MINNEAPOLIS — Here we go again.
You felt that pull for a few weeks, didn't you Vikings fans?
It’s a tractor beam, like the Death Star reeling in Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon. We had a bad feeling about it, but like a cardboard cutout in the west end zone seats at U.S. Bank Stadium, we sat there with a smile on our faces, not trying to fight it because there was nothing we could do about it.
The Vikings were pulling us back in slowly, without us realizing it until it was too late.
Life was OK at 1-5.
The Vikings were a bad team with a bad defense and a bad quarterback and an empty stadium and we didn’t have to believe that they might have a chance at something because they were bad at everything.
We could shrug our shoulders on Sunday afternoon while reciting the same lines: “Need a new QB, no matter the cost. Dalvin is great. Danielle will be back next year. All the rookies are getting a lot of reps. The future isn’t desolate.”
We were OK with losing. It wasn't fun, but it wasn't painful, and we knew what to expect.
But look where we are now.
Angry and frustrated over a third one-score loss this season in which the Vikings blew a lead in the fourth quarter.
We're getting upset with little mistakes. We're upset with the offensive line reverting to its early-season form just enough times to let Dallas' defensive front make Kirk Cousins feel just uncomfortable enough to waste a few passes, any one of which could have turned Sunday's 31-28 loss at U.S. Bank Stadium into the Vikings' fifth win of the year.
We're frustrated with turnovers, and with the Vikings at one point in the game having been called for eight penalties to just one for Dallas. We've thrown our hands up at Marwan Maalouf’s ever-adventurous special teams, who, even when they did something right on Sunday, they did it wrong.
Dalvin Cook was making us talk about the MVP award.
Justin Jefferson was (still is) making us talk about the Rookie of the Year award.
Cousins was making us like that, even when we didn’t want to like that, because we’ve liked that in the past and it’s only ever led to heartbreak. Sunday, he finished 22-for-30, for 310 yards, three TDs and a 140.1 rating, his best outing of the season. He had a perfect passer rating after dropping a 39-yard touchdown pass into Jefferson's hands five minutes into the fourth quarter.
We thought we knew what to expect.
Life was OK at 1-5. But at 4-5, with three consecutive home games against Dallas, Carolina and Jacksonville? We were right back where every Vikings fan loves to be and hates to be.
We had hope and we cared.
We cared because the realistic possibility of being 5-5 sounded like a miracle after a 1-5 start.
We cared because it looked like a half-dozen light bulbs had gone on for a defense that looked lost and confused for the first six weeks of the season.
We cared because that's what happens when a team wins three consecutive games, all against division opponents, including two on the road.
But Sunday's game is what the Vikings do to their fans. They find a way to disappoint their followers who believed they'd turned a corner.
The Cowboys lined up for a 4th-and-6 play at the Vikings' 29 with 2:19 remaining and trailing 28-24. Even Mike Zimmer thought his team would soon be walking off the field with a 5-5 record. Instead, Andy Dalton completed a 10-yard pass to tight end Dalton Schultz for a first down. Five plays later, Dalton hit a wide-open Schultz again for the game-winning score, this time from 2 yards out and with no Vikings defender within two time zones of Schultz.
Sunday's loss stung. It was a reality check.
The Vikings are now 4-6. Two sub-.500 teams come to U.S. Bank Stadium over the next two weeks, Carolina (4-7) and Jacksonville (1-9), so Minnesota could be 6-6 by Dec. 13 and this whole cycle could start all over again.
Then we'll feel that pull, that hope, that possibility of bucking the odds and going from 1-5 to making the playoffs. And we'll give into it, all the while knowing there's a good chance it'll just end in more heartbreak.
"I really felt like were going to win throughout the whole course of the game," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said.
So did the rest of us.