The wait is nearly over. After watching the rest of the NFL get through their Week 5 schedule, you will get to watch the Vikings take on the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football tonight. Here are a few final thoughts from the week that was.
Griffen keeps going and going and going
It's tough to shine the spotlight too brightly on any one defender given how well the entire Vikings defense has played in the first quarter of the season, but we'd be remiss to not pause to take a closer look at the production provided by defensive end Everson Griffen. The veteran signed his second big contract with the Vikings just as players were reporting to training camp this past July, and all he's done since then is continue to prove why he's worth the big money. Last week against Detroit, Griffen recorded a sack in his fourth straight game, becoming one of three defenders in the NFL to do that to start the 2017 season. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2014, Griffen has 35.5 sacks, a total that ranks behind only four others – Von Miller (42.5), JJ Watt (39.5), Justin Houston (37.5) and Ryan Kerrigan (36.5) in that span. Griffen also has nine career 2.0-sack games and seven since '14, tied for fifth in the NFL in that span.
13 teams at 2-2 entering Week 5
A home loss to Detroit last week in which rookie sensation Dalvin Cook was lost for the season put a damper on what had been an exciting start to the season for the Vikings. Last week's loss dropped the Vikings to 2-2, one game behind both Detroit and Green Bay in the NFC North. Sitting a game back of two division opponents is certainly not ideal, but at this point in the season it's also certainly not ominous. There are 13 teams in the NFL, including six in the NFC, who entered Week 5 with a 2-2 mark, and there were only six teams in the NFC who were better than 2-2. The Vikings get a crack at one of them (Green Bay) next week at U.S. Bank Stadium, and they play three others (Atlanta, Carolina, Los Angeles) later in the season.
With Murray replacing Cook, efficiency replaces explosive
The Vikings offense lost a player who provides some pop when Cook was lost for the rest of the season with a torn ACL suffered last week against Detroit. But without Cook, the offense hasn't totally lost the ability to generate explosive plays. It's an important distinction to make and it's important to note that the performance of the running back position is still key to the Vikings maintaining that explosive element. Latavius Murray figures to shoulder most of the load with Cook out, and while he hasn't demonstrated the same kind of explosive homerun-hitting ability as Cook, he has proven to be an efficient runner in the past. In three seasons with Oakland, Murray averaged 4.2 yards per carry, a number that if replicated in the Vikings offense would be more than good enough to help Vikings quarterbacks sell the play action and take advantage of defenses as they're forced to keep an eye on the running game. Murray may not be as explosive as Cook, but he can be as efficient, and that is something with which Vikings quarterbacks can work.
Stat of the week
Mike Zimmer John Fox Years of NFL experience = 53
There isn't much those two defensive-minded coaches haven't seen during their time patrolling NFL sidelines. Both have been position coaches, defensive coordinators and now head coaches during their careers. In his 24-year NFL tenure (1994-Present), Zimmer has been a part of 12 playoff teams, eight division championship teams and one Super Bowl champion (Dallas Cowboys – Super Bowl 30 after the 1996 season). Fox is in his third season coaching the Bears and his 29th overall (1989-Present), and prior to arriving in Chicago he guided teams to six division titles, six double-digit win seasons and seven playoff appearances. Fox has also guided his teams to three conference championship appearances and two Super Bowls.
Quote of the week
"I think Pat [Elflein], as a young center, he's not fazed by much. It's like I told him, he played in front of larger crowds when he was at Ohio State. He's done a really good job."
– Pat Shurmur
The Vikings have won twice in the last decade at Soldier Field. For one reason or another, it's a place that has had the Vikings number. A big part of the difficulty of playing on the road for the offense is dealing with crowd noise. Some environments are tougher than others, and Soldier Field certainly ranks among the toughest in the League. The beauty of it for Elflein, who mans the center of the Vikings offensive line, is two-fold: 1) He's a rookie, so he doesn't know the Vikings aren't supposed to win when they go to Soldier Field each season, and 2) Shurmur is correct that as a stalwart on Ohio State's offensive line for four seasons, Elflein has played in front of as many as 100,000 fans in the Big 10, including games at home and at the University of Michigan. He and the rest of the Vikings offensive line should be able to handle the elements of Soldier Field.
Mitchell Trubisky – Seriously. One can crack jokes about a rookie quarterback making his first start against a Mike Zimmer defense. But there is an element of the unknown for the Vikings defense and there's no doubt that Trubisky does two things better than Glennon – he is more mobile and he has a better arm.
Tarik Cohen – As if making sure Howard is contained wasn't difficult enough, now the Bears added a new trick to the backfield in Cohen. He is a big play waiting to happen, and it can happen on offense in the running game or the passing game as well as on special teams in the return game.
Akiem Hicks – A 6-5, 332-pound defensive end, Hicks can wreak havoc on an offense in both the run game and the passing game. He has the combination of strength and quickness to be good on all three downs and he will be a challenge for a Vikings offensive line that has made progress through the first quarter of the season. Hicks had 2.0 sacks and a pass defensed against the Vikings last year on *Monday Night Football *at Soldier Field.
National Television: ESPN
Play-by-play: Sean McDonough
Analyst: Jon Gruden
Sideline: Lisa Salters
National Radio: Westwood One Sports
Play-by-play: Kevin Harlan
Analyst: Boomer Esiason
Sideline: Scott Kaplan
Local Radio: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130
Play-by-play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline: Greg Coleman, Ben Leber