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Monday Morning Mailbag: Season Surprises and Disappointments

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Now that the season is over, what are a few things that surprised you and a few things that disappointed you? -- Terry Varichak Hibbing, MN

It was a pleasant surprise to see how quickly QB Kyle Rudolph was up to speed with the offense and then how he was able to sustain and improve his play as the season progressed. I say it was surprising not because I didn't believe in Bradford, but because it was an incredibly difficult situation for him. He joined a new team and a new offense with new coaches, terminology and teammates just eight days in front of the season. He went on to set a NFL record for completion percentage and a team record for completions, author eight games with a 100 passer rating and demonstrate sound decision making ability with a clean 20-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. I was also surprised/impressed with Danielle Hunter's 12.5-sack season, Shamar Stephen's development and Kevin McDermott's bounce-back season. The end-of-season letdown is most disappointing, of course, but will also serve as fuel and motivation for the Vikings in the offseason.

I got to watch Rashod Hill for most of the game and to me he looked really, really good. What were your thoughts on how he played? -- David Ward @Dvikes184259

Coach Zimmer was asked about this after the game and said Hill had a mental mistake or two but he also seemed to think Hill played decently and that his performance was right in line with how he has been practicing the past few weeks since he was acquired from Jacksonville's practice squad. At the end of the day, the Vikings held the Bears to no sacks and they blocked for running backs to gain 124 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. All in all, it was a good day for the offensive line and Hill was playing left tackle, so I have to think he was pretty solid.

So what happened this year that put us where we are today? Was it the injuries? Players not in sync with each other? A combination of everything? What do you think happened? And since we already lost a first-round draft pick, how are we going to recover from what has been a very sad year? -- Casey Hansen

I don't have any doubts at all about the team's ability to rebound from this season. The roster is mostly young and there are some building blocks at important positions on offense, particularly at quarterback and some of the pass-catching positions. Don't let the lack of a first-round pick drag you down, either. With how Bradford played and with the potential for him to be the starting quarterback next season and play at a similar or improved level, I'd say the trade remains one that looks like a good deal for the Vikings. It could be a good deal for the Eagles, too, if they hit on their pick. But the Vikings already hit on that pick by acquiring Bradford and having him play the way he did.

As for what led the Vikings to an 8-8 record and third place finish in the NFC North, I suppose it was a combination of everything. What stands out most, though, are the injuries, particularly the sheer number of them along the offensive line. A slow-to-go running game, struggles at times in the red zone and two uncharacteristic defensive performances in Week 15 and Week 16 also didn't help.

Well, not exactly the season all Vikings fans wanted. Just wanted to say thank you for all your responses this year. I'm already looking forward to next season! Skol! -- Michael Hoffman

It is my pleasure. Talking football with great Vikings fans is one of the highlights of my job. Thanks to you and everyone else who writes for making my job fun. And don't wait until next season to write again. There is a lot of work this team needs to do over the course of the offseason and we should be talking about the whole way through.

Nice win, but the run defense seems to be giving up more yards every week. Not sure why. Has this been on Coach Zimmer's list? -- Joe Inneo

I would imagine it is. Zimmer said after the game that he's got pages of notes about things he wants to improve on or things that just need to be better analyzed. The Vikings finished 15th in run defense and there were games where the Vikings played the run quite well. But there is also room for improvement and I know Zimmer has high expectations for his team, so I'm sure he'll demand progress on this front.

This was a tough year. Injuries really took a toll. We also shot ourselves in the foot too many times. The good thing is we are young – 28 players with three years or less of service and 45 with five years or less. We will learn from our mistakes. I hope our victory this Sunday carries over into our offseason work outs. -- Gerald Goblirsch

I hope it does, too. It certainly doesn't hurt. Cynics can say what they want about wins being meaningless at the end of the season…a supposedly meaningless win sure beats a meaningless loss. I don't think winning is ever meaningless. Zimmer is building a culture and he demands that winning be a part of it. To do that, he must maintain that every game is an important one to win. I think he's done a great job of that and I think that attitude will be at the core of the team's improvement during the offseason.

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