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How to Remain Upbeat after the Cardinals Game Heartbreak

How to Remain Upbeat after the Cardinals Game Heartbreak

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Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (25) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals strong safety Budda Baker (3) during the second quarter in Glendale, Ariz. Sept. 19, 2021.

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Another Sunday, another painful loss. More kicking nightmares. The life of a Minnesota Vikings fan is tough sledding. My favorite thing about the west coast kick-off times as a Brit? I go straight to bed when the games are done. No time to get emotional and to rant and rave. Which I don’t blame anyone for doing last night. It was an all too familiar gut-wrenching experience.

Waking up this morning and looking back on the game objectively, there were some positives to take from the game. I should be sitting here now talking about a 2-0 start, with back-to-back home games on the horizon. That’s not the case. A lot of people are going to be picking apart what went wrong over the first two weeks. I require cheering up and a look at the positives. So here they are.

Offensive Positives

Kirk Cousins is playing well. Last year, he started the season horrendously before finishing strong. He’s carried on his late-season form into 2021. 58 of 81 for 595 yards, five touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Even 35 yards from 2 runs and making plays with his feet outside of the pocket. Is he the perfect Quarterback? No, but if you are looking in Kirk’s direction for what’s going wrong, you have a predetermined opinion that you stubbornly won’t budge from.

KJ Osborn looks like every bit of the WR3 we’ve desperately needed. Nobody saw this coming before trading camp. The 2nd year return specialist was losing his returning gig. Getting cut and finding a place on the practice squad was the best KJ could hope for, right? Oh, how wrong we were. An explosive 64-yard touchdown to get the ball rolling, then back-to-back clutch catches to set up the Field Goal attempt. 12 catches for 167 yards from the opening two games. If he can keep that production up, it will be huge for this offense.

Klint Kubiak’s play calling gives me cause for optimism. The offense has moved the ball well, and multiple players are getting involved. It’s not been perfect, but for a guy who’s new to play-calling, he’s done alright, particularly when aggressive. Does that need to happen more? Probably. Is Zimmer the reason for the sometimes cautious approach? Possibly.

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Improved Offensive Line

After last week’s nightmare, I think everyone feared the worst for this offensive line group coming into this week. But, they stood up and were counted. The penalties were cleaned up. They made huge running lanes in the first half for Dalvin Cook to run through. Most impressive of all was the massive improvement in pass protection across the board. Chandler Jones and JJ Watt didn’t get particularly close to Kirk Cousins all night. The one sack conceded came when Cousins stepped up into the pocket and was tackled from behind by outside linebacker Markus Golden.

Improved Special Teams

Special teams were a huge problem last season. New special teams coordinator Ryan Ficken looks to have turned things around. The acquisition of punter Jordan Berry looks like a shrewd move. The Aussie’s “big leg” has been impressive so far. He had one punt that could have been better on Sunday, but it’s mostly been good. Returning has been solid if unspectacular so far. There was one moment where Dede Westbrook fielded a punt he should have let go and ended up being downed at the 2-yard line. A hairy moment, but Westbrook got himself down to avoid an even bigger catastrophe.

On the other side of the ball, opposition returners have been kept in check for minimal yardage. The kicking was going perfectly, and then it wasn’t. For a franchise with a storied history of missing big kicks, it’s difficult not to overreact. If Daniel Carlson making kicks for fun in Las Vegas has taught us anything, it should be not to jump the gun on a young kicker. Greg Joseph should get the chance to redeem himself. He needs to take it when that opportunity comes.

Defensive Positives

Danielle Hunter is back in business with four sacks in 2 games. He looked a little rusty in week 1 in Cincinnati. In Arizona, we started to see the Hunter we all love and opposing quarterback’s fear. A 3 sack game against a QB as elusive as Kyle Murray is impressive in anyone’s book. More minutes on the field, and I can only see him getting better and better.

Nick Vigil looks like the best free-agent signing we made. He came with the least fanfare out of anyone, but the man has done his talking on the field. He’s been super impressive in the opening two games, making 17 tackles, one sack, one pass deflection, one interception taken 38 yards to the house for the first Vikings defensive touchdown since 2019, and oh so close to a fumble recovery defending the goal line. Vigil seems to have been everywhere so for this season. Long may it continue.

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Looking Forward

This team is close to being good. The issue for the long-suffering Vikings faithful is that it’s been the story of the Mike Zimmer era. Nearly always able to compete with the goods teams, but too often not quite getting over the line for that all-important W. The home-opener against the Russell Wilson-led Seattle Seahawks has entered must-win territory.

And hey, if you’ve had enough of the current regime and are desperate for change, we got one step closer this week. So if nothing else, be cheerful about that.

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