Viking Trail — Almost every NFL team trails the 4-0 Vikings, the team with 4 Bruins including Linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, while the League’s ONLY winless team is Quarterbacked by ex-trojan Cody Kessler, whose 4th Quarter Interception on Sunday kept the Browns from finally winning a game
The Minnesota Vikings have been ravaged by injuries this year, losing their Starting Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater before the season even began, and losing future Hall of Fame Running Back and last year’s League-Leading Rusher Adrian Peterson for at least a couple of months, if not the whole season. Some teams might have mailed it in after losing their two most important (by far) players at the start of the season, but not a team with four Bruins on it.
The organization started the re-animation, by trading for Quarterback Sam Bradford. You wouldn’t think a trade like that would be a game-changer, considering Bradford’s lackluster career. He didn’t even earn the Vikings’ Starting job for the first week of the season. But I guess he learned the playbook well enough by Week 2 to attain the starting gig, and he has outperformed all expectations, leading the team to 3 straight wins, without throwing any interceptions.
So big kudos to the Minnesota front office, and to Bradford, for really elevating his game. HOWEVER, the real reason the Vikings are, along with Denver and Philadelphia, one of only three undefeated teams, is the Vikings Defense. They have allowed only 12.5 points per game, which is #1 in the League for teams that have played 4 games. And the heart and soul of that vaunted Defensive attack is their middle: Linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, former teammates at UCLA.
The Vikings beat the New York Giants on Monday Night Football this week, by two Touchdowns, holding the Giants to just 10 points. Coincidentally, the one New York TD was set up by a SIXTY-SEVEN yard screen pass to another Bruin, Paul Perkins. Even more coincidentally, Perkins broke a tackle by Kendricks to get into the open field and take the ball all the way to the Vikings’ 4-yard line. Then the Touchdown was a 1-yard run by Orleans Darkwa, on which Kendricks hit him at the goal line, but couldn’t keep him out.
Despite those two Kendricks gaffes, he still made 8 tackles, which was second on the team, and played good pass coverage that denied the Giants repeatedly. Anthony Barr added three tackles, and created pressure on the NY Offense that led to the paltry 10-point output. The TV announcer said that Kendricks and Barr were the best Linebacking Duo in the entire League. Viking Punter Jeff Locke is another Bruin, and he nailed three 50+ yard punts, and dropped 3 punts inside the 20. Finally the Vikings’ roster also includes Bruin Long Snapper Kevin McDermott, who hiked the ball to Locke for all those successful kicks. He also snaps to Locke on Field Goal tries, since Locke is the holder for Blair Walsh’s kicks.
Having four Bruins in the locker room must be good for chemistry, because this team is really gelling, and playing better than any and all projections. No one thought that they could be undefeated after 4 games, without Bridgewater and Peterson.
There is only ONE team of all the 32 in the League that has yet to win a single game, and that’s the Cleveland Browns. But you can’t really fault the franchise. They too were decimated by two key injuries: First string Quarterback Robert Griffin III got knocked out for the year, and then Second string Quarterback Josh McCown also got injured. That left the team in the hands of lowly Third-string Quarterback Cody Kessler, the rookie from u$c. And Kessler hasn’t done that bad for a green rookie, but he has made big mistakes that have cost Cleveland both games he’s played in. On Sunday, down by 4 to Washington with 7 minutes left, he threw an Interception. The Redskins scored a TD on the ensuing drive, clinching the Browns’ fourth straight loss. To Cleveland’s credit, they have fought tough, and have competed hard in these Kessler games, having leads, and giving their opponents all that they can handle. Now that Kessler has a couple of games under his belt, I’m sure the Browns will get off the schneid, and have a decent season. They have some good players like Ohio State QB-turned-Wide Receiver Terrelle Pryor, Running Back Isaiah Crowell, Tight End Gary Barnidge, and Defensive Back Joe Haden. So if you want the schadenfreude of watching Kessler lose, you better hurry, because that team is not as bad as their 0-4 record indicates.
A team that’s looking worse than they were supposed to be is Carson Palmer’s Arizona Cardinals. They fell to 1-3 after getting beat at home, by the Rams. They might have won in the final two minutes, but ex-trojan Palmer was in the locker room with a possible concussion. But even when he was IN this year, the Cards, who were projected as a serious Super Bowl contender, have been a dramatic failure. There are only 32 teams in the League, and Palmer is TWENTY-NINTH in the League in Quarterback Rating, as only three QB’s have thrown more Interceptions. Despite my bias and over-the-top hatred of all things u$c, I DON’T root for injuries. But maybe Arizona fans are happy that this concussion may keep Palmer out of the Cardinals’ Thursday night game in San Francisco. Former trojan Su’a Cravens of the Redskins also got concussed this week, only one week after he made the game-saving Interception off of Eli Manning. Tough luck for Craven, who was having a great year for the Red & Gold-clad Skins. I’m sure he will be back soon. When they do head x-rays of these two ex-trojans, I’m thinking that they won’t find anything.
Now if you want to talk about athletes with good heads on their shoulders, let’s focus on the UCLA Spirit Squad. Here are 62 more in-focus shots of the Bruin Cheerleaders from the Arizona game last Saturday.