Sunday Night wrap-up: Steady Vikings clinch their playoff berth

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It would be charming and too easy to make the Vikings development into a playoff team about the maturation of Teddy Bridgewater or the redemption of Adrian Peterson or the long road toward a job well-deserved traveled by head coach Mike Zimmer.

In truth, it’s about all three of those factors, and many more.

The Vikings clinched a playoff berth, and have a shot at the NFC North title next week agains the Packers thanks to their 49-17 win over the Giants. But getting to 10-5 this year was a cumulative process, and the steady building may give them a chance to be viable for more than a single season.

It’s an impressive progression after their house of cards playoff run of 2012 fell apart (Christian Ponder was not a playoff quarterback, and isn’t even an NFL quarterback at the moment). But after bottoming out at 5-10-1 the following year and firing coach Leslie Frazier, they were able to start fresh with a quarterback who appears trustworthy, and a number of young parts.

So while getting Peterson back and playing at a high level certainly helps, Bridgewater having the year to develop without him was a crucial component for them to arrive at this point.

Bridgewater is not such a player who can do it all on his own, but he’s also smart enough to know what he can’t do, and there were a number of occasions Sunday against the Giants when he pulled it down and didn’t throw, which is often the hardest lesson for a young quarterback to learn.

Zimmer has been a steady hand and the right guy for the process, as they have young cornerstones on defense (put in place by General Manager Rick Spielman) who help provide as much of a set of training wheels for Bridgewater as Peterson does.

It’s a stable base, and after watching a thin facade fall apart previously, the difference is apparent.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. The good news for the Vikings is that they have a good enough running game to keep them out of bad down-and-distance situations.

The bad news is unless they can play from ahead, they can struggle because of an offensive line that needs work. For all the strides they’ve made this year, that’s still a real area of weakness for them, across the board. While left tackle Matt Kalil gets a lot of stick because he’s the left tackle and the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft and perhaps hasn’t played to the level anticipated when you’re picked that high, he also hadn’t missed a snap in his career until a late injury.

But the problems there are multiple, as having to replace a pair of injured starters in the preseason (center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt) has stretched them too thin.

And Bridgewater doesn’t help at times because he’s not the quickest to get the ball out of his hand, but the problem begins in front of him, and Spielman has to know it’s one of the top items on his offseason to-do list.

2. Yes, the Giants offense is a real mess. Playing without the suspended Odell Beckham Jr. might cause that.

But they’ve looked out of sync with the ball all year, from their time-management issues and mysterious throws by a quarterback who ought to know better. In many respects, they never seemed to have recovered from being without the injured wide receiver Victor Cruz, even when Beckham was eligible.

3. Of course, that lack of depth also speaks to the overall talent of the roster, and makes you wonder why there are so many stories about the future of coach Tom Coughlin and not as many about the future of General Manager Jerry Reese.

That’s not to say Reese deserves to be fired. One of the benefits of working for a mature organization like the Giants is that knee-jerk reactions are less frequent than they are in most places. And the reality is, they’ve lost a lot of games from high-profile players to injuries including defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, left tackle Will Beatty and middle linebacker Jon Beason, among others.

But the problems they have aren’t the kind that can simply go away with a coaching change, and it would be wrong for Coughlin to be scapegoated alone, if scapegoating needs to happen.

4. If Giants linebacker J.T. Thomas gets fined for throwing a punch and getting ejected, he needs to get a rebate from Beckham.

The swat he took in the fourth quarter when the frustration was evident was about a tenth of the ear-holing Beckham gave Panthers cornerback Josh Norman a week ago, and his ejection was clearly a reaction.

Officials were buttoned up and on the lookout for any shenanigans, and Thomas just made it easy on them, as no officiating crew wanted to be the one getting second-guessed or called out this week.

5. The Packers will obviously be motivated after the clubbing they took from the Cardinals Sunday. The question is whether they’re good enough to do anything about it against the Vikings next Sunday night for the division title.

As counter-intuitive as it might have sounded at the beginning of the season, it’s hard to figure out what the Packers do better than the Vikings at the moment, and what gives them an advantage other than playing at Lambeau Field.

81 responses to “Sunday Night wrap-up: Steady Vikings clinch their playoff berth

  1. We are in the playoffs!

    Now keep that momentum going and take the North next week.

    This is going to be a fun ride!

  2. Big PACK guy here. Good game Vike’s! I watched the whole thing and that Zimmer is a real defensive guru. Rough stuff for my PACK this week, but excited for next week’s game in Lambeau! And I got tickets for the game as a holiday gift!!! So excited, good up Vike’s, GO PACK!!! Happy holidays everyone!

  3. How sweet will it be when the Vikings beat the Packers next Sunday night.

    I still remember the Packer faithful stating emphatically that they would have the division wrapped up by the end of Oct and the Vikings would be in the cellar once again!

    Times they are a changin!

  4. should be a good game next week. I look forward to it. If Seattle loses early, even a loss can be a good thing for the Vikes because then they take on Washington instead of Seattle

  5. The advantage that the Packers have aside from playing at home is that they have Aaron Rodgers, and a wealth of big game experience.

  6. The Vikings always play the Packers better the 2nd game of the season, for years they simply split the season games.
    It looks like Minnesota is peaking at the right time.
    For a few weeks it looks like Green Bay had bounced back after thrashing the Vikings, but this year the Vikings just haven’t handled winning very well. It seems as soon as the Sports World says they are for real, they tank the next game or two!
    I don’t think Coach Zimmer’s team will look like they did the first game of this year.
    One thing is for sure next Sunday Nights game is going to end the season with a Bang!

  7. Packers are losing the division title and falling to seed #5 they might think that they have it easy when they play against the Redskins but I think they will once again be stunned.. Washington has been doing a lot better lately while Green Bay continues to struggle to put points up

  8. Well, it wasn’t what I thought it would be. I thought maybe a 21-17 game. But Beckham makes a big difference.

    The ejection of Thomas was a bogus ejection. I hope there’s no fine with that one. It was a little pushing and shoving, and then a swing by Pruitt, and retaliation by Thomas. Second guy always get’s caught. But to me that was a bogus call. But can understand after last week.

    Vikings, we need to score more TD’s… FG’s aren’t going to win playoff games. TD’s win! You have next week left, and then there’s 6 teams in the NFC that are 0-0… So win next week, and start the post season at 0-0.

    Bridgewater is still young, but maturing. I love how he’s not afraid to throw the ball away and live for another play. Smart play!

    Defense… Sure makes it look a whole lot better when you get 3 starters back. Smith should be a pro bowl safety. Hunter is turning out to be a very good rookie. Barr and Kendricks are going to make a good tandem at lb’s.

    Next week is for all the marbles boys…. and going to be tough in GB.. They don’t roll over there. But we can beat them.

  9. Solid effort by a team that keeps getting better and better. Bridgewater is the clear leader and has done it the right way. He needed to play better and he clearly has. This is huge for the Vikes, who finally have a legitimate QB to build around. O-line only so-so.

    No one with a brain will predict anything for next week. The Vikings have to earn it. Go Vikings!

  10. Too bad they’ll lose the next two games.

    Am I smug? Confident?

    Yes.

    10-1-1 since 2010.

    Won by three scores in Minnesota.

    Better at home.

    G’nite, Vikings. Your season is over.

    >

  11. What do the Packers do better than the Vikings?????? This game will come down to whether or not the Vikings can beat the Packers and the officials. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Rodgers where a florescent skirt to make sure the officials see him.

  12. Best game we played all year, time to go to Wisconsin and pry the NFC North title from the Packers dead, cold hands!

  13. Packer fan here: After today’s beat down, GB isn’t beating Minny next week. Packers go 10-6 and limp into Washington for Kirk’s playoff breakout party…. Head-to-head tie-breaker drops Seattle below GB to #6, and they give Minny another beat-down.

  14. As counter-intuitive as it might have sounded at the beginning of the season, it’s hard to figure out what the Packers do better than the Vikings at the moment, and what gives them an advantage other than playing at Lambeau Field.

    Bingo. It won’t help win the game but I guess we can all agree that Aaron Rodgers is a better than Teddy Bridgewater at checking down and stat padding.

  15. Until the Vikes beat the Packers, they’re still going to be the little brothers of The North.

    I say that as a Vikings fan. See you Sunday for THE NORSE, Packer fans!

  16. Given the fact that the same question was asked a month ago before these same teams squared off in Minnesota and the Packers then blew them out of “their building”, I think it’s safe to say it doesn’t matter one bit if GB is doing anything better at this moment. The better team won then, and it will again next week.
    Packers win big, no debate needed.

  17. As a Vikings fan I gotta say what a great game. Awesome to see both sides of the ball show up. Should be a tremendous game next week! My best wishes to both sides 🙂

  18. Just thawed out — fun game. It was great to see all the injured defenders back on the field. At the start of the season I didn’t think the Vikes would be playing for the NFCN lead in the last week.

  19. Just what I predicted in the offseason…that the north title would come down to the last game of the regular season…NOT!! Vikes have overachieved (based on my predictions) and the Pack has definitely underachieved. I guess we’ll see if it’s a dream ending or nightmare…

  20. The Tom Coughlin of 4 or 5 years ago would have never defended the actions Odell Beckham Jr. Coughlin has lost the team, the players see that the buck no longer stops at Coach Coughlin, the buck or should I say bucks dictate the way Coughlin coaches. I would rather see Coach Coughlin resign than see him have to make decisions that go against everything he stands for.

  21. This is like the mid west super bowl. I’m a NYer, but MPLS be my second city. Be rootin hard for my purple people. The goofys from Greenbay need to be taught some respect. Teddy gonna take Aaron over his knee like a boss.

  22. im a long suffering Cleveland Browns fan but i live in nyc/nj area
    the giants and jets are like breathes of fresh air when i watch them but here’s the GIANTS PROBLEMS
    since there 2 super bowl wins years ago 07 and 11
    the giants have lost leaders and young guys that were going too pave the way for very good stability and more wins
    but hey we cant predict retirements or injuries and or released
    eg:
    O’hara,Diehl,Beatty
    Kiwanuka,Osi,Strahan,Justin Tuck,chase-blackburn,jon beason,antrel rolle
    kenny philips,gibril wilson
    Steve Smith,Cruz,David Wilson,Fells,Hynoski,James Jones “asked too be released” Lavin Joseph
    my point is the team has no leaders GUYS THAT WILL GRAB U YELL AT U AND MAKE U ACCOUNTABLE
    NOT EVEN THE COACHES ARE DOING THAT
    ITS TIME FOR COMPLETE HOUSE CLEANING

  23. Bornmnraise,

    I wouldn’t want to face a hot redskins team who plays amazing at home, and are playing really good football right now. Kirk Cousins,Jordan Reed,Jackson, and Garçon have been on fire. You better hope the redskins and Seahawks end up playing each other or its gonna be a quick trip out of the playoffs for minny.

  24. I was at the game tonight. It was 10 degrees. I’ve been home for an hour and I’m still shivering. Also, I’ve lived in MN my entire life (46 years).

    If the Vikings beat GB next week, Seattle will have to travel to MN and play in even colder January weather. I don’t care who the Vikes play, as long as they get home field in the first round of the playoffs, they will win that game. The Giants did not want to be there tonight. Seattle won’t want to be there in January when it’s -10 degrees. This is how the Vikes went to four Super Bowls in the late 60s and 70s. It’s impossible for the visiting team to win in MN in January.

    And don’t talk about the “frozen tundra of Green Bay” crap. MN is always about 20 degrees colder than GB because we don’t have Lake Michigan warming everything up. If the Vikes continued to play in an outdoor stadium, no team would have a better home field advantage.

  25. “May you live in interesting times” Well in the NFC North things have darn sure turned interesting GB a little wobbly, Viking firing on at least 7 of eight cylinders, metaphorically speaking, O line could use some help. And even my Lions are showing signs of life these days, not playoff ready but showing promise. Be nice to see the old Black and Blue Division get some overall respect again.

  26. Im actually excited for this..I love watching Vikings fans get all hyped up when these moments come around only to have it all choked away..this will be fun. #oneanddone

  27. Rodgers didn’t win his 1st packer Viking game until the 3rd match up. This will be Teddy’s 3rd match up. Teddy has improved with the short passing game and the deeper routes on play action. The Vikings are starting to have a balance attack and that makes it hard on defenses. Vikings defense is a beast when healthy. Green Bay is reeling but they will put up a fight and this game could go either way. Lacey is the x factor for the Pack. Vikings have had troubles stopping Lacey. But, Lacey needs to be at 100% healthy and I don’t know if he will be. Teddy has shown he can play in the cold weather. If the Vikings put pressure on Rodgers with just their front 4. It will be a long day for Rodgers when they bring 6. Vikings mix up their defensive schemes well when they are 100% healthy.

  28. Wow! What a game! So fun to watch these guys! Next week will be a challenge, but from everything I’ve seen, I think they are more than up for it. Just a side note to all of you Packer trolls, Mr. Rodgers looked more than a little rattled in the desert. While AZ beat us as well, it wasn’t nearly the beatdown your Pack got! Just sayin’…….

  29. jakec4 says:

    The advantage that the Packers have aside from playing at home is that they have Aaron Rodgers, and a wealth of big game experience.
    ****************************

    May I remind you the last time the Packers played a big game….

    Yesterday was a “big” game. A win, and they might have had a chance for a first round bye.

    How did “big” game experience work out yesterday?

    The fact that Rodgers was pulled from the game with a full quarter to play means that McCarthy knew that Rodgers couldn’t win the game.

    Of course – throwing an INT after having been gifted an excellent scoring opportunity and then fumbling not once, not twice, but three times – McCarthy was justified in pulling Rodgers.

  30. As a fan, I am excited about where we are as a team but people need to pump the brakes a little bit. We have beaten ONE playoff team this year, KC, and they were bad at the time we played them. Straight up beat downs by two others, both at home (SEA and GB). Until we beat a legit team, I still think we are a year or two away from being elite.

  31. No matter what has transpired, the Vikings still need to show they can solve Aaron Rosgers and. Beat Green Bay. Recently tbey have just not been able to do it.

    So, if they can go into.Lambeau and beat Green Bay (and the refs) next Sunday Night they are ready for the big time. If not, they are still 2nd Banana to the Packers.

    That being said, let’s maybe see the final match up played in Minnesota next year instead of giving it to the Packers as a home game like it seems to be every damn year….

  32. I’m an impartial observer to the Vikings/Packers rivalry here but all I’m saying is this: prepare yourselves Vikings fans. The league really, really is going to want the Packers to win the division. Their bandwagon is strong and therefore, their ratings are strong. If you are going to beat the Packers, you’re going to have to do what the Cards did: smoke them out.

  33. Great to have coach Zimmer after having Tice, Childress & Frazier. He and Rick Speilman have done a nice job recently. Contrary to the packer fans here’s prediction of having their season being over by October. The Vikings qualified for the playoffs. This team is ahead of schedule. Nobody had this team in the playoffs with the schedule they had this year. Not ready for a run this year but the experience with help them for when they are.

  34. so the refs didn’t see the Vikings holding one single play all night ? WOW, how nice …. Vikings have just played against a couple teams ,and at home,who have packed it in for the season so there is nothing to start judging players by because of that …. basically like playing pre season games …. with your starters going against players who really don’t care to be playing at this point

  35. Giants looked like they just wanted to get it over with and go someplace warm. I get it that Eli has won 2 SuperBowls but when he has a bad game be can be really really bad.

  36. Can’t wait for next week! Vikings on a high and GB playing for redemption and rivalry. It’s about time we get football games where even the anticipation is awesome!

  37. I’m just really hoping for a great game. Not one where the score is 42-0 at the half like the last time the Vikes came to Lambeau. Or a 30-13 hammering like the Pack gave the Vikes a mere 4 weeks ago, in the smallest Big Ten stadium, the place the Vikes call home. Maybe fortune will favor the Vikes and they’ll get the Seneca Wallace/Matt Flynn battery at quarterback…they were able to muster up a tie that time.

  38. On sunday Rodgers is going to get sacked 9 more times. That O line is so bad and our D line is pretty awesome. AP is also going to solidify the rushing title.

  39. The problem most Viking fans have is they look to the last game and project outward from there. Yes, it was the worst game of the year for the Packers and yes, the Vikings did have their way with the Giants and it essentially means nothing when the game starts next Sunday.

    It will be for the NFC North title and the right to host a playoff game. To think the Packers wouldn’t be ready for that would be a mistake.

  40. jakec4
    Dec 27, 2015, 9:48 PM MST
    The advantage that the Packers have aside from playing at home is that they have Aaron Rodgers, and a wealth of big game experience.
    ———-
    The same QB that was sacked 9 times yesterday, and had more sacked/fumbled/ returned for touchdowns, than he had passes for TDs?

    Even Rodgers isn’t good enough this year to uphold that horrible team.

  41. Next Sunday night’s game makes zero difference,
    The Vikings would actually benefit from a loss next weekend.
    Not only would we play the Redskins instead of the Seahawks the following week, but we would have the Draft pick BEFORE the Packers, and take that Receiver or offensive lineman the Packers need so badly!
    It is obvious the Vikings are building for a Super Bowl run after the 2017 season, The Offensive line needs help in the Draft, and a high pick receiver.
    Defense is pretty well set with a few needs.
    The Vikings are exactly where they need to be.

  42. Aaron Rodgers is sure to whine and pout and cry his way into several personal foul penalties, the guy is a real crybaby to say the least that being said I hope the Vikes pummel that guy I kind of like seeing his little party cry baby face go Vikes

  43. “The same QB that was sacked 9 times yesterday, and had more sacked/fumbled/ returned for touchdowns, than he had passes for TDs?

    Even Rodgers isn’t good enough this year to uphold that horrible team.”

    Viking fans claiming, once again, Peterson will run all over them. But yet it is the SAME Peterson whom the Packers stuffed last time around.

  44. icecubeusedtobeangry says:
    Dec 28, 2015 11:50 AM
    pondersucks07 says:
    Dec 28, 2015 4:22 AM
    Rodgers didn’t win his 1st packer Viking game until the 3rd match up.

    His first game as a starter was a win over Minnesota.
    ————————————————————

    He also lost his next game against the Vikings, and went 6-10 that year with a Packers team that went 13-3 the previous season. And 2 of those wins were against the 0-16 Lions.

  45. The Purple People Eaters are peaking. This team is young fast explosive and hungry. The Vikings are going to dismantle GB in front of their fans and claim the NFC North title, which is rightfully theirs. Anthony Barr is a monster. Harrison, AP, Diggs, TeddyB, Rudolph. Monsters. Vikings win big Sunday night.

  46. Lambaudungbarn: The outcome of the game only effects the playoff seeding, and division title rights. Draft seeding wouldn’t be effected as it is determined by how you finish in the playoffs and both teams are already in the playoffs.

    I hope this game is competitive and the vikes win, but looking at the big picture, barring severe injury issues, the Vikes have already cemented themselves as contenders for years to come.

  47. stiffarm13 says:
    Dec 28, 2015 9:18 AM

    so the refs didn’t see the Vikings holding one single play all night ? WOW, how nice …. Vikings have just played against a couple teams ,and at home,who have packed it in for the season so there is nothing to start judging players by because of that …. basically like playing pre season games …. with your starters going against players who really don’t care to be playing at this point
    ———————————
    Great theory. Why don’t you ask said players that have supposedly “packed it in” and see if they agree with you?

    Judging by their faces (especially Eli’s and Coughlin’s” it doesn’t look like they were out there playing simply because they had to. In fact, I’m sure many of the players and coaches were thinking about their jobs. My theory absolutely disagrees with your theory and I would bet most realistic people would agree with my theory.

  48. staffordsyear says:
    Dec 28, 2015 2:29 AM

    Im actually excited for this..I love watching Vikings fans get all hyped up when these moments come around only to have it all choked away..this will be fun. #oneanddone
    ———————————-
    This coming from a Lion fan. At least we are able to choke. How many times have the Lions made the playoffs in the last 20 years? #noneanddoneforyears.

    I apologize in advance to other Lion fans that aren’t trolling.

  49. Did the Packers beat themselves as well then??? The Vikings came out to play, and play they did! It was a great game and there isn’t anything any of you can say that can take that away from those of us who are true fans and support our team! Those guys are playing with everything they have, and that is what we want, right? They didn’t want to “back into” the playoffs, they wanted to win outright and they did! DEAL WITH IT!!!!!!

  50. Remember home field advantage did not help the Pack against the Bears or the Lions.
    Just sayin’.

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