The 2017 Minnesota season did not end in the most empowering of ways. An NFC Championship blowout is hardly a way to put a cap on a good year. Nevertheless, ending aside, 2017 has to be considered a success for the Vikings, especially given all the factors working against them early on.

By our estimation, there were five games that defined the Vikings’ season, in all of its excitement, its surprise and its memorability. You may note that all of these feature positive outcomes. It only makes sense; if a season is going to be viewed positively moving forward, the defining moments that made it should reflect as such.

Here are those five games that defined the 2017 Vikings.

Week One vs. New Orleans: Vikings 29, Saints 19

The season opener established three things about the Vikings: One, they were an unexpected offensive force to be reckoned with. Two, their one-two punch at receiver was one of, if not the best in football. And three, their run defense was going to cause problems for opponents all year. Though it happened with Sam Bradford at the helm, who would play only one more half of football the rest of the season, the improvement at offensive line and in the running game showed that the Vikings’ offense was drastically improved from the year before. Another big reason for explosion was the production of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who combined for 16 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns in this game.

On top of that, the defense put the clamps on what would turn out to be an elite Saints offense. The three-headed monster of Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara combined for just 53 yards on 19 carries. It was just the beginning of a Pro Bowl season for Linval Joseph, Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr and Everson Griffen.

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Week Three vs. Tampa Bay: Vikings 34, Buccaneers 17

Case Keenum was a career journeyman, a mere stopgap between Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater. In his first start of 2017 in place of Bradford, Keenum was less than stellar, posting a rating of just 65.9. But his second start? Well, that is when he gave the fans their first sign that maybe, just maybe, the quarterback position was in good hands. Keenum threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns while completing 75.8 percent of his passes in a blowout win. He would hold down the starting job for the rest of the season (with one brief exception).

Week Six vs. Green Bay: Vikings 23, Packers 10

This was the fateful game where Minnesota essentially locked up the NFC North crown. For all the roster advantages Minnesota had over Green Bay, the Packers always had a fighting chance, so long as Aaron Rodgers was healthy. Unfortunately for the Packers, with one (legal) Barr hit, Rodgers’ season and thus, the Packers’ playoff hopes went down the drain. After week six, Minnesota and Green Bay headed in opposite directions.

Week 11 vs. Los Angeles: Vikings 24, Rams 7

Rams-Vikings was the game of the week. It was the NFL’s top scoring offense against the second-best scoring defense. And Minnesota got the absolute best of this matchup, solidifying their spot as the defense to beat in the NFL. In 2017, the Rams ended up averaging 361.5 yards and 29.9 points per game. On this day, they managed just seven points and 254 yards. The leading Offensive Player of the Year candidate, Toddy Gurley, accounted for just 56 yards on 18 touches. This was undoubtedly the Vikings’ finest defensive performance of the season. From here on out, the debate between Philadelphia and Minnesota for the NFC’s top team reached a fever pitch.

Division Round vs. New Orleans: Vikings 29, Saints 24

This is the game that will forever define the 2017 Minnesota season. The Keenum story, the missed opportunity at a home Super Bowl, Thielen’s breakout, none of it will withstand the test of time like the final play of this game. The Diggs touchdown brought U.S. Stadium to its knees in a way to which Vikings fans are simply not accustomed. It was the perfect storm of offensive execution and defensive incompetence that carried Minnesota from a 2.8 win probability to an unprecedented come-from-behind victory. In the annals of NFL history, few plays invoke chills in the way the “Minneapolis Miracle” does. It is this generation’s “Immaculate Reception.”

–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Full Press Coverage NFC North. Like and

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