All kinds of disrespect have happened in the past few weeks in the world of the Minnesota Vikings. Justin Jefferson didn’t crack Keyshawn Johnson’s top-five list of NFL wide receivers, and just a few days later, Pat McAfee mentioned that Dalvin Cook was the main focus of the defense when facing Kevin O’Connell’s offense.
Vikings Starter demands more respect
Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, is viewed by many analysts and fans as an underwhelming option at QB, when in reality he has been consistently solid.
In addition to the disrespect directed at players, there has also been disrespect directed at the entire team — a team that fired a 13-4 record en route to the NFC North trophy. Despite the win, no one sees the Vikings as a good group. They are universally regarded as overachievers who were too often lucky.
Freshman running back Alexander Mattison doesn’t like that. While Mattison is a breakout candidate after signing with his old team, the Vikings are tied to a team that has to decline. The runner appeared Yahoo Fantasy Football Forecast and was asked if his franchise has slept on:
I do. I mean all of last season, it was weird. It was like ‘we’re 7-1 and nobody’s giving us our respect. It was a bit strange. It was something where we were like ‘what do we have to do to get the respect?’ This is one of those years where we’re all hungry to prove the world wrong and prove us right and understand that there are a lot of people who doubt the Minnesota Vikings and there’s not a lot of respect flowing our way. So we just have to make sure we put our foot down, put our foot on the gas and not let up and just demand that respect.
The players have every right to be tired. Bad or even average teams don’t regularly win 13 games. Only good ones do. Were the Vikings lucky at times? Of course they were. It’s part of the game. If Matt Ryan gains a few more inches on a QB sneak in the fourth quarter, the Colts win the game and the comeback doesn’t happen. Josh Allen’s fumble in the end zone was an unprecedented moment.
However, the Vikings played fantastic in the clutch, both offensively and defensively. They were able to find another gear and became the same elite team that they were in the standings on the field. According to EPA/Play, the Vikings were second in the NFL in offense in the fourth quarter and overtime, fifth in defense, and Cousins was the fourth-best quarterback behind only Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow and Jalen Hurts.
The group became a fighting team late in the games because Kevin O’Connell put huge emphasis on the most important time of the games. Preaching about the importance of clutch situations all year certainly helped.
The next step is playing at that level in a full game, something the organization has struggled with for years. The 2021 Vikings were famous for allowing opponents to score in the final two minutes of each half, and the 2022 squad became a bunch of bad football players at times in the second and third quarters.
There are some significant deviations from the purple team. Dalvin Tomlinson, Za’Darius Smith, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks and Patrick Peterson all departed. One theory is that besides the first two names, the remaining four guys are well past their prime and cost too much of the salary cap considering their play. Others see these departures as heartbreaking. Only time will tell if they will miss them on the field or just in the locker room as leadership. Some other players have to step up and replace them in the dressing room and on the pitch.
Mattison has a great mindset. It’s up to the players now to put their foot down and earn the respect they want to receive.
Janik Eckardt is a soccer fan who likes numbers and statistics. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking football encyclopedia, loves to watch sitcoms and classic rock is his favorite music genre. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt