Put away the toe tag. The Vikings have some life in them.
They played their best game of this young season on Sunday. Of course, it had to be their best game. They lost the first two before beating the Seattle Seahawks 30-17 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
And now the Vikings are 1-2, same as the Kansas City Chiefs and, oh, yeah, the Seahawks, too.
The season is not a lost cause. At 0-3, it sure would have seemed like it.
Besides locking down a much-needed victory, it was encouraging for the Vikings to put themselves back in the conversation about contending for the NFC North title and, at least for the next week, social media won’t be littered with posts to fire coach Mike Zimmer.
“Feels good to win,” Zimmer said. “I told the team I thought it was the best offensive performance in the eight years I’ve been here.”
Perhaps most impressive about the win is the Vikings did it without Dalvin Cook. He was inactive due to that ankle injury suffered last week in Arizona.
Alexander Mattison did a fine job filling in. Mattison is a good back, much like there are good cover bands. None are like the original, and ordinarily Mattison is nowhere near as dynamic and game-altering as Cook.
He was Cook-like Sunday, running for 112 yards and catching six passes for 59 yards for a combined 171-yard game.
Mattison forced the Seahawks to respect the run, allowing Kirk Cousins to locate receivers and make this game a double-digit victory.
Cousins was outstanding. That was Zimmer’s word for how his quarterback performed.
“He played with a lot of confidence,” Zimmer said. “He’s very confident when he throws the football. He’s just very accurate and playing fast.”
On the Vikings’ first drive, Cousins completed all five of his passes for 62 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown to Tyler Conklin.
Conklin, by the way, needs to be a bigger part of this offense every week. He has some Travis Kelce in him. He will get yards after the catch and his hands are as good as tight ends who get much more acclaim than he does. He had seven receptions for 70 yards.
Jefferson, meantime, continues to show he is one of the NFL’s best receivers. He caught nine passes for 118 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Even Greg Joseph made all his kicks, and the long-suffering offensive line only allowed one sack. And the defense, after a rough start that saw the Vikings fall behind 17-7, shut out the Seahawks in the second half.
“Defensively, we started out a little shaky,” Zimmer said. “The players did a good of adjusting.”
Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks attributed the Seahawks’ early success to catching the Vikings by surprise.
“They came out with a lot of looks we hadn’t seen on film,” Kendricks said. “We started neutralizing (them).”
The Vikings also took that first step in resurrecting a season that looked to be headed for an abyss when the Seahawks went ahead by 10 points in the second quarter behind Russell Wilson’s shredding of the secondary and Chris Carson picking up yards on the ground.
“I wouldn’t say we’re in a good position,” receiver Adam Thielen said.
Then came the but.
“We’re going to try to ride this momentum,” he said. “This a momentum league. We know we just got to get a win. This has been frustrating, obviously, after the first two weeks, but we knew we were going to just focus on this week. And now after we enjoy this today, tomorrow we’re going to move on and get ready for our next opponent.”
Then Thielen told the story about a conversation he had with some teammates.
“Man, it’s hard to win in this league,” Thielen said. “These young guys were talking about it. ‘Man, it’s like Kansas City is losing and some of these really good football teams are losing.’ It’s not like college where you kind of have these gimme games where you pay them $500,000 and you crush them. You can’t do that in the league.”
You can, however, make the season look a whole lot brighter with a win — just like the Vikings did Sunday.