The 2016 season has not been kind to the Minnesota Vikings thus far. They have already lost their starters for, arguably, the three most important positions on the offensive side of the ball.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater dislocated his knee, which included a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and other structural damage, in a non-contract play just a little over a week before the start of the regular season. Then running back Adrian Peterson and left tackle Matt Kalil had surgeries this past week.
Kalil’s surgery was to repair a labrum tear in his right hip. The team placed him on the injured reserve after the surgery and he is expected to miss the rest of the season. Peterson’s surgery was to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee and was also placed on injured reserve, but there is a possibility he could return in late November.
But despite all the setbacks the team has faced so far this season, they are 3-0 and have already beaten two playoff teams from a year ago, the Carolina Panthers and the Green Bay Packers. Not only have they beaten those two teams the last two weeks, but they have done so in dominating fashion.
“I thought it was a good win today. This team has a lot of fight, a lot of heart, a lot of character,” head coach Mike Zimmer said after beating the Panthers on the road.
The Panthers were riding a 14-game home winning streak and had scored more points than any other team through the first two weeks of the season, coming off a 46-27 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Not many people were giving the Vikings a chance to win the game, but they didn’t care.
The Vikings seem to play their best football when they believe the whole world is picking against them and that proved to be the case again on Sunday, as they beat the Panthers 22-10.
“I think our team believes,” Zimmer began. “No one else believes, but I think our team believes. And I think they believed they could come in here and win. At the end of the day, it’s three games and we still have 13 left to go, but I do think that they know they played a good football team today in their backyard and were able to come out with a win. It was hard-fought and a great game, our guys fought.”
Some young, inexperienced players, and some new additions to the team, have really had to step up and fill in for the players the Vikings have been missing this season. Running backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata had the luxury of having to do that in 2014 when Peterson missed 15 games, but that was not the case for Sam Bradford or T.J. Clemmings.
Yes, Clemmings had to fill in for an injured Phil Loadholt last season, but that was at right tackle. He had never played left tackle during a regular season game in his life, so everyone knew it was going to be a challenge for him, but he was able to step up and play well throughout the game.
Bradford was originally going to be the starter of the Philadelphia Eagles this season, but the Vikings made the trade for him after Bridgwater’s injury. He arrived just eight days before the team’s first game. He did not play in that one because he was still trying to learn the playbook, but he started both of their Week 2 and 3 victories.
Not many people believed he would be able to have the kind of success he has had early on and he wants to keep playing as though people are expecting him to fail.
“I think in this league you have to go out and prove yourself each week. Nothing’s given, everything’s taken. They’re earned in this league,” Bradford said.
“I think we’re going to play like we have something to prove every week, regardless of what people on the outside think. We know that we’ve got to go out there and we got to earn respect every week.”
The season is still young, it’s only Week 3 in a 16-game regular season, so it’s hard to get too high on the Vikings at this point. The players lost to injury could still come back to haunt the team, but their ability to overcome them has been impressive so far.