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Kevin O’Connell’s Overtime Blunder Against the Bengals Was Inexcusable

O’Connell’s decision to double down on a failed play ended up costing the Vikings the game.

We are now over a day removed from the Minnesota Vikings 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and I still can’t get over those two playcalls. Most of you already know what I’m referring to, but Kevin O’Connell’s decision to have Brandon Powell try to piledrive Nick Mullens forward on a tush push play was mind-numbingly stupid.

Let me be clear, this is not Brandon Powell’s fault and I’m not going to blame him for any of this. Although he failed to execute on those two plays, this was a result that O’Connell should’ve seen coming a mile away. Brandon Powell is good at a lot of things. He’s a solid route runner with quickness who has done a fine job as a punt returner. You wanna know what he isn’t good at? Getting down in the trenches and trying to move a guy forward in short yardage situations.

The Vikings could’ve had C.J. Ham, T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, or literally anyone else try and drive Nick Mullens forward and it would’ve been more effective. Instead, Kevin O’Connell outsmarted himself by having a 5’8”, 181 pound wide receiver try and fail to move Nick Mullens who is taller and weighs more than Powell. I’m usually a Kevin O’Connell defender, but after the Vikings were stopped short on third down I was drunkenly and belligerently screaming at the TV:

“WHAT THE F*** WAS THAT?! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!?!”

I took a couple of deep breaths and gathered my composure. I told myself: “It’s fourth and inches, we’ll probably convert here.” As idiotic as that last play call was, I had faith that Kevin O’Connell would recognize his mistake and try something else. Hell, I was willing to give him a pass for calling that play because I know how difficult it can be for an offensive-minded coach to come up with creative and innovative plays. I like to think that for every three awesome plays that KOC dials up, there’s naturally going to be one dud. It’s all part of the growing pains fans should expect when the team hires such a young and relatively inexperienced head coach.

After watching his new iteration of the tush push fail the first time, Kevin O’Connell’s genius plan was to make absolutely zero changes and run the same exact play again on fourth and inches. It’s one thing to come up with a bad play call, but for O’Connell to double down on his own stupidity in that moment is simply indefensible. I would bet $100 that the Vikings would’ve won had they taken a timeout and talked things over on fourth and inches. Instead, they let one slip away in Cincy.

During the post-game presser, Kevin O’Connell explained his thought process behind those playcalls and why he didn’t call a timeout after the first attempt failed. O’Connell said that he was trying to use 11 personnel to force the Bengals out of a goal line formation on third down. Even when that didn’t work, he still had faith that Brandon Powell would execute the second time around and didn’t seem to regret his decision. He also clarified that he was going to call a timeout before the second attempt to try and give the officials time to review the play, but was told by the officiating crew that they already reviewed the spot.

I still feel like Kevin O’Connell should’ve called a timeout anyways to talk things over, and his blind faith in Brandon Powell’s ability to push the pile forward after failing the first time ended up costing the Vikings this game. You can point at Nick Mullens’ turnovers or Brian Flores’ defense for not getting stops on third down, but having a head coach continually make boneheaded mistakes in critical moments is a sign of coaching ineptitude. While I still have faith in Kevin O’Connell’s play calling and leadership ability, there’s no denying that his in-game management has been atrocious and that could rear its ugly head again in the future.