Welp, at least the first half looked pretty promising.
This was supposed to be the golden opportunity to smash the narratives that had been swirling around the Vikings and their quarterback for years in front of a national audience. And for the first 30 minutes, it looked like that might happen. The Vikings looked like the better team overall and took a lead into the locker room.
Then the wheels completely fell off.
Then it looked like we might have been in line for a second consecutive miraculous comeback.
Then the comeback was thwarted.
Then Vikings fans had that all-too-familiar feeling: the agony of losing a winnable game. The melancholy washed away the leftover adrenaline that comes with a contest that featured more abrupt changes in momentum than a octogenarian driving his old Cadillac with both feet. Monday night’s game between the Vikings and Seahawks was great entertainment ruined by a lousy ending.
But hey, at least Kirk Cousins looked—oh, all everyone wants to talk about is how he’s 0-8 on Monday Night Football and can’t win big games? Cool. Cool cool cool. So everything’s still Kirk’s fault somehow, but just for fun, let’s take a quick glimpse at some other factors that may have played into the loss.
For instance, the Vikings defense allowed 444 total yards to the Seahawks on Monday night, including a whopping 218 on the ground. It was the fourth time in the past seven games that an opponent has gained at least 400 total yards against them. Before that, Vikings opponents had reached 400 yards only five times in the previous 60 games. The defense has been the strong suit of the team since Mike Zimmer’s arrival in 2014. At the moment, it’s preventing this team from being a serious contender.
To be crystal-clear, the season is not “over” yet. The championship window hasn’t slammed shut in their faces. The Vikings are still 8-4 and in great shape to make the postseason. If you’re in the tournament, there’s always a chance. Yes, even if it currently appears that the chance is going to include having to win three road playoff games in a row. But until the Vikings can get out of their own way long enough to win important games like this, it’s extremely difficult to consider them in the same echelon as the teams ahead of them in the standings. They’re “good, maybe even very good, but not great” until they can prove otherwise.
Let’s take our weekly look back at the five biggest plays that kept the Vikings on the fringes of contention instead of the inner circle.
Much like the Golden Gophers football game two days prior, the Minnesota team made a defensive stop on the opening drive followed by a quick score to make it 7-0. A big end around to Stefon Diggs set up a short Dalvin Cook touchdown, and the Vikings were in business. The Seahawks counter-punched with a grinding drive that almost took up the remainder of the first quarter.
Play 1: Seahawks ball, 3rd & 3 at the Minnesota 20. First quarter, 1:30 remaining. (Shotgun) R.Wilson pass short middle to DK.Metcalf to MIN 1 for 19 yards (M.Hughes).
Seattle had already run eleven plays and chewed up over six and a half minutes of clock when they faced a crucial third down in Vikings territory. Holding Seattle to three points would have been a win for the Minnesota defense after such a long drive.
They didn’t win on this drive.
Russell Wilson found DK Metcalf after he had beaten Mike Hughes on a quick slant to set up first & goal on the 1. Two plays later, Chris Carson found the end zone to tie the game at 7-7.
A 19-yard slant that didn’t result in a score isn’t the type of play we usually feature in this space, but it was significant in how it foreshadowed the rest of the game. The Seahawks ran 20 more plays (75 to 55) and had the ball for almost 20 more minutes (39:45 to 20:15) on Monday night.
After a couple of punts, it was actually the Vikings who got the first friendly bounce of the game. Armon Watts swatted a Wilson pass and Wilson spiked the ball directly into the arms of Anthony Harris.
This is the exact type of thing that happens in favor of the Seahawks in close games; at the time, it felt like fortune may have been smiling on the Vikings. Seattle answered the pick six with a field goal, but the Vikings managed to move 46 yards in the final 58 seconds to set up a Dan Bailey field goal on the final play of the first half. It was 17-10 in favor of the Vikings at halftime, who would get the ball to start the third quarter.
Instead of scoring on their first drive after the break, the Vikings went three and out and had to challenge a fumble that would have cost them 20 yards of field position. Seattle took over looking to tie the game, and that’s just what they did thanks to our next play.
Play 2: Seahawks ball, 1st & 10 at the Minnesota 44. Third quarter, 11:05 remaining. G.Fant reported in as eligible. C.Carson left end to MIN 45 for -1 yards (X.Rhodes). PENALTY on MIN-X.Rhodes, Unnecessary Roughness, 15 yards, enforced at MIN 45.
Xavier Rhodes has been the object of ire for many a Vikings fan in 2019, and he did himself absolutely no favors to dispel that anger on Monday night in Seattle. After allowing a third down conversion to Metcalf on the previous play, Rhodes stepped up and had a tackle for loss on a Carson sweep to make up for it.
Until he drew an unnecessary roughness penalty for whipping Carson to the ground after they were out of bounds.
Instead of 2nd & 12 on the Minnesota 46, it was 1st & 10 on the Minnesota 30. It took Seattle only three plays to tie the game after the penalty.
Then things went from bad to worse for the Vikings.
Much, much worse.
Play 3: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Minnesota 22. Third quarter, 8:56 remaining. D.Cook up the middle to MIN 22 for no gain (R.Green). FUMBLES (R.Green), RECOVERED by SEA-B.McDougald at MIN 26. B.McDougald to MIN 26 for no gain (G.Bradbury). MIN-S.Diggs was injured during the play. MIN-D.Cook was injured during the play. His return is Questionable.
If you could bottle up the anxieties and insecurities of Vikings fans, shake that bottle, and then pour it out into a single play, this would be it.
On the very first play after the game-tying touchdown, Cook fumbled and Bradley McDougald recovered. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Cook was hurt on the play and didn’t return the rest of the game. As if THAT wasn’t bad enough, Stefon Diggs also got hurt on the play! All that was missing was our pets heads falling off. Luckily, Diggs returned and Cook claims he’s good to go for next Sunday. But in the moment, it was sheer horror. The Seahawks only managed a field goal, but it was their first lead of the game. It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the final 20-plus minutes of the game.
Because our old pal Xavier came into play again.
Play 4: Seahawks ball, 3rd & 5 on the Seattle 40. Third quarter, 0:13 remaining. R.Wilson pass deep left to D.Moore for 60 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
David Moore could play in the NFL for 30 more years and he won’t score an easier touchdown.
Rhodes apparently thought he had safety help over the top on that play, even though Harrison Smith was directly in front of him on the line of scrimmage and Anthony Harris was clear on the other side of the field. Judging from Rhodes’ sideline histrionics and teammates trying to calm him down, it would appear that Rhodes misunderstood his responsibilities on the play. That’s excusable for a rookie in a preseason game, but a former All-Pro in his seventh season simply cannot have that happen 13 weeks into the season.
With five seconds remaining in the third quarter, it was hard to imagine things getting much worse for the Vikings.
They got worse on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Play 5: Vikings ball, 2nd & 10 at the Minnesota 25. Fourth quarter, 15:00 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass short left intended for S.Diggs INTERCEPTED by T.Flowers at MIN 25. T.Flowers to MIN 25 for no gain (S.Diggs).
Sometimes as a Vikings fan, you don’t know whether to laugh, cry, sigh, or just turn the TV off. This was one of those moments.
You can’t put the interception on Cousins. Although it was in a tight window, it was right where it was supposed to be. You can be unhappy with Diggs for not hanging on after the ball hit his hands, but that would have been a tough catch to make. You can be unhappy with the referees for not calling a penalty because Tre Flowers might have arrived a bit early, but this was nothing compared to the multiple false starts and delays of game that weren’t called on Seattle throughout the game. Sometimes the defender just makes a great play, and that’s what Flowers did here.
Three plays later, Wilson found Rashaad Penny for a touchdown. Suddenly the Seahawks had scored 24 straight points and were doubling up the Vikings early in the fourth quarter.
To their credit, the Vikings didn’t just lay down and accept that it wasn’t their night. Cousins immediately found Laquon Treadwell for a 58-yard touchdown pass. (That lone reception equaled Treadwell’s career high for most yards in a single game.)
On the next Seattle drive, Rhodes redeemed himself a bit by forcing a Metcalf fumble. Eight plays and 72 yards later, Kyle Rudolph made the spectacular look routine with a one-handed touchdown grab. The Vikings were only down by four points with over seven minutes left. (It should have been three, but Bailey decided to do what Vikings kickers do best against Seattle—shank short kicks wide left.)
The Vikings forced a punt thanks to a big Ifeadi Odenigbo sack and the Vikings got the ball back with 3:27 remaining.
Extra play: Vikings ball, 4th & 3 at the Minnesota 42. Fourth quarter, 2:31 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass incomplete short left to I.Smith.
This game had so many big moments that I had to include six plays. After a quick first down to Rudolph, an incompletion, a seven yard dump pass to Alexander Mattison, and a tipped pass by K.J. Wright, the Vikings faced a crucial fourth down before the two-minute warning.
In what could be considered a metaphor for their division title chances in four weeks time, they just barely missed it.
As with the Flowers interception, you can probably nitpick the defense of Akeem King on Irv Smith Jr. a bit. But it wasn’t anything blatant and the pass fell incomplete.
The bigger concern might be the play call on such an important down. Clearing out Diggs up the right sideline when you only need three yards and don’t have Adam Thielen on the field was a curious decision. Jason Myers kicked his third field goal of the game with 21 seconds remaining and C.J. Ham fumbled the ensuing squib kick to extinguish any final hopes of a stunner in Seattle.
Again, the Vikings’ chances are far from dead and buried. But Monday’s tough loss took away any remaining margin for error they may have had for the final four games of the year. As always, we welcome you to vote in the poll to tell us which play you thought was the biggest and encourage you to suggest any we may have missed in the comments.
What was the most important play from the Vikings’ loss to the Seahawks?
This poll is closed
Pass to Metcalf to set up the TD for the 8-minute first quarter scoring drive
Rhodes’ unnecessary roughness penalty
Moore’s 60-yard TD on blown coverage
Tre Flowers interception
4th & 3 incompletion