With a Week 5 win over the rival Chicago Bears, the Vikings are 4-1 and have sole possession of first place in the NFC North. They are also 3-0 in divisional play to start the season, which will come in very handy when the season comes to a close as the Vikings are now guaranteed to finish with at least a .500 record in division play and have notched at least one win against each of their divisional rivals.
With all that being said, there’s something that needs to be addressed. If you read the title of this blog, you will know what I’m about to say.
It’s now time to discuss why the 4-1 Vikings aren’t as good as their record indicates. There are a few reasons why this is, and it’s time to take a deep dive into said reasons.
Reason No. 1: The Vikings Have Been Playing With Fire Too Many Times
The Vikings seem to have made a habit of playing down to their competition so far this year. Since the Week 2 blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings have gone 3-0 with the point differential being a grand total of 14 points. Those wins came against a Detroit Lions team that just got sucker punched in consecutive weeks by teams led by Geno Smith and Bailey Zappe, a New Orleans Saints team that was missing their starting quarterback, top wide receiver, and top running back for the Minnesota game, and a young Bears team still in a rebuild.
I know a win is a win. And I wholeheartedly agree that I’d rather be an ugly 4-1 than a pretty 1-4 or 2-3. But this is a habit that needs to stop.
What happens when the Vikings face off against superior competition? Likely something a little similar to what we saw in Philadelphia, although likely not as bad. Now, for the next month, the Vikings will get a little bit of Lady Luck headed their way. Next week they will get a Dolphins team that not only might be on their third string quarterback, but also might be without Tyreek Hill. Then, after a Week 7 bye, they get a Cardinals team that can’t get its act together and a Commanders team that might be the worst team in football.
But after that? The Vikings are going to Buffalo, hosting Dallas, and then hosting New England in primetime. Those games are followed by hosting the Colts and Giants and traveling to Detroit and Green Bay. Against those teams, that fire will likely come back to burn the Vikings. Those are three very likely losses if they keep playing with fire.
Reason No. 2: Second-Half Offense Was Back To Being An Issue
After two weeks of a decent second half offense, the Vikings only scored eight points in the second half against the Bears. Granted, those were the points that ultimately decided the game, but it’s still not good.
Partially because the defense allowed the Bears to control the clock in the second half, the Vikings had only three offensive drives in that half. The first two ended in a blocked field goal and a nearly back-breaking Kirk Cousins interception, but they did score that touchdown on the final drive.
It should be noted that excluding the touchdown drive in the second half, the Vikings only held the ball for six minutes and 11 seconds in the second half and only had 12 plays in that time span.
On the drive that saw Greg Joseph’s field goal blocked, Kevin O’Connell had a rookie coach moment and made a questionable decision. When faced with a second down and 10 from the Bears 33, KOC chose to pass the ball twice rather than trying to run and get an easier field goal attempt. Both of these attempts fell incomplete, and Joseph’s 51-yard attempt was blocked.
The baffling part about the decision to pass on second and 10 was that Joseph had already tried a 53 yard field goal attempt just before halftime that sailed wide right. So why try another 50+-yarder that is likely to also miss?
An offensive holding penalty by tight end Johnny Mundt would be a killer on the drive where Cousins got intercepted. Mundt’s penalty negated a Dalvin Cook run that pushed the Vikings into Bears territory, which nearly killed any momentum the Vikings had. On the play before the interception, the Vikings nearly gave the ball up on downs when a pass on fourth down and 4 was incomplete, but the Bears were called for defensive holding and the offense was rewarded with a first down. Cousins then rewarded the Vikings with his interception which enabled the Bears to go up 22-21.
The Vikings may have cleaned it up just in time to secure the win, but the second half offense needs to be cleaned up. You can’t take your foot off the gas against an inferior opponent. I’m sure that coach O’Connell will learn this eventually, but it still needs to be fixed before it becomes a big problem.
Reason No. 3: The Defense Once Again Got Sloppy, But Luckily Didn’t Break
Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell’s unit is another part of this team that needs to be cleaned up a little bit.
After the Vikings went up 21-3, the Bears had five offensive drives for the remainder of the game. The first one, which started at the 50 thanks to an offensive holding penalty committed by the Vikings punt team, saw the Bears drive right down the field with ease and score a touchdown in four plays and trim the deficit to 21-10.
The second half defense was much worse, though.
On the opening drive of the second half, Donatell’s unit allowed the Bears to drive 67 yards in eight plays, largely thanks to a chunk play that saw Bears quarterback Justin Fields hit Cole Kmet for a 23-yard gain, and trim the deficit to 21-16.
Two offensive miscues by the Vikings (the blocked field goal and interception) allowed the Bears to start their drives within their 40-yard line, and Donatell’s unit did hold them to a field goal on both tries. The run defense was the main culprit for these field goals, because that part of the defense allowed both Fields and the running back duo of David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert to break free for runs that extended Bears drives. During the second field goal drive, Fields actually had a 52-yard touchdown run negated by an offensive holding penalty.
Once again though, the Vikings defense came up clutch. Cornerback Cameron Dantzler forced a fumble on former Viking receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the final minute, which he recovered to seal the win.
The Vikings defense cannot keep playing like this, especially the run defense. As I mentioned earlier, this will come back to haunt them in games against superior competition.
In Conclusion, Are The Vikings For Real?
For now, as much as I don’t want to say it, the Vikings aren’t a team that’s for real. A lot can change as it’s only Week 5 but I don’t see how this team is for real. They are certainly the best team in the NFC North as of right now, but in this dysfunctional division, that’s not saying much. That’s like being a tall person in a short family (I know this firsthand, as my 6’0” self is the only person in my dad’s short Italian family standing over 5’5”).
The Vikings are certainly playoff contenders, and they may even come out with the NFC North crown, but in no way are they for real. This team has too many holes to be considered a legitimate contender right now. Some of these issues are solvable, but some of them are not.
This may be a 4-1 team, but they do not play like one. This is a team that has gotten lucky against some inferior competition, which isn’t a bad thing but isn’t a good thing either. When this team has to go up against superior competition, such was the case when they went to Philadelphia, they will likely be exposed. Sorry, but until they get their issues together, these Vikings are frauds.