Minnesota Vikings: 6 Reasons to Remain Optimistic After Devastating Loss

Sean ConeryContributor IIISeptember 18, 2012

Minnesota Vikings: 6 Reasons to Remain Optimistic After Devastating Loss

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    Well, that game sucked for Vikings fans to watch. 

    Outside of the last five minutes or so, the Vikings' play was abysmal at best. The Vikings couldn't find the end zone, keep their defense off the field or touch Andrew Luck with a 10-foot pole. 

    Luck looked better than his sophomore opponent in purple while leading his team to victory. Donnie Avery ran rampant, Wayne got past the secondary a couple of times and the Colts moved the ball fairly well. 

    The Vikings' offense continually stalled, Adrian Peterson never got going and once again, Percy Harvin was the only dynamic receiver in the game (not including Kyle Rudolph). 

    Despite all of this, the Vikings still should have come home with the win. Yet somehow, some way, they found a way to donate their W to the Colts. 

    Still, after all is said and done, Vikings fans should remain optimistic, because this year is just getting started. Here's why.

Andrew Luck Is in the AFC

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    If the general consensus on Andrew Luck's potential holds true, which I suspect it will, then his impressive stat line of 20-for-31 for 224 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions will be considered an off game for him by the end of this season. 

    Granted the Vikings secondary isn't exactly the league's finest, Andrew Luck tore them apart with ease on Sunday. He looked like a surefire future star with only 11 incompletions and some great throws in huge moments. 

    Even with a great secondary, there will only be so much a team can do against him going forward. So hey, at least he's in the AFC, and the Vikings should only see him once every four years in the regular season. 

The Vikings Run Defense Looked Really Good

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    Even counting Andrew Luck's good scrambles, the Vikings still held the Colts to only 84 yards on 30 carries. That's 2.8 yards per attempt, and a stat for sore eyes for Vikings fans. 

    Take out Andrew Luck and Donnie Avery, and that was 52 yards on 22 carries. That's 2.4 yards per carry from the Colts two feature backs. 

    If the run defense keeps up like that, all the Vikings need from their secondary is mediocre play to stay in any game. As we saw on Sunday, the secondary play was sub-par enough that Andrew Luck took the game into his own hands and won it. 

    Thankfully, the Vikings secondary is youthful and growing as a unit every day. The Vikings might not be super bowl contenders yet, but they're at least a scary team to play for the contenders. 

The Pass Defense Isn't Even as Bad as It Looks

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    Don't look now, but the Vikings nearly have a top-10 defense. Seriously, once you're done busting a gut, check out these surprising statistics:

    Total yards allowed per game: 316.5 (12th)

    Passing yards allowed per game: 218.0 (T-10th)

    Rushing yards allowed per game: 98.5 (T-10th)

    Points allowed per game: 23.0 (T-16th)

    Total Sacks: 6.0 (T-7th)

    I know, crazy right? Granted two games is a tiny sample size, at this pace the Vikings look very good. If you think about the game on Sunday, what would've happened if the Vikings didn't give up the big throw to Wayne to end the half? Would there have been an overtime in Week 1 if they didn't allow Cecil Shorts to make that amazing grab at the end of the game? Take away the poor play in clutch situations, and the Vikings defense is good enough to beat anybody.

    Once the secondary gets a few more games under their belt, this defense will be hard to beat. They won't let receivers behind them as often and might even come up with one of those things fans only see other teams get—interceptions.

    Frankly, Christian Ponder should be able to put up over 20 points with the help of Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin alone any given Sunday. If just a couple more playmakers emerge (Rudolph and Jerome Simpson anyone?), then this team has a chance against any opponent.

    It will be interesting to see if these stats hold up after the next two weeks when the Vikings face considerably better offenses with San Francisco and Detroit. No matter what, at this point, the defense is a bright beacon of hope for the future.

Mistakes Are All That Stopped the Vikings from Going 2-0

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    Seeing him still makes me cringe too.

    He's had a slow start this year, and fans are really looking for the leader of this defense to step up. What people really remember right now was his boneheaded play when he blatantly hit Andrew Luck out of bounds. I can't really wrap my head around what that was if it wasn't frustration. It breathed life into the Colts' drive, which ended in a momentum swinging dagger of a score.

    There was also Matt Kalil's stupid late hit, Harvin's uncharacteristic but obvious offensive pass interference and many more, which totaled for 11 penalties and 105 yards. That is way too much free yardage to give up.

    A brief aside, Pat McAfee deserves an Oscar for that fall, and Charlie Johnson clearly didn't hold on that big Peterson run. Still, every game, teams face unjust penalties, and only the great teams overcome them.

    Despite all of the struggles, the good news is that these poor penalties can be coached out of players. You can't coach talent, but you can coach brains. If the Vikings can learn and grow from last week, it will be beneficial in the long run.

The Vikings Obviously Don't Die Easy

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    Sometimes, nothing matters but the fourth quarter.

    The Vikings, for all of their blunders, struggles and shortcomings, went down swinging on Sunday. Any fan loves to watch a team that doesn't give up until the final whistle. Last year's Vikings weren't like the new and improved 2012 version.

    The offense seemed more lively, the defense was a little bit better and there were some pretty good calls from the coaching staff in clutch situations. I admit that I'm first in line to criticize Leslie Frazier and his staff, but I take off my hat to him for what he's done to the Vikings' mentality. This never say die attitude is inspirational to say the least.

    That screen to Toby Gerhart on 3rd-and-long was nothing shy of brilliant. It was the last thing the defense expected, and it worked to perfection. The playcalling in the fourth quarter was awfully good too. Maybe coach Frazier is always frowning because the Vikings aren't completely dominant, because even in that loss, there were smile-worth moments.

    Leslie Frazier seems to be of the mindset that it's perfection or bust, and I for one am on board with bells on.

A Last Second Loss Is No Reason to Throw the Season Away

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    Seeing as most fans realized this season was just step two in a rebuilding process, this season is seen as more of a tune-up year for the Vikings anyways. Still, for the diehards who can see Leslie and Co. hoisting the Lombardi trophy this winter, the season is not lost after one close loss. 

    The Vikings have a lot of issues to address, with their secondary play, receiver play and two minute defense being just a few of many. Still, with all of the talent on this young roster with young coaches at the helm, there is hope for this year.

    The Vikings have a very long way to go before winning a Super Bowl, and just seven wins this season would be considered a success by many, but there's still hope. Sometimes, teams just get on a roll.

    Who can even call themselves a fan if they scrap their team's season only two games in. You never know what could happen.

    Here's some more exciting things to focus on:

    1. Christian Ponder is completing 75.8 percent of his passes—over 21 percent more than last year, and much better than Tarvaris Jackson's sub-60 career average. 
    2. Adrian Peterson is healthy. He might not have had a career game last week, but the Vikings needed to throw most of the second half. He's averaging a respectable 4.4 yards per carry and is on pace to score over 15 touchdowns.
    3. Kyle Rudolph is coming out of his shell.
    4. Only one more game without Jerome Simpson.
    5. Matt Kalil looks great.
    6. Jared Allen is pissed off, which will manifest into a huge game sooner than later.
    7. Jasper Brinkley is suiting up for three games in a row (knock on wood).