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Zulgad: Vikings win a stinker but that shouldn’t be cause for confidence

By Judd Zulgad

There was a time this season when we attached style points to how the Vikings had performed in each game. The Shaun Hill-led victory in Week 1 at Tennessee did not score very high, but the Week 5 domination of Houston, now that’s what we expected.

The latest evidence that those days are long gone came during the Vikings’ hold-your-nose 25-16 victory over host Jacksonville on Sunday.

The victory was only the Vikings’ second in eight games after starting 5-0. Detroit’s come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Bears keeps Minnesota three games back of first place in the NFC North – the Lions (9-4) own the head-to-head tie-breaker – but the Vikings (7-6) remain in the wild card race.

The real question coming out of Sunday is what type of credence should we put in the Vikings’ playoff chances given what we saw in Jacksonville? This was a mistake-filled game between two teams that appeared incompetent at times. In the end, the Jaguars (2-11) were willing to make sure this was a loser-proof game for their opponent.

The Vikings again featured almost no rushing attack (85 yards), an extremely ineffective red-zone offense (2-of-5) and standout safety Harrison Smith (ankle) became the latest addition to an already lengthy list of injured players. Oh, and don’t forget that Mike Zimmer made his return to the sideline but had to coach with an patch over his right eye after missing last week’s game following surgery for a detached retina.

You know you’re in trouble when your kicker is the star of the game.

Kai Forbath, the replacement for Blair Walsh, made all four of his field-goal attempts, hitting from 43, 32, 40 and 46 yards. Jacksonville kicker Jason Myers also played an important role in this yawn fest, connecting from 45, 55 and 24 yards but missing two other attempts. (We’re willing to guess the folks at the Red Zone channel weren’t cutting to this game too often.)

Forbath and Myers made three field goals apiece in the first half to leave the score tied 9-9 at halftime. The first touchdown did not come until 3 minutes, 50 seconds remained in the third quarter, when Blake Bortles found wide receiver Bryan Walters on a 14-yard pass.

That gave Jacksonville a 16-12 lead, its only one of the game, but the Vikings responded with a 1-yard touchdown run by Matt Asiata and a late 3-yard touchdown pass by Sam Bradford to Kyle Rudolph late in fourth quarter that created a nine-point cushion.

The Asiata touchdown didn’t come without some drama. Forbath made the extra point but it was wiped out when Rhett Ellison was called for a false start. Moved back 5 yards, Forbath then hit a Walsh-looking try that went way wide left.

The Vikings could have made things easier on themselves on their ensuing drive but failed to do so. It wasn’t bad enough that Asiata was stopped on third-and-goal from the Jacksonville 1 with the Vikings up by two, but he also lost the ball and Jacksonville recovered in the end zone.

The way things have been going for the Vikings, you would have expected any other opponent to take the ball at their own 20 and drive down the field for a go-ahead field goal or touchdown. But these are the Jaguars, losers of eight in a row, and so they went incompletion by Bortles, run for no gain and out-of-bounds incompletion that gave the ball right back to the Vikings.

How bad was this game?

Let’s just say that having attended the Gophers’ 34-32 victory over a pathetic collection from Rutgers on Oct. 22 at TCF Bank Stadium, I did not think it could get worse than that. But if the Vikings-Jaguars game didn’t equal the ugly-fest put on by the Gophers and Scarlet Knights it came close.

Much like that game, you didn’t really think the Minnesota team was ever going to lose, despite the fact that both trailed in the fourth quarter.

The Vikings will spend the week telling us that a win is a win and saying that they now have turned their focus to next Sunday’s game against Indianapolis at U.S Bank Stadium. The Colts have a talented quarterback in Andrew Luck, but are lacking in so many other areas that they are 6-7 after a 22-17 loss to Houston on Sunday.

The Vikings will follow that up with a Christmas Eve game at suddenly-hot Green Bay and a home finale against the bottom-feeding Chicago Bears (3-10). That being said, the Bears beat the Vikings 20-10 in Week 8.

All of these games should be winnable, meaning the Vikings have an opportunity to keep themselves in the playoff race. The problem is that if the Vikings replicate the performance we saw on Sunday it’s hard to believe that three more victories will follow.

The Bears might not care by Week 17, but it’s difficult to believe that the Luck-led Colts or Aaron Rodgers-led Packers are going to be as big of punching bags as the Jaguars were on Sunday.

The post Zulgad: Vikings win a stinker but that shouldn’t be cause for confidence appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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