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Lunchbreak: Could AFC Team Provide Recipe for Success?

In 2017, the Colts finished 4-12 and third place in the AFC South.

Indianapolis rebounded in 2018, finishing the regular season 10-6 (second place in its division) and defeated the Texans 21-7 on Sunday to advance to the Divisional round of the playoffs.

Does the Colts one-year turnaround provide a recipe for success that the Vikings could implement after going 8-7-1 and falling short of the postseason? Tim Yotter of Viking Update opined that the AFC squad showed Minnesota a “quick fix” based around focusing on the offensive line. Yotter wrote:

In 2017, the Colts had the 22nd-ranked pass-blocking offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus’s grades, and were 29th in run blocking. Jacoby Brissett, playing for the injured Andrew Luck, was pressured 225 times, third-most in the league. In 2016, Luck was the most pressured passer and tied for taking the most sacks (41). With that stacking up against Brissett again in 2017, the Colts finished that season with a 4-12 record.

Yotter pointed out that Indianapolis used its first two draft picks, including the sixth overall selection, on offensive linemen – Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson and Auburn’s Braden Smith.

This year, the Colts have moved up to ninth in PFF’s pass-blocking grades and fourth in run blocking. Luck was pressured 200 times, 10th-most, but sacked a miniscule 18 times. By comparison, Cousins was pressured 260 times, second-most, but sacked 40 times, 10th-most. The Colts took it to Houston’s vaunted defensive front on Saturday while the Vikings were mere observers of postseason football.

Yotter referenced Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who said in his season-ending presser that he wants his team to rediscover a “nasty” mentality in 2019. Yotter opined that the mindset needs to start with the offensive line, saying that “the car goes nowhere without the engine to move it forward.”

Rosen retiring after 50 years of interviewing Vikings, other Minnesota stars

If you’re a Minnesota sports fan, you’re likely quite familiar with WCCO’s Mark Rosen, a TV and radio personality who has been bringing fans interviews with their favorite players for 50 years.

Rosen originally had announced his retirement from television to be April 2019 but moved up the date to January. He will continue to have a radio presence.

Recently, Kathy Berdan of the Pioneer Press recognized Rosen’s lasting legacy in Minnesota. She pointed out Rosen’s journey to the longest-tenured sports personality in any major U.S. city, his familiarity around the Twin Cities, his rigorous work schedule and the countless big names he’s talked with over the years, including Vikings Hall of Fame Coach Bud Grant. Berdan wrote:

A conversation about 50 years on the Minnesota sports beat is, of course, thick with mentions of players and coaches, but there’s never a sense of name-dropping. Rosen remembers the first time he talked to Grant: “I was petrified,” he says. “Those steely blue eyes.”

[…]

There was Fran Tarkenton, Joe Kapp and Jim Marshall, who used to visit Rosen’s mom in assisted living.

“You come full circle,” Rosen says. “It’s amazing the relationships with people you’ve grown up with as sports idols.

“How do you beat that? You don’t. You just don’t.”

Vikings Chief Operating Officer Kevin Warren calls Rosen “a special and incredible human being.”

Rosen makes his interview subjects feel special. “When HE interviews you, you feel like it’s his first interview and his last interview,” Warren says. “We all respect and truly love and appreciate him.”

Krammer, Rand ask if Vikings ‘headed up or down’ in 2019

In the wake of Minnesota’s disappointing end to the 2018 season, Andrew Krammer and Michael Rand of the Star Tribune took an early look ahead at the 2019 season and asked if the Vikings are “headed up or down.”

Rand said there are “reasons to believe the Vikings at least get back to the playoffs” in 2019. He wrote:

The two biggest: If they can fix their offensive line, a lot of their problems on that side of the ball will dissipate. And without the burden of sky-high expectations next year, the Vikings might actually achieve more.

On the latter: The Vikings best seasons lately (2012, 2015, 2017) have been surprises. Their flops in 2016 and 2018 came with expectations.

Krammer weighed in, saying that it is “easier to achieve as an underdog” but that Minnesota should not be considered an underdog despite missing its goals in 2018. Krammer wrote:

It’s still a roster full of blue-chip talent and high-priced contracts. To get back to a championship- contending level, I think you hit it on the head with the offensive line. Left tackle Riley Reiff regressed this season, as did second-year center Pat Elflein. They need better from both and an infusion of talent through free agency and the NFL draft’s first round.

Rand concluded that “fixing the offensive line is the only way 2019 is going to be better than 2018,” and Krammer added:

[Bears outside linebacker] Khalil Mack isn’t going anywhere. The Vikings need answers.

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