It is the nature of Minnesotans not to get too caught up in success. It’s the downside of Minnesota Nice. It’s Minnesota Fatalism. Especially when it comes to the Vikings, there is a doomsday feeling that set in whenever a championship or a lot of success comes to them.
The Vikings aren’t your typical frontrunner like New England or Green Bay. They’re the dog in the fight that works its way to earn what it gets.
But with a win today over the St. Louis Rams, the Vikings will be setting a midseason expectation if the team improves to 6-2.
The last time the Vikings had six wins after eight games was in 2009 when the Ol’ Gunslinger was having the most efficient season of his career. The Vikings went to the NFC Championship Game that year.
Prior to that, the last time the Vikings were 6-2 at midseason was in 2003. Excitement abounded when the team got off to a 6-0 start. They ended up losing seven of the last 10 games. Within a year of that, Randy Moss was gone. A year later, Mike Tice followed him out the door and the Brad Childress era began.
2003 was an anomaly. In 2000, the Vikings were 7-1 at midseason and went on to the NFC Championship. Hopes were high. 41-donut became a phrase that haunted Vikings fans.
In 1998, the Vikings lost their eighth game of the season. It was the only game they would lose until Morten Andersen stuck a dagger in their hearts from the Metrodome floor – ending arguably the greatest Vikings team of all time.
In 1997, the Vikings started 6-2 and made the playoffs, losing in the divisional round to San Francisco after beating the Giants in the wild card game.
In 1994, the Vikings started 6-2 and won the NFC Central, but fell to wild card Chicago in the first round of the playoffs at home.
In 1992, Denny Green’s first season as head coach, the Vikings started 6-2 and won the division. As everyone knows about the Green era, they lost at home in their first playoff game, this time to Washington.
In 1983, the Vikings started 6-2. They finished 8-8. Perhaps disgusted with what he saw, it was Bud Grant’s last season – until he had to replace the Orwellian 1984 that popularized bumper stickers that said “Less Steckel.”
Grant was no stranger to starting 6-2 or better. Prior to ’83, his teams backed up. The Vikings had never started a season 6-2 prior to Grant. It became routine on his watch. From 1969-76, the Vikings started 6-2 or better seven times, only missing in 1972. From 1977-1992, it was done just once, the team collapsed and Grant walked away.
The Vikings have the chance to improve to 6-2 Sunday. It isn’t a guarantee of a playoff spot or a legitimate chance to win the Super Bowl title that has eluded the franchise for more than half a century.
Minnesota Fatalism will still be in play, but the 2015 Vikings have the chance to step into rarified air that has only happened once in the last 12 years. Given the history, 6-2 had better get fans ready for January football … and not just the regular-season finale against Green Bay.
VIKINGS-RAMS BY THE NUMBERS
- The Vikings have the 29th ranked offense (5th rushing, 30th passing) and the seventh-ranked defense (15th rushing, 9th passing).
- The Rams have the 30th-ranked offense (3rd rushing, 32nd passing) and the sixth-ranked defense (9th rushing, 10th passing).
- The Vikings are averaging 326 yards of offense a game (195 passing, 131 rushing). The Rams are averaging 312 yards (180 passing, 132 rushing).
- Minnesota is allowing 334 yards a game (229 passing, 105 rushing). St. Louis is allowing 328 yards a game (230 passing, 98 rushing).
- The Rams are tied for eighth in takeaway/giveaway ratio at plus-3 (13 takeaways, 10 giveaways). The Vikings are tied for 15th at plus-1 (9 takeaways, 8 giveaways).
- St. Louis is 22nd in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 9 of 18 possessions (50 percent). Minnesota is 30th in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on 8 of 21 red zone possessions (38.1 percent).
- Defensively, the Rams are the best in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 5 of 16 opponent possessions (31.3 percent). The Vikings are fourth at 45 percent, allowing TDs on 9 of 20 opponent possessions.
- The Vikings are 17th in third-down offense, converting on 33 of 90 opportunities (36.7 percent). The Rams are dead last at 32nd at 25.9 percent (22 of 85). The league average is 38.4 percent.
- Minnesota is fifth on third-down defense, allowing conversions on 28 of 85 chances (32.9 percent). St. Louis is eighth at 34 percent (34 of 100).
- St. Louis is first in the NFL in yards per play on first down, despite having a low-ranked offense.
- Despite having a highly-rated defense, the Vikings are 30th in yards allowed on first down – 6.29 yards. Only Washington and San Diego are worse.
- Teddy Bridgewater has one 300-yard passing game. Nick Foles has yet to have a 300-yard passing game.
- Minnesota hasn’t allowed a 300-yard passer this season. St. Louis has allowed one 300-yard passer.
- Stefon Diggs has both of the Vikings’ 100-yard receiving games. Kenny Britt has the only 100-yard receiving game for the Rams.
- Both Minnesota and St. Louis have allowed two 100-yard receivers.
- Todd Gurley has four 100-yard rushing games, all of them coming in the last four games. Adrian Peterson has three 100-yard games and would have had a fourth, but against Detroit, he hit the 100-yard mark only to get knocked backward and finish with 98 yards.
- The Vikings have allowed two 100-yard rushers. The Rams have allowed just one.
- There may be no number bigger than the 100-yard rusher stat for the Vikings defense. When they have allowed a 100-yard rusher, they have a record of 0-2. When they haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher, they are 5-0.
- Bridgewater is 24th is pass attempts (211), 22nd in completions (136), 17th in completion percentage (64.5 percent), 24th in yards (1,526), 29th in touchdown passes (6), tied for 13th in interceptions (5) and 22nd in passer rating (85.5 percent).
- Foles in 28th in attempts (187), 28th in completions (110), 28th in yards (1,310), tied for 27th in touchdowns (7), tied for 13th in interceptions (5) and 27th in passer rating (81.6).
- Bridgewater is 26th in fourth-quarter passer rating at 84.8. Foles is 29th in the fourth quarter with a rating of 76.2.
- Bridgewater in ninth in third-down passer rating at 93.3. Foles is mired at 26th at 62.7.
- Peterson is third in rushing with 633 yards. Gurley is fifth with 575 yards, despite having just nine yards rushing in the first three games and 566 in his last four – an NFL record for a rookie to rush for 125 or more yards in his first four starts.
- There may not be a game played all season that has leading receivers so far down the rankings. Mike Wallace leads the Vikings with 26 receptions, which ties him for 63rd place. Diggs is one catch behind at 25, which ties him for 70th. Tavon Austin leads the Rams with 24 catches, which ties him for 74th.
- Diggs is 34th in receiving yards at 419. Austin leads the Rams with 285 receiving yards, which puts him 79th on the individual list.
- Austin entered Week 9 tied for second in scoring with 42 points from seven touchdowns (four receiving, two rushing, one on a punt return). Peterson and Kyle Rudolph are tied for 46th with 18 points, having each scored three touchdowns.
- Blair Walsh is eighth in the league in scoring among kickers with 63 points. It should be noted that four of the seven players in front of him have played eight games and have yet to have their bye week. The Rams’ Greg Zuerlein is 23rd with 41 points.
- Fifteen of Walsh’s 37 kickoffs have been returned, with 22 touchbacks. Zuerlein has 23 touchbacks, but they have come on just 31 kickoffs. Only eight of his kickoffs have been returned, so it could be another slow day for Cordarrelle Patterson.
- Peterson is seventh in the league in yards from scrimmage with 740 (633 rushing, 107 receiving). Gurley is 21st with 643 (575 rushing, 68 receiving).
- Rams punter Johnny Hekker is sixth in punting average at 48.8 yards. Jeff Locke is 31st at 41.2 yards.
- Hekker is third in net punting average at 43.7 yards. Locke is 23rd at 38.9 yards.
- Marcus Sherels is fifth in punt return average at 11.5 yards. Austin is sixth at 11.3 yards.
- There have been seven punt returns for touchdowns in the NFL this season. Sherels and Austin have two of them.
- Only 15 teams have a kickoff returner with enough returns to qualify for the league lead. Patterson is 11th with an average of 24.7 yards. Benny Cunningham of the Rams is 12th at 23.8 yards.
- The Rams’ Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are each tied for 15th place in interceptions with two. No Viking has more than one.
- Robert Quinn is tied for 12th in sacks with five. Everson Griffen and Aaron Donald are both tied for 20th with 4½ sacks. Eric Kendricks, who is out of today’s game, is tied for 28th with four sacks.