The calendar has flipped to 2014 and the Vikings have the pedal to the metal as they advance toward the offseason to get ready for the next season. But that doesn't mean we can't take a moment to look back at the positives from the past year. Here's a list of 10 highlights from 2013…
1. Significant Stadium ProgressStadium legislation became official in 2012, but more significant progress was made throughout 2013. The Vikings, along with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), and HKS Sports & Entertainment Group, unveiled the design of the new Vikings stadium in May. In November, the Vikings and the Wilf family committed an additional private contribution of up to $41.4 million for the new stadium, and a guaranteed maximum price for construction was announced. Most recently, the Vikings and the MSFA held a ceremonial groundbreaking event outside the Metrodome to mark the beginning of construction on the site that will host the new stadium. Also, the Vikings have now officially closed their tenure at Mall of America Field, doing so with an exciting 14-13 victory over the Detroit Lions. During the game, the organization and its fans paid homage to the building they called home for 32 seasons with a special season ticket owner event on the Saturday night before the final game and a post-game ceremony for all fans on Sunday.
2. More Success in the DraftVikings GM Rick Spielman minces no words when talking about the importance the NFL draft plays in building a roster capable of long-term success. To that end, 2013 was another successful season for the Vikings. Following a 2012 draft that was arguably the best in franchise history, the Vikings in 2013 found a way to nab three picks in the first round and nine total. Seven of those nine players remain on the roster today, and one of them – receiver Cordarrelle Patterson – is a legitimate rookie of the year candidate. Another, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, led the team in pass breakups and figures to team with Harrison Smith to help the Vikings revamp and improve the secondary heading into 2014.
3. Number ChasersSeveral individuals on the Vikings roster pursued, tied and set records in 2013.
-- Linebacker Chad Greenway finished with a team-high 167 tackles, tying him with Scott Studwell for consecutive seasons leading the team in that category (six).
-- Cordarrelle Patterson led the NFL and set a Vikings single-season record with a kickoff return average of 32.4.
-- Marcus Sherels set a single-season team record and ranked second in the NFL with a punt return average of 15.2.
-- Jared Allen marked his seventh consecutive season with a double-digit sack number, collecting 11.5.
-- Brian Robison recorded a career-high 9.5 sacks.
4. Finished 3-2-1 in Final 6 Games and Won Final 4 Home GamesWith no division title or playoff appearance, the season didn't go the way the Vikings hoped. But the team didn't roll over and quit once their goals were out of reach. Instead, the team remained resilient and started laying groundwork for a better next season, finishing the 2013 campaign with three wins in its final five games and also closing down Mall of America Field with four consecutive wins. Even better, the effort and production needed to close on such a strong note was provided mostly by young players who will remain a core part of the team going forward. That's good news for the immediate and long-term outlook of the Vikings.
5. Profound Community ImpactCenter John Sullivan was named the 2013 Vikings Community Man of the Year, an announcement that unofficially marked the end of another year of positive impact in the community by the Vikings. Every member of the Vikings 53-man roster participated in at least one community event, and most participated regularly throughout the season. The Vikings Children's Fund (VCF) crossed the $10 million mark during 2013, with over $4 million of that coming since the Wilf family took stewardship of the franchise in 2005. In 2013, over 75 grants totaling nearly $488,000 were awarded to nonprofit organizations throughout the Upper Midwest.
6. Memorable Trip to London Included Season's First VictoryThe Vikings were chosen to host a game in London as part of the NFL's International Series in 2013, and the trip was a wide-sweeping success that brought the club its first win of the season. The Vikings spent nearly a week in London, beginning their trip with a community event at Wembley Stadium before heading out to Watford for a week of practice. The team moved into London two days before their game against the Steelers on Sunday and wrapped up the trip with an exciting 34-27 victory that came down to the final seconds and was played in front of a sold-out crowd that produced an electric atmosphere.
7. Found (and retained) Key Pieces in Free AgencyThe Vikings utilized free agency in 2013 to maintain and supplement an already-talented roster. In March, the Vikings re-signed right tackle Phil Loadholt to a long-term contract that, with the pairing of Matt Kalil at left tackle, will provide the Vikings with talented bookend tackles for seasons to come. Just a few days later, the Vikings reached across the border to nab productive veteran Greg Jennings from the Packers. Teamed with Cordarrelle Patterson, Jennings helped drastically improve the production and talent level at the Vikings wide receiver position. Then in October, the Vikings reached an agreement with Brian Robison on a contract extension that will keep him as a core member of the Vikings defense going forward.
8. Spectacular Special Teams (again)The Vikings continue to boast one of the NFL's top special teams groups under coordinator Mike Priefer. Since Priefer joined the team in 2011, the Vikings are first in kickoff return touchdowns with four and tied for first in return touchdowns with six. In 2013, the Vikings ranked No. 1 in the NFL in average starting field position after a kickoff (27.2 yardline), total kickoff return yardage (1,646) and punt return average, and they had the second-fewest drive starts after a kickoff inside the 20 (eight). Patterson ranked No. 1 in kickoff return average and kickoff return touchdowns and Sherels ranked No. 2 in punt return average.
9. Adrian Peterson was Named MVPIn February of 2013, Adrian Peterson was named the NFL's 2012 MVP following the second-best rushing season in history, an effort that came just a year after he had reconstructive knee surgery and many were questioning whether he'd ever be the same. He came back better than ever in 2012 and, despite playing through injury, showed no signs of slowing down in 2013. In just 14 games played and with the third-fewest single-season carries of his career, Peterson still finished fifth in the NFL in rushing with 1,266 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and tied for fourth with 10 rushing touchdowns.
10. Young Players Stepped UpIn 2013, injuries ravaged the Vikings defense and impacted the offense, as well. While injuries adversely impact a team's chances of performing at the optimum level, they also present opportunities for other players. In 2013, some of those other players stepped up, and many of them are youngsters. Audie Cole stepped into the starting lineup in Week 12 and was productive, Rhodes led the team in pass breakups, Robert Blanton slid down from safety to play cornerback and was productive, Andrew Sendejo filled in at safety while Harrison Smith was out of action, Shaun Prater was signed off the street and played well, Chase Ford stepped up while John Carlson filled in for an injured Kyle Rudolph, and even Matt Asiata got in on the action shouldering the load while Peterson and Toby Gerhart were on the mend. As stated in No. 4, the silver lining in a season that didn't go as planned and a season that included too many injuries is that the effort and production needed to close on a strong note was provided mostly by young players who will remain a core part of the team going forward.