When I was a kid, the Vikings played a Christmas-week game against the Pittsburgh Steelers that was the most hilarious bad game I can remember. The boxscore says that it was 42 degrees and windy, but that’s not what it seemed like at the time: what I remember is that it was about forty below, with howling winds, though I concede that this has more to do with my memory than anything. (I found the highlights, which show at least that everyone involved was wearing long sleeves.)

It was truly a disastrous game. Sean Salisbury fumbled two snaps, Mike Tice (!) blocked a Steelers field goal, and Minnesota’s game highlight might have been an 84-yard punt by Harry Newsome. But the Vikings got two field goals in the fourth quarter from Fuad Reveiz, which was enough to beat an entirely hapless Steelers offense*, which was being led by the immortal Bubby Brister; Minnesota won that game, 6-3.

*Unbelievably, both of those teams won division titles in 1992, though both also got creamed in their first playoff game.

I never thought I’d see another game that bad, in the NFL, where both teams were so entirely lost that neither one could find the end zone. But Sunday… Sunday, the Vikings played in what might have been the worst NFL game of the decade.

I could spend all day throwing stats at you. Las Vegas had eight first downs and eight punts. Josh Dobbs was 10-for-23 for 63 yards, while being sacked for a total of 47 yards; the Purple offense generated more yards when he scrambled (21) than when he tried to pass (16). The Vikings did not turn the ball over once, and still generated just two field goal attempts; Minnesota never got closer to the end zone than the Raiders’ 17-yard line.

I would say it was the worst win in Vikings history, but they once beat the Packers 3-0 in a game where they had 87 total yards, and I’m delighted to say those highlights are available as well.

This win represented what is almost certainly the end of the Josh Dobbs era in Minnesota; though there were plenty of voices clamoring for him to get the start in Las Vegas, it’s fair to say that nobody will be arguing his case after this one. It is simply impossible to be a winning quarterback in the NFL if the best defensive game plan against you is “let’s make sure that this guy has to throw the ball.” You can fool other teams with scrambling for a few weeks, but you can’t survive long-term as Football Ben Simmons, and Chicago and Las Vegas were wise enough to simply try to keep Dobbs in the pocket, and let him fling the ball waywardly (and occasionally crush him by running past Minnesota’s crumbling offensive line).

We all wanted to see what Dobbs could do once Justin Jefferson returned, but unfortunately, the answer was “hang his best receiver out to dry over the middle.” Jefferson caught the ball but got absolutely nailed in the back, and ended up going to the hospital, presumably to check that he didn’t have a punctured lung or ruptured kidney or some other car-crash injury.

The much more worrying thing might be the future for Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell, whose reputation is that he can coach up quarterbacks. It’s very concerning that Dobbs was at his best when O’Connell had to explain every play in the headset while the Vikings were in the huddle; with every subsequent week he spent with O’Connell, he got worse. In this one, when he had two full weeks to work with the Vikings coach, he was absolutely awful. I kind of want him to start again next week, just to see what another week of O’Connell’s tutelage can do to destroy his future.

On the flip side, at this moment, you’d have to rank the Vikings’ best coaches of all time as follows:

  1. Bud Grant
  2. Brian Flores

Minnesota’s defense is absolutely outstanding; it’s given up one offensive touchdown in three games, and none since a single fourth-quarter drive from Denver. And they’re doing it with their best players being guys that had absolutely no pedigree coming into the year - Ivan Pace Jr, Cam Bynum, and so on. Josh Metellus has played every position on the team somehow. Pace had 13 tackles and a sack. DJ Wonnum had a sack. It’s unreal how good these guys have been.

I would very much like the Vikings to figure out a way to keep Flores for next season, though I don’t see how that’s possible. Has there ever been a team that’s paid the defensive coordinator more than the head coach?

Minnesota 3, Opponent 0, Part 2

I think we can feel comfortable in saying that this will never happen again, that the Vikings and the Wild win by the same score on the same day. (The day the Vikings beat Pittsburgh 6-3, the North Stars lost 4-0 to Chicago.) Filip Gustavsson made 24 saves, and the Wild shut out Seattle, 3-0.

It’s funny how the NHL works. If you’re a forward and you’re bad for a few weeks, you get taken off the power play. If you’re a defenseman and you’re horrible for a month at a time, you get traded and some other team tries to fix you. If you’re a goaltender and you’re awful for a few weeks, your coach gets fired.

Since the Wild dumped Dean Evason, Gustavsson is 4-1 with a .951 save percentage. Marc-André Fleury is 1-1 with a .928 save percentage. The two were among the worst five goaltenders in the entire league, until John Hynes was hired; since then, they’ve been among the league’s best.

So if you want to credit something for Minnesota’s turnaround, I guess that Hynes is remembering to tell his netminders to stop the puck, but Evason forgot? Over the same stretch, Matt Boldy has six goals, after getting one the whole rest of the year, so I guess Hynes has reminded him where the net is as well.

Assuming that they continue to get good goaltending, and their penalty kill continues its trend away from being the worst penalty kill since hockey was invented, the Wild’s underlying numbers actually look mostly fine. They’ve controlled games 5-on-5 this year, and while their disastrous start has them with a huge hill to climb to get into the playoff picture, they still have a chance.

It’s strange how divergent the futures of the Vikings and Wild feel, even though they’ve had similar seasons so far - terrible beginnings, followed by righting the ship. If the Wild can just make the playoffs, they might be fine. But for the Vikings, they might well make the playoffs - it’s not impossible yet that they could win the division - and yet, even if that happens, they feel like they have no shot whatsoever.



Wolves at New Orleans, 7pm, BSN


Wild vs. Calgary, 7pm, BSN
Wolves at Dallas, 7:30pm, BSN+


Vikings at Cincinnati, noon, Channel 4
Wild vs Vancouver, 1pm, BSN
Wolves vs Indiana, 7pm, BSN