It will be a bad look if the Vikings’ defense struggles again Saturday. The defensive unit and coordinator Ed Donatell will be scrutinized for their performance at U.S. Bank Stadium against a Colts offense that has been mostly inept this season.
The 4-8-1 Colts average just 16.1 points per game, ranking No. 31 among 32 teams. They have the most turnovers in the NFL at 26. Quarterback Matt Ryan has a passer rating of 84 after throwing 13 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.
The Colts should be a welcome site to Donatell and his unit after their recent five-game nosedive. In that stretch the Vikings have given up 30.4 points per game and an average of 460.6 yards. Worse news is that the 10-3 Vikings are 3-2 in those last five games. Ryan rarely throws for 400 yards but if he does Saturday the Vikings could lose again.
At least among the public there is a lack of confidence in Donatell. Head coach Kevin O’Connell said Donatell will call plays tomorrow. Asked earlier in the week if he would consider changing coaching assignments and play callers on gameday, O’Connell said, “You’re always looking at things that you think might be a possible answer to help the guys play better and be more consistent, but as of right now, no, not something I’m considering.”
The “as of right now” comment draws attention. It raises questions about Donatell, particularly with another defensive veteran on the staff in Mike Pettine, assistant head coach. Last year as a senior defensive assistant he helped the Bears improve to an overall No. 6 ranking in total defense. Before that he had success as the Packers’ defensive coordinator. He has 28 years of high school, college and professional experience.
Donatell and the defense are definitely on the collective hot seat for the Vikings who have scored 312 points this season and given up 313. Maybe facing Ryan can help get things turned around but in the last five games the Vikings have allowed the likes of Mike White (369) and Mac Jones (382) to pass for over 300 yards each.
Did you know Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins is the only NFL QB with 3,000-plus passing yards and 20-plus touchdown passes in each of the past eight seasons?
Former Vikings wide receiver Nate Burleson will provide analysis on Saturday’s NFL Network game between Minnesota and the Colts. The game will also be seen locally on KSTP.
Nate is the younger brother of Kevin Burleson, the former Gopher basketball guard and ex-Timberwolves assistant coach. Kevin is head coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA G League.
The Vikings-Patriots game and two other NFL games televised on Thanksgiving had an average minute audience of 44.1 million viewers, per NFL Communications.
There’s a lot of deserved hype about Gophers’ basketball recruit Dennis Evans from Riverside, California because of his defensive prowess but he is very raw offensively, a reality that may have given other college programs pause in pursuing the 7-foot-1 center.
This year’s Gophers, 5-6 and 0-2 in Big Ten games, have myriad issues including guard play. Tre Holloman, the freshman point guard at Michigan State from Minneapolis, could have helped. Holloman isn’t starting but has played in all 11 games, totaling 111 minutes and has made just two turnovers.
Second-year coach Ben Johnson’s team is struggling, looking dysfunctional at times and right now Minnesota is a favorite to finish last in the Big Ten for a second consecutive season. The Gophers are No. 244 in the NCAA net rankings of men’s Division I NCAA teams.
At least publicly, it seems like the buzz around the program is looking toward the 2023-2024 season when another hyped recruit, guard Cameron Christie from Rolling Hills, Illinois, shows up—but there are too many things that can happen between now and next fall to forecast a big turnaround for the program.
Sending best wishes to Jimmy Williams, the former Gophers basketball assistant coach and ace recruiter for Bill Musselman and Jim Dutcher, who has advanced Parkinson’s and is living in Tampa.
For a Name, Image and Likeness deal, men’s basketball players from Baylor and Gonzaga were paid by event organizers to promote their neutral site game in Sioux Falls earlier this month. Players received $8,000 each, per a Sports Headliners source.
Not saying it’s certain but don’t be surprised if Karl-Anthony Towns‘ calf injury doesn’t allow a return to Timberwolves game action until February.
It looks like a modest number of Gophers fans will attend the December 29 Pinstripe Bowl in New York City at Yankee Stadium. Reporters will be stationed in the open-air press box. Accuweather.com forecasts a cloudy day with a high of 36 on December 29.
Lou Nanne has been watching Sammy Walker since the now Wild forward was a pre-teenager. He told KFAN’s Dan Barreiro this week that Walker might be the fastest player on the team and he likes the former Gopher’s future but wants to see checking improvement.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said next year’s salary cap may rise by only $1 million per year next year. If so, that could put a player like the Wild’s Matt Dumba, reportedly at about $6 million next year, on the spot regarding his future in Minnesota.
The Gopher wrestling team, with no matches now until January 1 at the Southern Scuffle, is 7-0 and has moved up to No. 9 nationally in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll. The top five ranked teams are Penn State, Iowa, Ohio State, Arizona State and Michigan.