The game loss itself was entirely due to self-inflicted wounds and missed opportunities by the Vikings. A few missed calls by referees didn’t help either, but were not the reason for the Vikings loss.
Mistakes and Missed Opportunities on Offense
While the Vikings defense wasn’t perfect, anytime the Vikings hold the opposing team to 14 points, that should be enough to get the win. But the Vikings offense could only manage 7 points, while committing 3 crucial fumbles.
Up 7-3 at halftime, the Vikings had the ball to begin the second half and promptly turned the ball over on a wildcat formation with Jerick McKinnon at QB. He muffed the handoff with Dalvin Cook, which the Lions recovered. The Vikings second possession of the second half also ended on a fumble by Dalvin Cook, the play he injured his knee. And finally Adam Thielen coughed up the ball on the Vikings final possession of the game, which was a good opportunity to tie the game or win it.
But the three turnovers were not the extent of the Vikings miscues on offense. Jerick McKinnon had a key drop on third-and-two which cost the Vikings a quick out deep in their own territory. Case Keenum also missed an open Adam Thielen for a touchdown, which led instead to Kai Forbath’s first missed field goal as a Viking. Keenum was also a little off the mark on a couple throws that would have been first downs, but instead were incompletions.
Overall the offensive line held up well, protecting Keenum well enough and opening up some good holes for Dalvin Cook before he went down. The only sack was allowed by TE David Morgan, who whiffed in pass protection on the play.
But that was small consolation for a Vikings offense that couldn’t manage much the whole game, and was really key to a crucial Vikings loss at home against a division rival missing some key players.
Defense Missed Opportunities as Well
Overall the Vikings defense did well to limit the Lions to only 14 points considering the offense turned the ball over 3 times. But there were also opportunities missed. On three occasions the Vikings had opportunities for an interception. One by Anthony Barr that could have been a pick 6, another by Trae Waynes in the end zone, and a third by MacKenzie Alexander that would have led to better field position on a third and long.
But overall the Vikings defense played very well, generating 7 sacks and playing good coverage, with the exception of the Lions TEs at times. Run defense was not as good, mainly due to some poor tackling and a big 39 yard run allowed early. But this was not the reason for the Vikings loss, as teams seldom win when only scoring 7 points.
Dalvin Cook Loss a Big Blow to Vikings Offense
Despite the slow start to the game by the Vikings offense, and stupid fumble to start the second half, the Vikings were having good success running the ball with Dalvin Cook nearly every carry. The play he was injured and fumbled looked to be his longest run of the game, and a sign the Lions defense may be nearing the breaking point in allowing a home run from Cook. But sadly his knee injury at that point in the game really dealt a blow to the Vikings momentum in the game, and they really never got it back.
The initial diagnosis on Cook’s knee injury by the Vikings training staff was a near complete tear of his ACL, which would end his season. An MRI is scheduled for tomorrow to confirm that diagnosis, which seems to fit with the video of what happened on the field.
The poor play and loss of Dalvin Cook in a key home game against a division rival was clearly a demoralizing loss for the Vikings, who have already faced the loss of starting QB Sam Bradford. Getting him back for the second of three straight matchups against NFC North rivals would be helpful as the Vikings take on the Bears in Chicago next Monday.
The Vikings will need to suck it up to bounce back against the Bears, a must-win to keep up in the division race and regain momentum.
It was a sickening loss though. But it’s a long season. Intestinal (and emotional) fortitude required.