In every big season, there is a defining moment that sets the tone for those teams. In 1998, the Minnesota Vikings offense was on its way to a record-setting scoring pace, but it needed a moment to set the stamp on the season and make the statement that this would be a team to be reckoned with.
That moment came in Week 5 in front of national Monday night audience when they handed it to Green Bay in a 27-24 win that wasn’t as close as that score would indicate.
From that point on, the ’98 Vikings were made men. Their legacy was stamped and they used that springboard to propel them into being viewed as one of the dominant teams in the NFL.
In 2009 – the last time the Vikings started 3-0 – it was Brett Favre leading an improbable drive finished by an even more improbable game-winning pass that beat San Francisco 27-24 and made believers that old Brett was the Old Brett. That game vaulted the Vikings the rest of the season as one of the teams to beat.
On Sunday, the Vikings did what nobody has been able to do for two years – completely shut down the Carolina Panthers. Carolina was the highest scoring team in the league and didn’t take their foot off the gas in last year’s playoffs, building giant leads over Seattle and Arizona on their way to the Super Bowl.
What the Vikings did to the Panthers offense Sunday was one of those statement games. Minnesota made the playoffs last year, but, with the exception of a season-opening loss to San Francisco, the Vikings made their reputation by beating the teams they were supposed to beat and losing to the teams they were supposed to – with the notable exception of their Week 17 win at Lambeau Field.
In the span of eight days this September, despite numerous offensive losses and replacements, the Vikings humbled Aaron Rodgers and Newton, have a leg up in the division and a tie-breaker edge they won’t relinquish against Carolina.
Much of the credit goes to a defensive front that, after getting slapped early with 10 points on the board in the first 10 minutes, dominated the game from that point on.
The end result was a full-on defensive attack that saw Newton sacked eight times and forced him into three interceptions. But, for the Vikings, despite the gravity of the win, it was just another day at the office.
“We’ve got a blue-collar mentality,” defensive end Brian Robison said. “We’re bringing it every single day. Whether it’s a practice or walkthrough, we try to do all that we can to get better. We don’t rest on what happened the week before or the day before, it’s all about what we can do better moving forward. That’s what I love about this group. We’re never satisfied with where we’re at.”
The strength of the Vikings defense, even without Sharrif Floyd, has been that they play as a unit and all feast on the kill when they get the chance.
Doing that against the defending NFC champ was a statement that showed just how good the Vikings defense can be.
“I feel like if we play together we can do anything we want to do,” defensive tackle Linval Joseph said. “This is a good start. “To be the best you’ve got to beat the best. Carolina is a very good team. I’m just glad we came out here and got the job done.”
One of the stars of the game was Everson Griffen, who was vomiting on the sideline from dehydration and came back to lead the defensive charge with three sacks.
Griffen was quick to point out that, while he was making the plays today, it’s more about the group than the individual.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the team,” Griffen said. “We’ve got a great team, we have great coaching and we fight, man. No matter what situation we are in, we always come out and we stay patient and we fight back. We have a great team, the best team I have been a part of.”
Will Sunday’s win be the catalyst to send the message to the rest of the NFC that, even without Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson or Matt Kalil on offense, the Vikings can get the job done defensively to the point that the offense just needs to do its job adequately to dominate games.
Could it be Purple People Eaters 2.0?
That’s the goal.
“We have such confidence in this D-line,” Robison said. “We feel like we can be one of the best ever to wear purple. That’s not taking away from the guys who wore purple before us, but we hold ourselves to that standard. We hold ourselves to a higher standard than most people. When we get the opportunity to get out there and stop the run and get after it, we do that.”null