Could 2016 be the year of the Vikings? U.S. Bank Stadium seems to have cast an iron will with focus and determination on this team. This in a season in which no fewer than five starters have been lost to injury; quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (season), Adrian Peterson (eight weeks), left tackle Matt Kalil (season), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (to be determined), and tackle Andre Smith (?).
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has the pulse of his team, and he has this group believing in his system and leadership. No excuses! Sunday’s convincing 31-13 win over AFC South-leading Houston improved the Vikings to 5-0.They are the NFL’s only unbeaten team.
Quarterback Sam Bradford has been sensational. In many NFL circles he’s been the NFL’s MVP. His quarterback rating has been 100+ in all four starts for the Vikings. Bradford has thrown six touchdown passes in the four games with zero turnovers. He feels the team has taken on a different identity since Peterson’s injury against Green Bay.
Combined, the four quarterbacks of the teams defeated in the first four games — Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers) Carolina (Cam Newton), New York (Eli Manning) and Houston (Brock Osweiler) — have four Super Bowl Championship rings. And Newton was last year’s Super Bowl runner-up and league MVP.
“It feels great. Obviously you could not ask for a better start, especially with the bye week coming,” Bradford said. “To go out there and play the way we have and be 5-0, I think we’re all excited about it.”
Bradford was sharp again Sunday against Houston, completing 22 of 30 for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Stefon Diggs, the Vikings’ leading receiver, did not play because of injury. No problem — Adam Thielen stepped up with the biggest game of his career, seven receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown. Running back Matt Asiata combined for 101 yards rushing and receiving and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Vikings are playing as if the legends Carl Eller, Alan Page and Jim Marshall, “The Purple People Eaters,” are still playing. The Vikings have held opponents this season to 16-14-10-10-13 points in five games. Dating back to 2015, including the playoffs, the Vikings have held opponents to 17 points or less in nine straight games.
The last team to score 20 points or more against the Vikings? Arizona 23-20. That’s the best defensive streak in team history dating back to 1975-76. The defense has been lights out, forcing 11 turnovers and leading the NFL in sacks with 19.
The Vikings have now won eight in a row dating back to last season, their longest winning streak since 2002. Since Zimmer became head coach in 2014, the Vikings have 103 sacks; only Super Bowl Champion Denver with 105 has recorded more.
“We have a lot of leaders on this team,” said Everson Griffen. “Our whole job is to go out and execute and prepare. We work hard and prepare during the week. [With] the coaches’ preparation and putting us in the right position, we go out and execute and do our job.”
The Vikings are unbeaten because they are winning in all areas — offense, defense and special teams. They are also winning the field position game, forcing opponents to drive 80 yards or more.
Former Gopher Marcus Sherels is playing like a Pro Bowler on special teams. He returned his second punt of the season, running 79 yards for a touchdown Sunday to give the Vikings a 24-0 first-half lead.
“It feels good so far,” said Sherels. “We’re taking everything week to week and game by game, but we’re off to a good start and it feels good,”
The Vikings are outscoring opponents 30-0 in the third quarter. Now they get a week off with the bye. When they return, they hit the road to finish the month October 23 at Philadelphia and Monday night October 31 at Chicago.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to email@example.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.