There were several contributors to the loss yesterday. In the time of instant blame, it’s easy to want to blame one thing. Was it Kirk Cousins or was it the defense? Maybe it was a little bit of both? Let’s have a little nuance and discuss the factors leading to the disappointing finish to a pretty good season.
The defense was bad yesterday. Overall, the tackling was ineffective. Both safeties looked lost out there on several plays. The team could not get off the field at all in the first half. There was very little pressure on Daniel Jones all day. Receivers were running wide open. The defense all year has been a bend, but not break defense. The last 6 weeks of the season they started to break. The turnovers weren’t there anymore, and they gave up a ton of points. The first 12 games of the season the defense gave up a mediocre 23.25 points per game. The last 6, they gave up 29.83. That TD per game is the difference between winning and losing.
The New York Giants Game Plan
There is the team on the other side of the field. Brian Daboll and company had a great game plan heading into the game. The team executed it perfectly too. They seemed to surprise the Vikings with the runs from Daniel Jones. The offense was innovative and exciting to watch. Their defense also seemed to surprise Kevin O’Connell. The Giants didn’t blitz as much as expected. They played coverage and knew the Vikings beat up OL wouldn’t be able to handle their front 4. The Giants got pressure on 49% of drop backs and didn’t have to bring extra pressure to do so.
Offensive Line Play
Speaking of the Vikings’ offensive line. Brian O’Neil was out and that hurt. Bradbury came back from injury and could not handle Dexter Lawrence. Bradbury is already undersized, and Lawrence is a beast. The offense didn’t do a good job scheming around the OL. I assume Kevin O’Connell thought the Giants would bring more pressure and the screens and quick passes would work better. They didn’t need to bring pressure because of how poor the OL played.
The coaches were out coached on both sides of the ball. They didn’t react well enough to what happened in the first half. There seemed to be a lack of creativity on offense. I think that lack of creativity goes back the last two months of the season. When it happens, it works well. There was a red zone play where JJ lined up in the backfield and Cook lined up at WR. It confused the defense and created a TD. The team needs more of that. Not the passes to Kirk, but more of the getting the best players in unique positions and causing confusion for the other team.
Prime Time Kirk?
Everything listed above far exceeds Kirk for the reason the team lost. However, that last play is inexcusable. I see that there was pressure in Kirk’s face. I get it, it wasn’t a good spot to be in. 4th and 8 always sucks. There wasn’t an option that was clearly correct. However, the 3-yard pass to a covered TE can’t be the one you choose. He had enough time to throw it up to Thielen or Osborn who were single covered. Sometimes you need your QB to make a play. Kirk has done it time and time again this season. However, to end the season like that is something that should never happen. I don’t mind the play call because if TJ or Cook are uncovered, they could be options. Having them covered opens some room in the secondary. Osborn came open as Kirk was throwing it to Hockenson. Kirk had no way of knowing he’d be open, but he just needs to throw it into coverage there. Give the receivers a chance to make a play. Hockenson had no room to even make a move on his defender and try to break that tackle.
Reiterating that the Vikings lost b/c of their defense. NOT this play. But here is a wider view of what Kirk Cousins saw on 4th down. Dexter Lawrence bearing down on him. Jefferson doubled. Thielen working deep out. Osborn is about to pop open when Cousins decides. pic.twitter.com/z6vppEnagO— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) January 16, 2023