A 7-9 finish wasn't what the Vikings -- playoff qualifiers in the 2019 season -- expected when embarking on the 2020 campaign, but it became their reality.
A leading veteran in Minnesota believes last year was simply a prelude to a memorable comeback tale.
Anthony Barr played in just two games in 2020, losing the majority of his season to a torn pectoral muscle and joining the ranks of key Vikings (edge rusher Danielle Hunter being another) who were unable to participate in their disappointing year. Instead of relying on proven contributors, Minnesota was forced to cobble together something resembling an NFL defense, finishing 27th in yards allowed per game and 28th in sacks per pass attempt.
Now that the Vikings have had an offseason to retool and get healthy, Barr has high hopes for his squad.
"I really do believe that we have a Super Bowl-winning team this year," Barr told FOX 9. "Obviously there's a lot of steps to get to that point, and I've been through good seasons and bad seasons with this team. But every time we've had a tough year, we've always bounced back. I really feel like this year is going to be special."
Barr has been around for the good and the average in Minnesota for the better part of the last decade. Drafted by the Vikings in 2014, Barr has played every season of his seven-year career in Minnesota, making the playoffs three times and reaching the conference championship game once (2017).
The four-time Pro Bowler should know if his team has a realistic chance to make noise in an upcoming season. Then again, optimism never runs higher in the NFL than in July.
It's not exactly fair to predict the 2021 Vikings' results based on 2020, a season that was at its best incomplete due to the many changes that came on the defensive front. Injuries, free-agent departures (interior lineman Linval Joseph left for Los Angeles) and COVID-19-related opt-outs (new arrival Michael Pierce being the most notable) reduced a once-vaunted unit to a shell of itself, and despite having its own collection of playmakers, the Vikings haven't been known as an offensive juggernaut for much of Mike Zimmer's tenure in Minneapolis.
There's still plenty to learn with this team, of course, but if anything, Vikings fans should be encouraged to hear Barr carry such hope into the new season. Provided they can avoid the health issues that plagued them in 2020, perhaps Barr can prove his rosy outlook prescient this fall.