Sunday Night, the Minnesota Vikings had a chance to make a statement in the NFL. A win, and they kept possession of first place in the NFC North and go a long way in putting those early season duds to Buffalo and the Rams behind them. Additionally, they get a tiebreaker over the Saints in a first round bye when it’s time to start talking playoff positioning. They had a lot going for them in this game, too—it was a home game, the Saints don’t play particularly well on the road, and Minnesota jumped out to a 13-7 lead.
Instead, the Vikings laid an egg on national TV. Feel good, three game winning streak gone, first place in the NFC North is gone, and now the Vikings have three straight division games that could very likely determine the fate of their season. And based on the way they played tonight, none of those games are anything close to being a sure thing now. Lana...LANA...LAAANAAAA...you better call Kenny Loggins, because all of a sudden it feels like the Vikings are in the...DAAAAAAAAANGERRRR ZONE!
Out along the edges
Always where the Vikings be
The further on the edge
Highway to the danger zone
Gonna take you
Right into the danger zone
The SMR that hopes the Top Gun sequel is better than the Minneapolis Miracle sequel follows.
Stefon Diggs, WR: Diggs had 10 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. His TD catch was a beautiful toe drag to get the second foot down on fourth and goal that matched the Saints early start, and it was a gorgeous throw and catch. Of all the Vikings players that put up some big stats, he was the only one that had a clean game that wasn’t marred with an interception or a fumble.
Latavius Murray, RB: Murray ran hard tonight, and it seemed like every time he touched the ball, he got positive yards. The Saints Achilles Heel on defense was running between the tackles, and the Vikings took advantage of it when they gave Murray the ball, as he got 56 yards on 13 carries, and had one rushing touchdown.
Laquon Treadwell, WR: I’m done with Treadwell. Make Aldrick Robinson WR3, and just move on. What he lacks in playmaking ability he makes up for with hands more unreliable than a typical weather forecast, and then adds insult to injury with an incredibly stupid unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on top of the Thielen fumble. At some point, you have to invoke the words of Latter Day American Philosopher Kelly Campbell and tell yourself that with Treadwell, it is what it is. And what it is isn’t...it.
Vikings clock management. After the Adam Thielen fumble and the Saints touchdown, the Vikings had 30 seconds left, and two timeouts. You have to WR1’s on offense, and a QB on pace for 5,000 yards passing. You know the Saints were gonna play some type of Prevent defense, which means that the Vikings had an opportunity to throw the ball, and maybe get some chunk plays out of Diggs or Thielen. String one or two of those together, use your timeouts wisely, and you can get yourself into field goal position. That 10 or 14 point swing right at the end of the half was a brutal turn of events, and the Vikings had an opportunity to blunt some of that momentum and get some points on the board, and then get the ball to open the second half. So what do they do? Mike Boone, up the middle, and let’s call it a half. Mystifying.
In the second half, the Vikings offense had zero sense of urgency, especially as the game wore on. Their fourth quarter touchdown drive felt like the first quarter had all the urgency of the second drive of the second preseason game, and it took over four minutes the Vikings couldn’t afford to piss away. When the defense was on the field for over 8 minutes in the preceding Saints field goal drive, the last thing the Vikings could afford to do was just lollygag their ass down the field, yet there we were, taking a nice leisurely stroll like it was a nice Spring day at Minehaha Park.
Buy: The coaching decision to go for it on 4th and goal in the first quarter, and 4th and short in the third quarter. I loved the aggression Mike Zimmer showed, both times. In the first quarter, the Saints took the opening drive and scored a touchdown. Minnesota took their opening drive, and then stalled out on the Saints one. On fourth down, Zimmer kept the offense on the board, and it paid off with a nice TD pass to Stefon Diggs.
In the third quarter, on the Vikes opening drive, they faced a fourth and one at the New Orleans 45. After the unfortunate series of events to end the first half, the Vikings needed a spark. A touchdown, or even a field goal, to open the half, would have been a big deal. So the Vikings decided to go for it, and instead of trying to get one yard with Latavius Murray, Kirk Cousins decided a throw to Hands Treadwell was a good idea.
It was not a good idea.
Sell: Using a challenge in the first quarter. One of the things that drives me nuts about Mike Zimmer sometimes is his use of challenges. On the first drive of the game for New Orleans, Michael Thomas made a great catch for 20 yards and a first down, and he was in bounds. Replay clearly showed it, Thomas didn’t bobble the ball or anything—it was a good catch. Yet, Zimmer challenged the call and naturally lost. Would three timeouts remaining at the end of the second quarter been enough for the Vikings to try and push the ball downfield to try and score, or not?
Buy: Dan Bailey is a good kicker. He’s literally the second most accurate kicker in NFL history...
Sell: The Vikings kicking. ...who can’t make an extra point now that he’s on the Vikings. Vikings kickers are a black hole of misery and suffering...like spending the weekend at your in-laws. In-laws who don’t drink, and won’t let anyone drink in their presence, and are polar opposites of you politcally. And all they want to do is talk politics. Yeah, that’s what Vikings kickers are. Tea-totaling fun suckers that take everything in your life and turn it into a discussion that makes you want to chew glass while you’re walking over a bed of red hot embers just to try and see if intense physical pain will jolt your soulless body to life.
Buy: Kirk Cousins, thrower. Kirk Cousins can chuck the rock. He was 31-41 for 359 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Like he has every week, he makes several throws a game I simply marvel at, and I’m grateful that the Vikings have a bona fide QB running the offense.
Sell: Kirk Cousins, Situational Awareness guy. That said, Granitejaw McDreamy had some head scratching moments. His pick six was remarkably inept, his pocket presence left something to be desired at really key moments in the game, and the way-too-long TD drive in the fourth quarter when they were down 30-13 was flat bad time management. Kirk Cousins didn’t lose this game (although the pick six wasn’t a big helper), but he wasn’t able to overcome those mistakes and win the game, either. And look, when you get a big boy contract, you’re expected to do big boy things. And tonight, he didn’t.
Buy: This was a winnable game for the Vikings. After the Saints went up 7-0, the Vikings really responded. The offense scored TD’s on their first two drives, the defense settled down, and other than a missed extra point because lol of course, the Vikings really seemed to be finding a groove. When you’re up 13-7, you have the ball deep in New Orleans territory with every expectation to at least get a field goal, and you get the ball to open the second half...well, that’s a situation we like to call ‘the catbird seat’.
Sell: This was a winnable game with all the miscues. But once Thielen fumbled, things snowballed for the the Vikings, and whenever they seemed to take one step forward after that, they took two steps back. 23 yard Murray run nullified by a holding penalty. Get a nice drive going to open the second half, drop a 4th and 1 pass. Get something going on offense, take a bad sack. Defense needs to make a stop, they can’t get off the field.
Buy: Adam Thielen went over 100 yards again. So yeah, Thielen’s 100 receiving yards per game streak is alive. It’s legitimately cool, and I hope he gets 100 yards receiving in every game.
Sell: Adam Thielen’s fumble. Something bad happened to the Vikings after Thielen’s fumble. I don’t think the Vikings quit, but I do think Thielen’s fumble and turn of events affected them way more than we usually see happen from a Zimmer-coached team. Normally, the Vikings tend to handle adversity well, but tonight...I don’t know, it felt like the Vikings couldn’t get past it. The offense couldn’t convert a 4th and one and threw a pick six, the Vikings defense had a hard time getting off the field, and gave up an eight minute drive in the second half. That led to a field goal, and pretty much ended whatever hope the Vikings had in winning the game.
So it was an ugly night all the way around, and the Lions come to town before the Vikings get their much needed bye week. With three division games in a row coming up, Minnesota has a chance to really put some distance between them, Detroit, and Green Bay, and take first place back from Chicago.
Let’s see what this team is made of.