On the backs of Adrian Peterson and their defense, the Vikings beat the Detroit Lions 24-10 in a sloppy, rough game. The Vikings were undisturbed and unmoved by the growing chorus of people counting them out this season.
"Obviously we have tons to clean up and we'll get those tons of things cleaned up. But we're doing some good things," said head coach Brad Childress.
And despite their 1-2 record, the Vikings are doing some good things, namely running the ball (183 yards, with 160 from Peterson) and defense (295 yards allowed).
And it's still very early. The team and the season hasn't come close to taking form.
"This is a yet to be determined product," Childress said.
It is, and the Vikings are not going to fade away and hand the division to the Green Bay Packers or the Chicago Bears. The Vikings still have the fundamental elements of a playoff team and the potential of a Super Bowl winner, and they know that, despite all the eulogies that have been read for their Super Bowl window.
The Vikings are capable of winning any game, especially when Adrian Peterson runs like a 220-pound jet-fueled pinball. On Sunday, he had his career long rush with an 80-yarder that started with a stiff-arm and ended with a sprint.
"A run for the ages...(the) longest run in the building," Childress said, forgetting that Tony Dorsett had the longest rush in NFL history at the Metrodome with a 99-yarder. Childress was right later on when he said, "You're looking for explosive plays. It's hard to grind and grind and grind like that."
"(Jeff) Dugan came in and said, 'They're pressing, that backside is open,' " Peterson said about the 80-yard TD. "I waited for that one play when they were pressing, bounced it to the outside, and off to the races."
Minnesota's defense continued its superior play, holding another team to 14 points or less, stiffing the run game like the league is accustomed to seeing, and getting two critical turnovers inside the red zone. Antoine Winfield and Husain Abdullah led the secondary to a better than expected performance, holding Calvin Johnson to 56 yards.
The Vikings contained Jahvid Best, whom last week against the Philadelphia Eagles had 78 rushing yards on 17 carries and 154 receiving yards on nine receptions. By comparison, Maurice Jones-Drew had 88 rushing yards on 22 carries and one yard on two receptions against the Eagles on Sunday. Best left the game in the third quarter with an injury; he had a disappointing 26 yards on seven carries and 13 yards on two receptions.
With Peterson's propensity of changing the dynamics of a game with only one play and the defense's ability to frustrate and disrupt any offense, Minnesota is very similar to its 2008 version that won the division while going 10-6. And that team started out 0-2, too.
They need Brett Favre and the receivers to look more like their 2009 versions. "The passing game will catch up," said Childress.
The passing game had its moments, including a 24-yard touchdown pass that forced a wide-open Percy Harvin to dive for the ball. While Favre was a little off on that pass, he was 23-for-34 on the day for a 67 percent completion rate. Favre threw two interceptions, but one was because of a great read-and-react by a defensive lineman and the other was tipped. He showed marked improvement in the accuracy and velocity of his passes.
Last season it took a couple of games for the passing game to click, too. With the bye week upcoming and more practice time together, Minnesota should see a boost to the passing game. They should catch up.
After Sidney Rice's return, the Vikings will look more like the Super Bowl contenders they were last season as opposed to the team so many were burying after losing two closely contested games this season to high quality competition.
The Vikings will catch up.
After the game, the Vikings were huddled around the television watching Atlanta's Matt Bryant kick a game-winning field goal to beat the New Orleans Saints.
"The 'Aints," said Visanthe Shiancoe.
"DeSean Jackson has one catch so far. A 61-yard touchdown," said Favre, who probably has Jackson on his fantasy team.
Really though, the Vikings weren't paying attention to what pundits and armchair quarterbacks were saying. They were interested about the league, about their opposition, and about football.
The players know, most of all, that it is a long, winding road ahead and that the season has just begun.