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Vikings lose big one at home!

We’ve learned over time that there are no guarantees on anything that relates to expectations of better days and future bigger events. Sunday’s first big Division test for the Vikings was part of the first sign — good or bad, positive or negative — in testing the strength of the NFC North.

The current appears to be strong. The Detroit Lions improved to 3-1 with Sunday’s 14-7 defensive stand. It’s the second year in a row the Lions have come into U.S. Bank Stadium and beaten the Vikings.

Last weekend was the beginning of Divisional games across the NFL East and West, North and South. Last year the Lions swept the Vikings, and that went a long way in helping them secure a playoff spot.

Since the Vikings joined the NFL in 1961, they have beaten the Lions more often than any of their other Division rivals — Chicago and Green Bay — head to head. The Vikings play Chicago and Green Bay in the next two weeks.

The Vikings are 71-39 all-time versus the Lions. Head Coach Mike Zimmer has now slipped to just 2-5 against Detroit. Just a quarter of the season has now been played, and only one of the 32 NFL teams remains unbeaten; that’s Kansas City at 4-0. The Vikings slipped to 2-2 and now trail 3-1 Green Bay and 3-1 Detroit in the Division.

Again, for the third straight week, the Vikings played without starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who is out with a knee injury. Quarterback Case Keenum started for the third straight game; he is now 1-2 in his role. In both losses the Vikings have failed offensively, scoring just nine points and seven points in both losses to Pittsburgh and Detroit respectively.

The Vikings confirmed the worst possible news for star running back rookie Dalvin Cook. The explosive rookie sustained a left knee injury in Sunday’s game in the third quarter. The MRI on Monday revealed a torn ACL injury to his left knee. He will miss the rest of the season.

Cook was among the NFL’s leading rushers with 354 yards and two touchdowns. His ability gave the Vikings an explosive dimension with the ability to strike on passes or runs and score from the backfield. The injury appeared to happen when his left leg planted while making a cut.

This is another major setback and is huge, because you lose the game and it’s in the Division and Conference and at home, while losing one of your big offensive threats.

The Vikings did not help their cause Sunday at all, fumbling three times and missing a 39-yard field goal. When you sack the quarterback six times and allow just 14 points defensively, that’s usually a good day on defense.

Now the heavy load of the running game will fall on former Pro Bowler Latavius Murray, signed by the Vikings in free agency, and fourth-year running back Jerrick McKinnon. The Vikings travel to Chicago next for a Monday Night Football engagement with the Chicago Bears in prime time.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

Gophers ‘rowing the boat’ at 3-0

Little did I know about the name P.J. Fleck until recently. My time might be drawing to an end.

Back in 1992, while doing talk radio on KFAN, the Gophers’ flagship station, I told my broadcast partner Eric Nelson and our listening audience that things were so bad here in the culture of the program at Minnesota that the football program would not go to the Rose Bowl in my lifetime. Here it is 2017 and the team has not won a Big Ten title since 1967 and has not been to the Rose Bowl since 1961.

Imagine three Gopher head football coaches in three years. That sounds as if the program is drifting away in trouble, right? Last year’s sexual harassment issues led to big change for both players and coaches. P.J. Fleck is the new big man on campus; he was hired shortly after Tracy Claeys was fired after going 9-4 and winning back-to-back Bowl games.

Not many Gopher head football coaches over the last 50 years can say that. Fleck was hired by Mark Coyle, the new Minnesota athletic director. “When I was athletic director at Syracuse,” said Coyle, “that’s when I first had a coaching search, and that’s when his name came up. I talked to a couple of coaches, and his name kept coming up.
“When I came to Minnesota a year later,” Coyle continued, “I saw what he did at Western Michigan University, starting 1-11 and then the next year going 13-1. That was awesome, but what really impressed me was [that] academically that team went from a 2.5 to a 3.0.

“I knew that he would take care of things on the field and off the field academically. We had a sense of urgency, so we thought he would be good for our program.”

It is early, but after three weeks the Gophers under Fleck are 3-0, winning 17-7 over Buffalo. At Oregon State the next week the Gophers dominated 48-14. And last Saturday I witnessed at TCF a complete domination of Middle Tennessee 34-3.

Some have been critical of Fleck and his methods. He is very confident when he talks. It’s about faith a lot and about the culture of a program. And “rowing the boat.”

Proof has been in the fast start and what the players are saying, and more importantly what they are doing and the changes. Not many head coaches across this country have won 16 of their last 17 games. P.J. Fleck talks the talk.

His style is different. He came on campus and right away threw away some prized football trophies. That has upset some alumni players. Not everyone is buying what he’s selling, but so far he’s “rowing the boat.”

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

Vikings’ Bradford stars in 29-19 win

It does not get much better than this for the Vikings. With questions everywhere, the Vikings sent a prime-time message to the rest of the NFL and their fans that they are better.

Quarterback Sam Bradford out-dueled one of the NFL’s all-time greats, Drew Brees, with a sterling performance. Bradford looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

Bradford was 27-32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the Vikings’ 29-19 win over the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football, spoiling the return of the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher Adrian Peterson to Minnesota. Peterson was not much of a factor; in fact, he was seldom used. He had only six carries for 18 yards and was not at all happy about the way he was used by Saints Coach Sean Payton.

The Vikings did not miss Peterson. Rookie sensation Dalvin Cook was brilliant, setting a Vikings rookie debut mark with 127 yards rushing on 22 carries. His explosive ability to get outside with a burst reminded us of Peterson.

The Vikings and Saints were locked in a tight battle at U.S. Bank Stadium, Saints up 6-3 late in the second quarter when the Vikings opened up the offense. Bradford suddenly started winging it, throwing the ball down the field to receivers Adam Thielen, with nine catches for 157 yards, and Stefon Diggs showing the fight and spirit with seven catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns.

Bradford and the Vikings, with back-to-back TD passes, both to Diggs, took a 16-6 lead at halftime and never looked back. The Vikings seized control because their defense never let Brees and the Saints offense establish the running game. The Saints were held to just 60 yards rushing, and they committed a couple of unsportsmanlike penalties that helped the Vikings keep drives alive.

Brees threw for 291 yards and one touchdown. The Vikings had 470 yards in total offense, great balance, and the offensive line punched holes in the Saints defense, giving Bradford the time to stay in the pocket and hit his receivers.

The Saints are certainly not the 1985 Chicago Bears on defense. They allowed 454 points last year, but the measuring stick is to pass the test with each opponent. Next for the Vikings are the 1-0 Pittsburgh Steelers, the Vikings’ first road test of the season against a 2016 playoff team listed among the best in the league.

Randy Moss, the ex-Vikings great, was honored by the organization by being inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor. Moss delivered a spirited and passionate speech about his career, thanking the Vikings and fans and Dennis Green and his teammates. He invited as his guests Marie Green and Patti Green, Coach Green’s widow and daughter, to return to Monday Night Football and share in his Ring of Honor induction.

The NFL has seven owners who gave President Donald Trump $1 million each for his presidential run. I wonder if the Wilf ownership was one of the seven. Protest continued around the NFL over quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s failure to be offered a contract by owners.

Photo credit-Steve Floyd!

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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