

We made it a priority during the offseason, as the additions of Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Xavier Woods, and Bashaud Breeland suggest. Woods has had several positive moments. Peterson and Alexander have been average. Breeland has been giving us flashbacks of Xavier Rhodes: blown coverages and apparent injuries. I’m thinking it’s now time to give Cameron Dantzler a shot.

Over at Purple PTSD, I published a piece arguing for Dantzler to get another opportunity: “So far, Breeland has shown he can be a positive player in run defense. Pass coverage, on the other hand, has been a complete disaster. Put simply, he’s given us no reason to assume he’s actually the best option for CB2. Now, I’m not suggesting that Breeland is totally done and should have no role on this squad. I’m merely pointing out that he’s been a clear weak point on our defense. Why not give Dantzler a shot?”

Re-adding the promising sophomore may indeed be the right move. Dantzler can replicate Breeland’s positive impact in run defense. From there, let’s see if he can offer better pass coverage. It’s probably safe to say that he has a higher ceiling at this point. He had a tremendous rookie season, and the hope is that his recent struggles will allow him to become a better player in the end.

The Send Off

The Minnesota Vikings need to get a win against Seattle. If they don’t, the season will likely end in similar fashion to last year. No one wants to see the purgatorial 9-8/8-9 style of Vikings football that has characterized Kirk’s career. Our ability to overcome such mediocrity begins this Sunday. Having better kicking and play from the secondary will go a long way in ensuring we can avoid this uninspiring fate.