Good morning kids, how are we feeling this morning? I have to tell you, after last week’s great win to open the season, yesterday’s Letdown At Lambeau wiped out a lot of the feel good vibes we had up until about noon or so. I fully expected the Vikings to win that game, so color me gobsmacked at how the afternoon unfolded.
Yesterday started out as the almost polar opposite of last week. Against the Falcons, the Vikings were up 21-0 before we could say Hub Mead. Yesterday, they were down 21-0 before former Vikings great Brett Favre was able to escort Bart Starr’s widow to her seat.
Last week, the Vikings played complementary football about as well as ever in the Mike Zimmer era. Yesterday, it was about as poor a start as you could imagine, for both the offense and the defense. The Packers took the opening drive and worked the Vikings throwback Les Frazier defense like a two dollar hooker, going 75 yards in four plays for a touchdown, 68 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown, and then four plays for 33 yards and a touchdown after a turnover. Before 16 minutes of gameplay had elapsed, Minnesota had dug themselves a 21 point hole they couldn’t crawl out of. Yes, the defense stiffened and didn’t allow any more points, but too much damage had already been done.
The offense didn’t help much at all, either. Their opening drive ended in a missed field goal, and their second drive was a lost fumble that set the Packers up on a short field. After they had closed the gap to 21-16, the offense had three legit opportunities to take the lead, and their last four meaningful drives in the game went punt, punt, interception, punt.
Last week, we said that the Vikings run/pass split disparity would even out, and at some point they would need to pass the ball to score points and win a game. That point came yesterday, and the Vikings failed miserably. QB Kirk Cousins had, arguably, his worst day as the Vikings signal caller, putting up a statline that was right out of 1966—14/32 passing, 230 yards, 1 TD, and 2 interceptions. He also fumbled twice, losing one, and once again, all the talk about his penchant for a turnover and inability to play well in a big game have come to the forefront. Last week, the Vikings were 3/3 scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Yesterday, they struggled mightily, going 0/2, and the Cousins interception was a brutal backbreaker. However, it’s not like Cousins struggling in the red zone is an anomaly:
Pro Football Focus offered this as context for Cousins’ INT on 1st-&-goal from 8: “From the opponents’ 10-yard line and in, Cousins ranks 27th out of 27 qualifying QBs in passer rating (76.5) since 2017, completing 44.6 percent of his passes w/ lowest yards per attempt avg (1.6)— Jim Trotter (@JimTrotter_NFL) September 16, 2019
I understand the frustration out there, but if you’re calling for Cousins to be benched, traded, or cut, well...it’s just not going to happen. The Vikings have 30 more games with him as the quarterback, barring an extension, and the guaranteed contract is too cap prohibitive to trade or cut him. It’s simply not happening. So you can gripe and complain all you want, but he is our quarterback, for better or for worse. So I’m going to choose to support him and hope for the best, because there really aren’t any other options.
I’d also like to play out your ‘get rid of Cousins’ scenarios out there. Who would you have quarterbacking the team, Sean Mannion? He seemed to be more disliked than Cousins in the pre-season, if we’re being honest. The Vikings don’t have enough cap space to go out and sign or trade for a QB, and even if they did, he wouldn’t be ready to play for at least a week or two. One last thing about this before we move along. After the 2017 season, if you wouldn’t have signed Cousins, what would you have done? Kept Teddy Bridgewater, who has looked like ass in New Orleans? Kept Case Keenum, who is on his second team in two years? How about Sam Bradford, who has taken his one good knee and is out of football? Kyle Sloter, who couldn’t beat out Trevor Siemian twice, or Sean Mannion once? Whatever your answer is, the best option, from a pure talent perspective back then, was and still is Kirk Cousins. Yes, Cousins has played some extremely underwhelming football, but he’s also made some throws that not one of those other guys could make, save for maybe a healthy Bradford.
This isn’t all on Cousins, though. The Vikings didn’t help themselves with over 100 yards in penalties again, either. Although the Stefon Diggs touchdown right before halftime that was overturned on a review was utter horseshit, the Vikes killed themselves with stupid penalties all day. On the Diggs TD that did stand, as he ran out of the end zone Diggs took off his helmet like it was the Minneapolis Miracle, got called for a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty, and Bailey’s 48 yard extra point attempt was blocked.
In the third quarter, the Vikings had something going on offense. Cousins hit Thielen for a 30 yard gain, and on a 2nd and 11 from the Green Bay 41, he found Thielen again for nine yards, setting up a very manageable third and two from the Packers 32. But Garrett Bradbury was called for holding, the Vikings couldn’t convert from 2nd and 21, and they had to punt.
Just stupid and undisciplined to the point I thought Mike Tice had talked to the team at some point during the week.
Look, I still think this is a good football team, but their weaknesses were laid bare against the Packers yesterday. They can’t fall behind by that much that early and expect to win by losing the turnover battle, not converting in the red zone, and committing that many penalties. Still, even with all that, and some crappy and questionable calls going against them, they crawled back and had an opportunity to win.
If there’s another silver lining to yesterday, it’s that the Falcons won a big game and looked much better against the Eagles, so maybe that was more of a quality win than we thought as we move forward. This coming week, the Vikings have the Oak Vegas Raiders at home, and if they can get back to playing smart, complementary football, they’ll get to 2-1 and things will look better this time next week.
Thank you for listening to my TED Talk.