What to Know about Vikings’ Win
Five things jump out about last night’s Vikings-Bears game:
1. For the Vikings to win their last three games and qualify for the playoffs the offensive line must be better than it was in Chicago. Minnesota had 193 net yards in offense and a lot of that was because the line struggled. The priority before the game was to focus on running and the Vikings did okay with 132 yards on the ground, but had less than 100 passing and quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked four times. Guard Mason Cole, a recent starter in a line that continues to reshuffle its personnel, was way too vulnerable to inside pressure.
2. Again, the Vikings’ offensive game plan was without much imagination. And the coaches didn’t appear to effectively adjust to the Bears’ double-coverage of wide receiver Justin Jefferson. The exception came when Jefferson was lined up in the backfield and it confused the Bears’ secondary, resulting in a wide open seven yard touchdown throw from Cousins to wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
3. Who could blame punter Jordan Barry if he’s on edge today? The Bears blocked one punt and came close on two others. Punt protection will receive a lot of scrutiny in practice this week and should. In close games special teams can decide the outcome. And the Vikings know all about close outcomes with 13 of their 14 games decided by one possession (eight points or fewer).
4. Defensive end D.J. Wonnum had eight tackles and three sacks in the 17-9 win. Selected in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, he has a work ethic and it’s beginning to show in impressive fashion. With elite pass rushers Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen out for the remainder of the schedule, Wonnum’s development is an early Christmas present for Vikings head coach and defensive specialist Mike Zimmer.
5. Another gift is the 7-7 Vikings will play the 4-10 hapless Bears in Minneapolis January 9 for the final game of the regular season. The Bears were an undisciplined bunch last night, with five personal fouls and other costly mistakes. The offense’s execution was frequently inept with rookie quarterback Justin Fields looking confused, explosive plays absent and the red zone scheme a flop. No guarantees Chicago can be this bad in January, but for certain the Bears are way less formidable than the other two opponents remaining on the schedule, the Rams and Packers.
As of yesterday morning Mike Nowakowski from Ticket King said a seat on the 50-yard line at Lambeau Field for the January 2 Packers-Vikings game costs $650. A lower level end zone seat $225.
Nowakowski still has tickets but expects the NHL to announce a sellout for the January 1 Winter Classic at Target Field. He said the Wild’s December 23 Xcel Energy Center home game with the Red Wings was a “hot ticket” and sold out prior to the COVID caused postponement.
Recent success by the Timberwolves and Gopher basketball team is attracting ticket buyers. Nowakowski said there is a “lot of buzz” about the Warriors-Wolves game January 16 at Target Center, and some fans are “fired up” for the Gophers with lower level Williams Arena seats priced at $100 for the January 2 Illinois game.
The Gophers received three votes in the latest AP men’s top 25 poll and remain unranked, but they are prompting national awareness. Xavier, the program Gopher head coach Ben Johnson was at last season, is No. 18. Niko Medved, the former Gopher basketball student manager, is head coach of No. 21 ranked Colorado State.
It was nice to read Blaise Andries’ Tweet yesterday expressing loyalty to his home state. “I chose to stay home at Minnesota because I believed we could change the perception of this team to the state and nation,” the Gophers offensive lineman from Marshall wrote.
The redshirt senior, who in the Tweet declared he is entering the NFL Draft after Minnesota’s December 28 bowl game, has been a major contributor to the Gophers’ 22-10 record the last three seasons including a final AP national ranking of No. 10 in January of 2020.
The Gophers enter their Guaranteed Rate Bowl game against West Virginia in Phoenix ranked No. 4 in the country in total defense behind Wisconsin, Georgia and Oklahoma.
Tony Oliva told Sports Headliners what makes him happy about his recent election to baseball’s Hall of Fame is the reaction of Minnesotans. “Any place I go, the people come to me and say, ‘Tony, congratulations.’ “
The great Twins hitter, now 83, is a longtime Bloomington resident who has been among Minnesota’s most well-liked sports personalities for generations. Former teammate Rod Carew, in his 2020 autobiography One Tough Out, expressed what so many people feel about Oliva when he wrote:
“Tony has never met a stranger. The warmth he exudes could light a cigar from the lush tobacco fields he grew up surrounded by in Cuba. He taught me things like how to knot a tie and where to eat on the road. Any question I had, about baseball or life, he answered. Sometimes he provided advice before I even realized I needed it.”
Oliva grew up on a farm in Cuba and his father made about $10 per week. Oliva’s 16-year-career was before baseball’s big money era. He made $7,000 his rookie season of 1964 and the most he ever earned was $100,000.
But Oliva’s happiness doesn’t seem focused on recognition or money. People are a priority for him including the Twins organization who he considers “family.” Oliva still works for the franchise as a spokesman and ambassador of goodwill. His involvement is priceless.
Merry Christmas to all!