Souhan: After three games in 12 days, Vikings success still a mystery

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune/Star Tribune/TNS

The Vikings improved to 9-2 with a 33-26 victory over New England on Thursday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. They have the second-best record in the NFL.

This means the Vikings are only about six weeks away from defining just how good they are, or aren't.

We didn't find out on Thursday. Given their easy schedule and the shoddy nature of the division, we may not know until the playoffs.

Four days after losing by 37 points to Dallas, the Vikings resumed their winning ways. In 2022, their winning ways involve luck.

The officials ruled that an obvious touchdown catch by Patriots tight end Hunter Henry was an incompletion, costing New England four points.

The officials missed a hold on a kickoff return for a touchdown by Kene Nwangwu, and the Vikings had an awful offensive possession revived by a running-into-the-punter penalty, allowing them to drive for a touchdown.

Danielle Hunter appeared to trip Mac Jones on a sack on the Patriots' potential game-tying drive late in the fourth quarter.

If the Vikings had defeated Dallas on Sunday, instead of getting beaten by 37 points, the largest losing margin for a Vikings team in the city of Minneapolis, they might be drawing attention as the most impressive team in the NFL.

Three weeks ago, they won in Buffalo with a spectacular performance.

Thursday night, they beat a difficult team to play against even if this post-Brady version of the Pats is painfully limited offensively.

It can no longer be said that the Vikings haven't beaten anybody. It can be said that the Vikings remain a mystery.

Justin Jefferson is exceptional. Thursday, he surpassed Randy Moss' record for most receiving yards in the first three seasons of an NFL career. Moss set the record in 48 games. Jefferson passed it by halftime of his 44th game.

Every other aspect of the Vikings is fodder for debate.

Their defense has given up an average of 27.8 points per game over the last five games.

Kirk Cousins has thrown two more interceptions this season than he did all of last year.

Vikings receivers other than Jefferson have been only sporadically effective.

Jones, who is trying to prove he's an NFL starting quarterback, shredded the middle of the Vikings' pass defense in the first half despite working with one of the NFL's weakest receiving groups.

Give the Vikings credit for bouncing back from their embarrassing performance against the Cowboys, but if you were ranking NFC teams that inspire confidence, they may not be in the top three.

The Cowboys have been dynamic since Dak Prescott returned from injury.

The Eagles, although experiencing their own two-game slump, have the best record in the NFL and easily defeated the Vikings in Week 2.

The 49ers have the only current three-game winning streak in the NFC and the addition of Christian McCaffrey makes them look daunting.

If the Vikings care about reality, they are in fine shape. They will win the NFC North going away and have a chance at a top seed.

If they care about perception, they may be stuck with their current "pretty-good-but-not-to-be-trusted" reputation unless they can win a playoff game.

Their remaining schedule: the Jets with Mike "I think that's his name" White at quarterback; the still-not-good Lions; the Indianapolis "coached by a TV personality" Colts; the fraudulent New York Giants; Green Bay "can't afford to trade Rodgers'' Packers and the Chicago "wait until next year another year" Bears.

The Vikings could win a series of close games and finish the season 15-2 and we'd be asking the same questions in January that we're asking now.

They might not even be tested by a truly good team in their first playoff game.

After 11 games, what we've learned about the Vikings is that they can win a close game if they get a few breaks.

Winning close games against questionable competition is a great way to build a record, but it's no way to build a reputation.