It’s not too early to panic, Vikings fans. Coming off a season-opening 29-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints at home, Minnesota managed to do just about everything wrong in a 26-9 loss in Pittsburgh.
Plainly, the Vikings regressed badly against the Steelers.
The offensive line that completely outperformed even the highest of expectations in Week 1 against a weak New Orleans defense could not manage to provide any space or time for quarterback Case Keenum in Pittsburgh. And Keenum, in for the injured Sam Bradford, didn’t exactly make the most of his first start of 2017, going 20-35 for 167 yards. At least he didn’t throw an interception. The same performance might not have stood out as a particularly bad one in the Christian Ponder wilderness years, but in today’s high-powered, explosive Bradford passing attack, any poor performance is especially noticeable.
Keenum completed only 54 percent of his passes on Sunday while taking 10 percent longer than Bradford to get the ball out of his hands—according to the NFL’s next gen stats. This inefficiency—combined with an offensive line that had more holes than a piece of swiss cheese—allowed the Steelers to take a 14-0 lead before Minnesota started to accomplish anything offensively.
When the Vikings were able to finally get into the endzone in the third quarter with a run up the middle by fullback and Duluth native CJ Ham—Kai Forbath stepped up and promptly Blair Walshed the extra point wide. If I were Kai Forbath on a team coached by Mike Zimmer, the same man who last year pledged his support of Blair Walsh while actively trying out other kickers behind closed doors, I’d watch my back
And the penalties, oh the penalties. Minnesota gave up 113 free yards on 11 penalties. That’s 22 more yards than the Vikings got on the ground all game. While the referees certainly were a bit whistle-happy, giving away free yardage will put you in a bad spot against any team.
Moral of the story: nothing went right for the Vikings. The game was boring for fans and embarrassing for the team, and the road ahead won’t get any easier.
This week, Minnesota welcomes Tampa Bay into U.S. Bank Stadium in what I can only assume is the battle of teams with mascots that travel in ships. The Buccaneers are coming off a season-opening 29-7 thrashing of NFC North rival Chicago in which the Floridians steamrolled their way to a 29-point lead before giving up a Bears TD in garbage time.
After the matchup with Tampa comes the onslaught of Divisional competition with the Lions, Bears and Packers. If Bradford remains sidelined with his knee injury for the next couple weeks, there is a serious possibility that Minnesota could enter its rivalry matchup with Green Bay in Week 6 at 2-3—or even 1-4 if you’re a pessimist and think the lowly Bears could somehow pull out the upset.
This is why I tell you, Vikings fans, PANIC NOW! We may only be two weeks in, but the season might as well be over. The Vikings will be lucky to win another game (good thing Minnesota plays the Browns in Week 8) and are more likely to be watching the Super Bowl from inside their local U.S. Bank field office than the field at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Or, you know, they could get Bradford back and go 9-7 and barely miss the playoffs in typical heartbreaking Minnesota fashion. You just never know.