The 2022 NFL Playoffs are here, which means Vikings fans will soon be filled with heartache or finally taste some long-awaited jubilation. However, before we press play on Super Wild Card Weekend, it’s important to stop and smell the roses. Because, contrary to strangely popular opinion, the lovable 2022 Minnesota Vikings have been a success no matter what happens over the next five weeks.
Having Fun Yet?
No two ways about it, Kevin O’Connell’s cardiac kids have outperformed expectations in the organization’s first season under the new regime. A team that finished under .500 and trotted out horrific defenses in back-to-back seasons didn’t feel terribly close to turning this type of corner this soon.
A Lovable Success Story: The 2022 Minnesota Vikings
Even before the 11 one-score wins, franchise records set every which way by their franchise player, and cold-blooded situational mastery, things felt different in Minneapolis this season. There were raucous postgame locker room speeches by the headman. Kirk Cousins’ chains made him a social media sensation. A Christmas Eve whiteout supplied the first white-on-white uniform combination at home in franchise history.
It’s been fun. And it’s okay just to enjoy it.
Vikings fans own a quality that leads them to prepare for the worst and forget the good. Such a level of pessimism is expected for a fanbase that has waited 62 painstaking years to hang a championship banner.
The Resilient Human Heart
Regardless of what these Vikings can accomplish in the postseason, they supplied some of the best theater that the NFL had to offer this season.
Ten comeback victories, eight of which overcame 4th-quarter deficits and required a game-winning drive, signify a fully overhauled and resilient culture instilled by Kwesi, Kevin, and the crew. No one gave them a chance after falling behind by 17 in Buffalo. “Five touchdowns” were required to complete the biggest comeback in NFL history.
The team that has never stopped believing in each other turned in two victories in game-of-the-year candidates on days when their win probabilities plummeted to 3.2% and 0.4%.
After completing the historic comeback over Indianapolis, Ed Donatell perfectly captured the quality that this team possesses: “The human heart and resiliency; there’s just no way to measure that.”
For a franchise that has never seemed to perform well in nationally televised games, the Vikings went 3-1 in standalone games this season. But when this team did lose games, they lost them badly. However, on no occasion did any of their four (three of which were lopsided) losses snowball into a losing streak: Minnesota was 4-0 coming off losses this season, three times righting the ship on a short week.
Donatell’s much-maligned defense — deservedly so -– has come up with play after play to take “bend but don’t break” to new heights. For a unit that couldn’t stop a nosebleed and made Mac Jones look like a Hall-of-Famer, they sure know how to make the play in the moment to seal the deal.
It was only fitting for a locker room that thrives on camaraderie and belief in each other. Revenge games were a staple. Za’Darius Smith and Chandon Sullivan relished blowing out the Packers in Week 1. Patrick Peterson danced on the Cardinals in Week 8. The Legend of Kirko Chainz grew after a 10-point-4th-quarter comeback in Washington in Week 9. Harrison Phillips enjoyed the rollercoaster that was Buffalo in Week 11. Christmas came early for Dalvin Tomlinson against the Giants in Week 16. Khyiris Tonga and Vikings’ revelation Duke Shelley had his Terrell Owens moment at the Bears in Week 18.
A Date With Destiny?
As it stands today, it seems that Kevin O’Connell’s first iteration of the Minnesota Vikings isn’t good enough to win a Super Bowl, something only two rookie head coaches have done in NFL history. But Kwesi has spoken “dream chasing” into existence, and this group has a team of destiny feel to it. Each week producing a new highlight, this team continues to find new ways to win, with some luck involved, relying on every person up and down the sideline.
For a fanbase that has long suffered at the hands of underperforming and heart-breaking teams, the 2022 Minnesota Vikings are turning in a season to remember. What a ride it has been, but it’s not over. Grab your popcorn because there’s still more fun to be had.
Note: Statistics for this piece were sourced from Pro Football Reference.
Will is a husband, father of two, and earned an undergraduate degree in Economics (just like Kwesi Adofo-Mensah). Will’s favorite pastimes are water skiing, Minnesota sports, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. He is the co-host of the Load the Box Vikings Podcast with Jordan Hawthorn. Follow him on Twitter (@willbadlose) and find his other sports content at Twins Daily and his very own Bad Loser Blog.