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Vikings Near ’98 & ’09 Fast Starts

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October 30, 2022

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The Vikings are 6-1 after today’s 34-26 win over the Cardinals.  With a win next Sunday over the Commanders, they can match the 7-1 starts of the 1998 and 2009 teams that are among the best in franchise history.

Those two teams went on to 15-1 and 12-4 regular season records respectively.  Both flirted with Super Bowl trips before losing in NFC title games.

No one should put the 2022 Vikings in that company yet but the latest edition of the Purple has been impressive so far this season.  They’ve managed to win five straight often making timely plays in close games (winning twice by eight points, and three, four and seven).

That was true today when Za’Darius Smith and Harrison Phillips put together consecutive sacks of Cardinals’ QB Kyler Murray in the closing seconds of the game.  Smith had three sacks on the day, a fitting achievement on a day when sack master Jared Allen of the Vikings was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.

The raucous crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium was noisy today, even by their ear-pounding standards. This town loves a winner and the citizenry is passionate about the local NFL team above all others. Fans were giddy about the possibility of seeing the Vikings remain among the NFL elite today.

Kirk Cousins

“You can’t say enough about our fans today, the noise they brought,” Vikings QB Kirk Cousins said on KFAN after the game.  “From the first half to the last it’s just a tremendous environment. It’s a privilege to get to play here.”

Cousins completed 24 passes today and moved to 3,000 career completions.  He is the 31st QB in NFL history to reach 3,000 completions. He has also thrown a touchdown pass in 37 consecutive games.

The Cardinals’ set their defense to stop the Vikings outside offense so Minnesota took advantage rushing inside for many of their 173 yards.  Dalvin Cook ran for 111 yards, approaching his total in last year’s loss to Arizona when he had 131.  Cousins even ran for 22 yards including a rare touchdown run of 17 to score Minnesota’s first touchdown.

Cousins and the Vikings, though, have struggled this season against blitzes. The Cardinals used one to force a Cousins fumble in the third quarter that set up a touchdown drive narrowing the score to 28-23.

As usual, though, the Vikings won with contributions from the offense, defense, special teams and the crowd (4-0 record at home).  The Vikings converted three Arizona turnovers into 13 points in the second half. Typical of seizing opportunities by this team.

Worth Noting

Reserve quarterback Nick Mullens recently praising the communications between the coaching staff and players: “If you can communicate, you can execute. That’s been a great trait for us here.”

Mullens said head coach Kevin O’Connell and his staff have created a player-friendly environment that includes expectations and boundaries. “The players are very aware of the standard that the coaches and ourselves hold for each other,” Mullens said. “Upholding that standard each week is what we strive for. And we’ve done a good job and look forward to just keep earning the right to do that.”

For a home game like today that started at noon Vikings will arrive at the stadium about 9:30 a.m.  Veteran safety Harrison Smith will use the hot tub to warm up his 33-year-old body and doesn’t go out on the field much prior to kickoff. “Just try to get the body warm and loose.  Nothing crazy,” he recently told Sports Headliners.

Smith said he doesn’t sleep well after games and sometimes tries to catch up on rest Monday when he’s also doing an assessment about his body.  He will get a massage on Mondays or Tuesdays.  Later in the week there will be more practice and preparation for the upcoming game.

“I’ve played golf a few times on Tuesdays (this year),” Smith said. “It’s a good excuse to get some vitamin D if the sun is out. If I am hurt, though, I don’t play.”

Vikings kicker Greg Joseph, 28, talking last week about his future in football and hoping to keep playing well into his 30s: “Oh, I feel like I’m only gonna get better and better and stronger and stronger, which is exciting. I keep trying to reset my ceiling every year. So yeah, just excited. …”

Plans after football? “Whatever God has in store for me,” Joseph said.

Axios Sports points out that dating back to last Thursday and going through November 22 “there will be either FBS college football or NFL every single day.”

St. Paul native Pat Eilers, who played safety for the Vikings and Notre Dame, has made (along with wife Jana) a $5 million donation to his alma mater to support the director of sports performance position. The Eilers have provided previous gifts to Notre Dame and their children have attended school there.

It seems like a roll of the dice as to what kind of season starting Wild goalie MarcAndre Fleury can have at age 38. Coach Dean Evason and GM Bill Guerin must be monitoring his performance and calculating how to handle the goalie roster.

Fleury’s 38th birthday is November 28, the same age that goalie Gump Worsley was a  member of the Stanley Cup Canadiens decades ago.  Worsley won another Cup with the Canadiens in 1969 at age 39 (almost 40) and is the oldest NHL goaltender to have that distinction. Worsley later played for the North Stars and retired at age 44.

Retired Twins executive Terry Ryan, who was with the Phillies after leaving the Twins, is living in Eagan.

It was 35 years ago last Tuesday the Twins defeated the Cardinals in Game Seven of the 1987 World Series in Minneapolis. Wheaties boxes celebrating the World Series championship are available for sale on Ebay.

The Timberwolves sold $5 upper level tickets for home games last week against the Spurs.

Timberwolves limited partner Alex Rodriguez has purchased a home in Minnesota.

Stillwater-based Creative Charters is offering a same day trip to the Minnesota-Nebraska football game Saturday in Lincoln and has space available on the plane. Kickoff is 11 a.m.

St. Thomas football coach Glenn Caruso speaks to the CORES lunch group November 10 at the Bloomington Event Center. He is a six-time National Coach of the Year and is leading the Tommies in their second season of Division I competition where they top the Pioneer League at 5-0. CORES is open to the public but reservations must be made by November 7. More information about CORES is available by contacting Jim Dotseth, dotsethj@comcast.net. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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