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Vikings’ Offense Stalls in KC: Game Notes

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings lost a close but frustrating game to the Chiefs, 23-20, on a last second field goal.

It was a frustrating loss as the Vikings offense was often off-sync, whether it was sloppy execution or poor play calling.

The Vikings defense also had a key lapse, resulting in a 91-yard TD run, in an otherwise mostly solid performance that helped keep the Vikings in the game at times.

But late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a couple opportunities to close out the game with a sustained drive, but fell well short - going three-and-out both times.

The Chiefs were able to do just enough to get in position for a last second field goal to win the game as time expired.

Poor Offensive Play Calling

A big part of the disappointing offense performance was poor play calling.

The Vikings had trouble getting the run game going against the Chiefs’ 30th ranked run defense in part because Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski got away from Gary Kubiak’s offense, and was unable to counter the Chiefs defensive game plan.

The Chiefs often crowded the box on first and second downs, keying on the run, which was often effective. Despite the fact that the Vikings interior line struggled against the Chiefs defensive front, Stefanski called some inside zone runs, which were frequently stuffed.

And when Stefanski did call outside zone runs, they were frequently to the short side of the field, and to the left side. That didn’t give the offense as good a chance to spread out the Chiefs defense, and also to the weaker side of the Vikings line in the game. Pat Elflein struggled much of the game.

The short runs put the Vikings offense and more third-and-long situations, which they didn’t convert much.

Misfires Didn’t Help Either

Kirk Cousins was often forced to check down to a receiver in the flat - a couple of which might have been good gains - but he was off-target a few times - over throwing rather badly on a few occasions. He also had a few overthrows on deep balls, including one ball to Diggs about six inches too far for Diggs to bring it in that would’ve giving the Vikings a first and goal at about the 5 yard line.

Overall, Cousins completed only 50% of his pass attempts, going 19/38 for 220 yards, 3 TDs, and a 94.2 passer rating. His two best throws may have been the TD passes to Kyle Rudolph and Bisi Johnson - a couple fastballs converting red zone opportunities. The other TD pass was an outlet pass to a wide open Ameer Abdullah - which was nearly overthrown - but led to an easy touchdown.

Cousins also had a miscue running for a first down - sliding short of the line to gain and killing the drive.

Offensive Game Plan and Adjustments Found Wanting

The Vikings poor play calling undoubtedly stemmed from a curiously poor offensive game plan and lack of adjustments.

The first 15 plays are typically scripted ahead of time, and those first 15 plays yielded just 50 yards, half of which came on a 3rd and 7 completion to Laquon Treadwell. That’s still just over 3 yards a play - half the Vikings season average.

Considering that those 15 plays are typically rehearsed during the week, the poor execution and results - two 3-and-outs to start the game - leave a lot to be desired when it comes to both the game plan and execution.

After halftime adjustments were made, the Vikings capitalized on an opening fumble on the kickoff to take the lead with a touchdown on a short field, but on the two subsequent drives went 5 and 6 and out. The Vikings put together a nice TD drive to begin the fourth quarter, but finished the game like they started it - with two 3-and-outs and a combined -7 yards.

Overall, the Vikings game plan came across as somewhat stale, and also not utilizing their skill players to their best advantage, and doing next to nothing to counter the Chiefs’ defensive game plan.

That’s a pity, given the talent the Vikings have on offense, and an on-going concern from the standpoint of the Vikings coaching staff being able to outmaneuver better coaching staffs around the league.

It’s unclear who’s to blame for the Vikings offensive game plan. Gary Kubiak was said to be responsible for developing advance game plans, but the play calling seemed to feature more of the Stefanski side of the Vikings offensive playbook.

Bottom line, the Vikings could use more consistent effort from the coaching staff when it comes to game planning and play calling. They had been successful running the typical Kubiak offense, but seemed to get away from that against the Chiefs.

NFC North Takes a Collective Step Backward

It was a week for home teams, as every team playing in their home stadium won, while every team in the NFC North played on the road - and lost.

The Vikings lost an opportunity to make up a game on the Packers, who stunk it up badly against the Chargers, getting blown out 26-11 in a game that was never close.

Less surprisingly, the Bears lost again at Philadelphia, while Detroit, in typical Lions fashion, lost by a touchdown to the Raiders. The game ended with the Lions failing to score on 4th down from the Raiders one yard line.

The NFC North remains a two-horse race between the Vikings and Packers at this point. The Vikings are at Dallas in prime time Sunday night, while the Packers host the Panthers, who’ve won five of their last six.

Official NFL Game Summary

Here is the official NFL game summary.