Brian Murphy / St. Paul Pioneer Press
MINNEAPOLIS—There was no warmup act, no script and no dress rehearsal for the great duck-duck-(gray duck)-goose celebration of 2017, which would not have been allowed in the stuffy NFL of past seasons. Kyle Rudolph simply walked into the Vikings huddle on second-and-7 at the Chicago 13-yard line midway through the third quarter Monday night, Oct. 9, and told his teammates what they were going to do if they scored a touchdown.
CHICAGO—Sam Bradford's body language cried out for mercy, and he finally received it when there was nowhere left for the Vikings' quarterback to crawl but the infirmary. He was set up for an ambush and wilted accordingly. Coach Mike Zimmer and company can genuflect to an able Case Keenum, a driven Jerick McKinnon and their big-play defense for leading the Vikings to salvation in an ugly but defiant 20-17 victory.
MINNEAPOLIS — Sam Bradford said Friday, Oct. 6, his left knee feels more comfortable than at any point since he was injured Sept. 11 and that he is anxious to see if it continues responding well after a full week of practice. The Vikings quarterback stopped short of declaring himself ready to play Monday night against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, but his optimism was palpable in his first public comments in more than two weeks.
NEW YORK — Every day in the big leagues is Christmas morning to Matt Belisle, the accidental closer who embodies the unpredictable journey of these 2017 Minnesota Twins. The affable Texan was signed only 10 days before spring training to a modest $2.05 million contract to be a veteran set-up man while mentoring a young bullpen about managing failure, success and the roller coaster ride of a 162-game season. Nothing in the job description mentioned the 37-year-old right-hander closing games, not with Brandon Kintzler returning to the role and a rebuild on Minnesota's horizon.
NEW YORK — Ervin Santana flippantly guaranteed a win over the storied New York Yankees in Tuesday's American League wild-card game. Like the rest of the upstart Minnesota Twins, he has nothing to lose. Santana already is 0-5 with a 6.43 earned-run average in six starts at Yankee Stadium II, where he will take the mound in a one-game showdown against Minnesota's postseason archnemesis. He also was tagged for a loss in relief for the Angels during the 2009 American League Championship Series.
MINNEAPOLIS—Two steps forward, one knee back. Emotional investment in these Vikings is a dizzying endeavor fraught with wild mood swings from euphoria to despair, the dominance of two revealing victories countered by the sloppiness of two revolting losses and the health drama that stalks this franchise like a dark passenger. The 14-7 loss to the Detroit Lions Sunday, Oct. 1, at U.S. Bank Stadium recast expectations again. Minnesota limped past the season's quarter poll with more questions about their identity and ominous news from the infirmary.
MINNEAPOLIS—The Vikings locked arms in solidarity before kickoff and then closed ranks around quarterback Case Keenum, who atoned for his underwhelming debut with Minnesota by rising to his moment during a politically charged Sunday, Sept. 24, in the NFL. Keenum will not make anyone forget Sam Bradford's Week 1 breakout or the saga his wonky knee has become. But the accidental starter scrubbed regret about his acquisition as the Vikings muddle through their perennial quarterback conundrum one unpredictable week at a time.
ST. PAUL — Competitive fire and faith have guided Case Keenum since he was a ball boy helping out his father, who introduced him to football and a fellowship that remains integral to the Vikings' accidental starting quarterback. Steve Keenum coached high school and Division III football in Texas for 25 years and has been involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes since high school. His most successful stint was the decade at alma mater McMurry University in the Keenums' hometown of Abilene, where 10-year-old Case found his calling.
MINNEAPOLIS — Two games is such a limited sample size it is safe to brand the Vikings' 2017 defensive performance as tolerable if not opportunistic. They have not forced any turnovers but have been stout on third down and against the run. They were picked on but not picked apart by Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger in Sunday's 26-9 loss, stung more by penalties than devastating plays.
PITTSBURGH—Vikings coach Mike Zimmer brought a bottle of water to his petulant postgame news conference Sunday, Sept. 17, but what he really needed was a nice, warm cup of cocoa, something to soothe him after having to answer all those nettlesome questions about Sam Bradford. When it comes to the Vikings' most important player and when he might appear back on the field, it seems nobody is entitled to answers.