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Bleacher Report – Vikings

The Vikings’ 2016 featured the best, the worst and the weird

By Matthew Coller

Everyone handles their sports teams’ failures differently.

Some people bond with their friends, laughing in amazement at the failures. Some get angry, throw the remote down and run to Facebook to rant. And some will keep hope for next year (s/o to Cubs and Cavs fans) in their hearts until the end of time. The Minnesota Vikings’ 2016 season had something for all of those types.

If you asked a Viking fan what they’ll remember most from this season, the answer could start just about anywhere, but for many, the first thought that will come to mind is the normal Tuesday afternoon in sweaty August that turned into a horror movie.

We should have known when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a gruesome knee injury – one so bad that an ambulance had to come to Winter Park – just days before the start of the regular season that this year was going to have a stock market chart’s worth of ups and downs.

The effect of his injury was psychological on everyone from Mike Zimmer, who helped Teddy tie his shoes after his surgery, to teammates who looked at Bridgewater as their unequivocal leader to fans who had visions of the first true Vikings franchise quarterback since….Fran? Dante? Does Favre count?

Zimmer’s impassioned speech about the team continuing to fight post-Teddy inspired the hopeful bunch to keep on believing – so did a trade with Philadelphia.

The other group was mad the Vikings dealt a first round pick to the Eagles for a quarterback who had never made the playoffs. Those are folks who end every conversation with, “They’ll never win because they’re the Vikings.” Those people are the ones who don’t get a dog because they know the dog will die someday and it’s going to hurt really bad. They were afraid the Vikings would wide-left them again.

Bradford and Zimmer almost got those people to buy the dog, though. They nearly convinced the toldya-sos to open themselves up to the possibility that 2016 would be a special season.

After a win on the road against Tennessee behind Shaun Hill, Bradford made his Viking debut the same night US Bank Stadium hosted its first regular season game. The noise levels were so loud when Aaron Rodgers lined up under center, some reporters in the press box chose to use ear plugs.

Bradford and receiver Stefon Diggs produced pure magic. Diggs grabbed a 45-yard bomb down the middle, then Bradford whipped an Elway-esque rocket into the end zone for his new favorite target. And Zimmer’s defense was in 2015 form and then some. When Vikings corner Trae Waynes picked off Rodgers to finish off the 17-14 win, all 65,000-plus on hand had the same thought: This might be for real.

It sure looked like it after convincing wins against the Panthers and Giants.

Then the Houston game happened. Oh, the Houston game. It’s like thinking about a beautiful fall day in Minnesota when it’s minus-25 degrees. The last of the good times.

The Vikings dismantled the Texans heading into the bye week. Bradford had the best game of his career despite an injury to Diggs. He opened the game with a deep touchdown pass to Adam Thielen and never looked back. And on defense, the Vikings embarrassed Brock Osweiler. After the game, Anthony Barr said Osweiler was so afraid of the pass rush, he couldn’t keep his eyes down field.

We talked about when the Vikings would lose their first game. In fact, would they ever lose? The group that laughs at failure, well, that’s what they were reminiscing about at family gatherings during the holidays.

People tweet pictures of burning buses and dumpsters when they refer to the Vikings’ season, but that’s the wrong kind of fire. Both of those fires are quick, hot and then get put out pretty quickly. The Vikings’ season after Week 5 was a plague that creeped through a village, taking people one at a time while they desperately sought a cure.

The linemen all got hurt, then the backup linemen got hurt too. The offensive coordinator resigned. The quarterback couldn’t figure out how to throw past the sticks. The coach had a torn, then detached retina. There were two interceptions on potential game-winning drives, missed extra points, a fumble on an ill-advised punt return and a missed call on a failed 2-point conversion…

Deep breath.

The first-round pick caught one pass, the defense forgot how to defense against Indy, the cornerbacks conspired against the coach – or didn’t, nobody really knows for sure – more people got hurt, they beat Jacksonville, but it’s Jacksonville so whatever and Adrian Peterson tore his meniscus, had surgery that kept him out longer than needed, gave DJ Skee – whoever the everloving heck that is – a bunch of scoops about when he was going to play, some of which were wrong but also whatever, and then sat out as soon as the team was eliminated by the playoffs. And there was something with cutting stuffed animals’ heads off but, again, nobody really knows and the team plane went off the runway.

Even the angry people had to laugh at how strange this year was.

As the plague took out the grocer, blacksmith and preacher, there was still hope being spread, especially from the locker room. The Vikings’ message, no matter how bat bleep crazy it got, was always that they could make the playoffs. And bless the 10,000 people or so who clicked 1500ESPN articles about playoff scenarios, down to the sad end in Green Bay.

The hopefuls weren’t justified with a playoff berth, but they might stubbornly argue that the rise of Xavier Rhodes as a shutdown corner or the emergence of Danielle Hunter as an elite pass rusher or Adam Thielen as a solid receiver were good things to come from 2016. They might also look at Bradford (possibly) setting an NFL record for completion percentage, Cordarrelle Patterson becoming part of the offense again, Stefon Diggs emerging as a No. 1 receiver and even freaking Kai Forbath making all his field goals.

The laughers and hopefuls are always at a disadvantage here unless they are in New England. The angry people are usually right. The lowest percentage of teams make the playoffs in the NFL of the four major leagues. Most go home disappointed.

But the secret is that all three are the hopefuls, they just deal with losing in different ways. They’ll all be dialed into what comes next. And they’ll never forget the 2016 Vikings season.

The post The Vikings’ 2016 featured the best, the worst and the weird appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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