Through the elation that surrounded the Minnesota Vikings at the end of their 25-16 win over the Tennessee Titans, there is reason for legitimate concern given the uncertainty surrounding the injury suffered by cornerback Xavier Rhodes during pre-game warmups.
On Sunday morning, the Vikings announced Rhodes had been downgraded to questionable with a knee injury after appearing on the injury report during the week with a hamstring injury.
Asked about the injury after the game, head coach Mike Zimmer said, “He was stretching this morning and heard something pop in his knee. He’s going to get a scan tonight.”
As Vikings fans have learned the hard way over the last couple of weeks, you don’t need heavy physical contact to suffer significant knee injuries. It’s unclear whether the injury to Rhodes was just a freak hyperextension or tweak that will be fine or if he could potentially miss some time, but the necessity that his knee would require an MRI has to be seen as cause for concern.
With no disrespect intended toward Marcus Mariota, the Vikings didn’t need Rhodes to beat Tennessee. Mariota is still learning the NFL game and is going through the growing pains that come along with every young quarterback.
The next three games, however, the Vikings won’t have that luxury. Their next three games are going to be against three of the league’s best quarterbacks – Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Eli Manning. All three of them have led their teams to Super Bowls, two of them (Rodgers and Newton) have won league MVP awards and the other (Manning) has two Super Bowl rings to his credit.
On Sunday, second-year pro Trae Waynes replaced Rhodes in the starting lineup and he ended up leading all defenders with 10 tackles. You typically don’t see cornerbacks leading a team in tackles, but it was just as clear that, once the Titans realized Rhodes – viewed by most as the Vikings’ best cornerback – was going to be sidelined, they started dialing up plays Waynes’ way.
He held up under the pressure, which is why the Vikings’ coaches and his teammates have been singing his virtues throughout the offseason workouts and the preseason. But, Rhodes is the player that has been routinely lined up opposite a team’s most dangerous passing threat – at times chasing a player to wherever he lines up.
Considering that, in the next three weeks, the Vikings will be facing Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Kelvin Benjamin and Odell Beckham Jr. – all capable of doing a lot of damage deep downfield – having all hands on deck in the secondary will be a must.
The Vikings are keeping their fingers crossed that Rhodes hasn’t suffered a setback that will keep him sidelined longer than just Sunday’s game because, while the quarterback position seems to be dominating the majority of the discussion, Rhodes is one of the players important to the Vikings’ success in 2016.
He is the closest thing the Vikings have to a shutdown corner, so they’re hoping the results of his MRI don’t show any significant damage because losing him for any period of time will be a blow to a defense capable of carrying the Vikings to a lot of wins.
- It turned out that the Vikings’ nine-point was the second-biggest blowout of the first 14 games of Week 1 in the NFL, tying with Houston, which beat the Bears by nine at 23-14. The only game that was a double-digit win was Philly’s 29-10 beating the Browns.
- Of the 14 games played so far, 11 of them were within seven points and a Week 1 record was set with four games being decided by just one point.
- The NFC North went 3-1 against the AFC South, with the Vikings, Packers and Lions all going on the road to get wins. The only division team to lose was Chicago, which led 14-10 at the half at Houston, but got completely smothered in the second half.
- Adrian Peterson had one of the worst statistical games of his career Sunday. He’s had games with fewer than 31 yards, but, in his entire career, he has only had one game with so few yards and so many carries – gaining 31 yards on 21 carries against New Orleans in 2008. Like Sunday, while Peterson wasn’t a key to victory, the Vikings won that 2008 game, too.
- For those wondering if Peterson has hit the wall, relax. He had 31 rushing yards in the opener last year and finished the NFL rushing champion.
- The Vikings offense technically didn’t score any points Sunday. The defense provided 12 and the special teams provided 13.