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A TED Talk, week 9

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So what happens now?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Hi kids, how are we feeling today? You know, the older I get, the quicker I get over games like this. But before we put this behind us, I think we need to talk about what happened, and what we can expect moving forward. First, let’s dissect this 26-23 loss to the Chiefs. I think there’s a fair amount of blame to be spread around, and it’s all equally deserved.

There are a lot of folks quick to blame Kirk Cousins for everything, and he shoulders a fair amount of blame. The Vikings needed to start fast yesterday, and Cousins did not have a hot hand early on, going a measly 9-21 in the first half. Although he played better in the second half, he had a ton of overthrows and misfires at key moments, and those misfires left a lot of yards on the field.

And yeah, hooray for Laquon Treadwell coming up with some big catches, and yes, Cousins engineered three nice touchdown drives and threw for three scores, but you aren’t going to win a lot of football games when the combined statline between WR1 and WR2 consists of one catch for four yards. I know Adam Thielen went out early after re-aggravating his hamstring, but the playcalling and/or decision making that ignored Stefon Diggs was borderline criminal yesterday.

Still, he threw for three touchdowns, and all of those drives were big time, to include one in the fourth quarter that gave the Vikes the lead. Yet when the Vikings offense needed to shine brightest, they fizzled. In the fourth quarter, Minnesota was given two opportunities to put the Chiefs away, and they couldn’t. As a matter of fact, in those two three-and-out drives, Minnesota actually lost yardage.

And it’s time to bench Pat Elflein. It just is.

But the offense and the offensive playcalling was only one piece of a bigger problem. On defense, the Vikings are just not an elite unit anymore. They’re still good, but Minnesota’s secondary did not match up well with Kansas City, and they were burned. Had Patrick Mahomes been healthy and played, I shudder to think what he could have done against this unit. Giving up a 91 yard run, right after the offense had given the Vikings the lead, the momentum, and had then pinned Kansas City deep is inexcusable. The Vikes defense got lit up for 275 yards passing by a career backup, and they had no answers for Tyreek Hill all afternoon.

And I talked about Mike Zimmer’s coaching decisions in the SMR, if you’d care to read in greater detail. The one really boneheaded move I didn’t talk about there but meant to can be brought up now, though. After Minnesota’s last fizzled offensive series of the game, punter Britton Colquitt shanked a 27 yarder off the side of his foot, and KC was set up on Minnesota’s 45. On first down, Stephen Weatherly broke through and strip sacked Moore for a 10 yard loss, and even though KC recovered the fumble the Vikings had knocked the Chiefs out of field goal range. On second down, Moore hit TE Travis Kelce for 17 yards, setting up third and four from the Vikes 39. At the snap, it looked like the Vikes defense was going to break through again and sack Moore for a huge loss that would have knocked them out of field goal range and sent the game into OT.

HOWEVAH...

Mike Zimmer had called a timeout right before the snap, stopping the action. It was unbelievable, honestly, and that breather allowed the Chiefs to regroup, and after the timeout, Moore found Tyreek Hill for 13 yards down to the 26. Ball game. And between you and me, I don’t know what the hell the defensive formation was that Zimmer called. I guess we should call it ‘let’s not cover Sammy Watkins or Tyreek Hill on the biggest play of the game’ formation, because that’s what it looked like:

I mean, you cancel a play that’s probably going to be a sack, with a really bad timeout, and then come out of the timeout WITH THAT? Okay, whatever. Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingbury did the same thing Thursday night, and he was skewered for it because it cost the Cards a touchdown when they had held on fourth and goal. But he’s also a rookie head coach in the NFL. It stunned me that a guy who has been a head coach for over five years pulled a move like this.

What happens now?

I don’t know. This feels like a good team, but they can’t beat other good teams. They sit at 6-3, as of today they still hold the sixth seed in the NFC, but now the old narratives about not being able to win a big game are still there. But here’s the thing about that--it’s not really a narrative if what’s being said is true. Maybe the Vikings aren’t a good team. Maybe they’re just an average team that’s better than the other average teams, and they can’t get over that hump. Maybe they are, though, and if they can stop shooting themselves in the foot they will get over that hump.

There are seven games left in the 2019 season. I would argue that to get a wildcard slot Minnesota will need to finish 11-5, which means they have to go 5-2 to close out the season. If they do that, they’re going to have to beat some of these good teams, on the road, in primetime, and that will help to change that particular narrative around this team. If they don’t, well, Winter Is Coming. And it will be a cold and dark one for fans of the Vikings. The only way we’ll know how it ends is to see how they play against Dallas, Seattle, Denver, the Chargers, and the three divisional opponents at home.

Thank you for listening to my TED Talk.