The Vikings shot themselves in the foot on Sunday, but the Packers did some self-destructing, as well. The Vikings won two out of the three phases of a football game. They lost on special teams, and when you miss three field goals and give up a blocked punt touchdown, you lose nine out of ten of those games. They had their chances to win, but at the end of the day, a tie in Lambeau (which is often a loss each year) is not the end of the world. Here are the takeaways:
This Should Have Been Kirk Cousins Signature Victory
With the Vikings down 20-7, entering the 4th quarter, I said to myself, “This is why we got Kirk Cousins.” The Vikings quarterback situation the past two seasons was on the shoulders of two guys in Keenum and Bradford who never really had the ability to come back from a deficit. When the defense knows you’re passing, can you still move the ball? Cousins can. This should have been a signature victory for him, throwing three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but Daniel Carlson spoiled that (more on him later).
But, man, was he outstanding. He had a lot of jaw-dropping throws that one rarely sees from a Vikings quarterback. I recall a couple of passes to Thielen that were lost in the madness. Cousins placed them so perfectly, barely floating them over the heads of multiple Green Bay defenders. If I could figure out how to GIF them without getting sued by the NFL, they’d be below. Additionally, the 75-yard bomb to Diggs, the touchdown to Thielen and the two-point conversion to Diggs were special throws in clutch moments. Welcome to Minnesota, Kirk.
Diggs and Thielen Are Great, But Then What?
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen caught 21 of 26 targets for 259 yards and 3 touchdowns. They were nothing short of terrific. Outside of them, though, there is trouble. Laquon Treadwell beat his man for the first touchdown before he forgot how to play football. Treadwell had several drops, including what resembled a volleyball ‘set’ on the fourth quarter interception that may have cost the Vikings a win. As a result, I have no confidence in the options behind Diggs and Thielen. The Vikings may be in the market for another receiver with them healthy, but should one of them miss any games, the Vikings would be in major trouble.
*Vikings Signed Aldrick Robinson for receiver depth. Robinson has familiarity with Cousins in Washington. To be announced who is being cut, speculating one of the RBs
Where Was the Pass Rush?
Zimmer uncharacteristically went after the refs in his press conference, as he claimed there was a lot of holding going on at the line of scrimmage. I saw a few plays where there were some clear misses, but both teams were upset with officiating so that’s a common denominator. Maybe this is the reason, but the Vikings did not produce much pressure, and it was unfortunate to see such little disruption with a less-mobile Rodgers. There were even a few plays where blitzes weren’t making their way through to the quarterback. Usually a strength, it’s not something I’m at all worried about; however, there were too many times Rodgers could sit back and find his guy. Some of it might have been the good blocking, some of it might have been the holding, and some of it was just Rodgers masterful navigation of the pocket.
Let’s Be Nice to the Defense, Though
While Cousins and Carlson are getting the headlines, the defense stood tall on a number of occasions. Heck, Aaron Rodgers only led one touchdown drive. Take away the blocked punt and the interception, the defense only allowed 19 points to Aaron Rodgers (an injured Aaron Rodgers, but still) in Lambeau. Some notable plays were when Linval Joseph made a stop on 3rd-and-short in the 4th quarter to force a field goal. Additionally, after Cousins threw his interception, the Vikings forced Green Bay into a three-and-out, giving the offense one more chance to tie the game. Lastly, they took the Packers out of field goal range in overtime and did all they could to set up Daniel Carlson for redemption. There weren’t many splash plays, but they showed up when it mattered.
No Run Game, Again
Dalvin Cook has 26 carries for 78 yards (3.0 avg) through two games this season. Fortunately, he’s provided some additional value in the passing game, but this is a cause for concern after two weeks of inefficiency. Pat Elflein’s return will hopefully open up a few more running lanes for Cook, and while I can’t say the offensive line has been too bad, the Vikings will need to be better going forward.
Brian O’Neill Looks Good
This is quick note, as I’m no offensive line analyst, but Brian O’Neill was unnoticeable on Sunday, which is everything you want in an offensive lineman. Projected to be a project, O’Neill may be further along than anticipated. Albeit in a small sample size, he looks like a future starter for the Vikings.
Blessing in Disguise
In the middle of writing this article, the Vikings have cut Daniel Carlson and signed Dan Bailey. Bailey is the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history, and was as close as it gets to a sure-thing before groin injuries last season. Should he be fully healed, this is an upgrade for the Vikings (clearly).
With that said, as much as I was angry at him, man do I feel bad for Daniel Carlson. I really hope he gets a chance with another team. If he was on a different team, he may still have a job, as it was one bad day in his first season. However, the Vikings can’t screw around with their Super Bowl aspirations. This may be a blessing in disguise to get rid of him now, instead of relying on him in January. After all, nothing good has ever come from a Vikings kicker whose last name ended in ‘son.’
Moving on at 1-0-1 isn’t so bad. After all, a game in Lambeau is penciled in as a loss most seasons. It just hurts that we had multiple chances to win (as did the Packers). The Vikings host the Bills next week and are reportedly 16.5-point favorites. If they lose, they don’t deserve anything this season. The only way this happens is looking ahead to game plan for the Rams, due to the short week. Teams admit they don’t do this, but they should, since I feel like I could be quarterback on Sunday and beat the Bills (my arm is okay, but knowledge of the Vikings offense is minimal). They should be 2-0-1 followed by games at the Rams and at the Eagles, arguably their two hardest games of the season. A 2-2-1 start is not horrible, and is going to be projected; however, if the Vikings can find a way to steal one of those road games (a fluky Thursday night game in Los Angeles being the favorite, but don’t rule out the revenge game in Philly), a 3-1-1 start is almost perfect.