Entering Week 14 as betting underdogs to the Detroit Lions, The Minnesota Vikings‘ legitimacy of being a playoff team was questioned all week
On Sunday in Detroit, they were not.
The Vikings hemorrhaged 464 yards of offense to the Lions, allowing Detroit to score on five of their six final possessions — the other being a missed field goal attempt — in a 34-23 loss to the on December 11. Minnesota allowing 400 or more yards for a fifth consecutive game is the longest streak in franchise history.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell, often even-keeled and acknowledging of the positives and negatives of a game, did not sugarcoat the loss at the press podium after the game.
Kevin O’Connell: Vikings Did Not Put Forth a ‘Playoff-Worthy’ Performance
The Vikings have seldom gotten ahead of themselves in speaking on their ambitions to contend. The coachspeak and player messages every week have maintained an immediate focus on the next opponent.
But with a chance to lock up the NFC North division title for the first time since 2017, the Vikings fell flat on Sunday.
O’Connell, acknowledging his team is a win away from clinching a spot in the playoffs, was brutally honest about the team that showed up on Sunday falling short of that image.
If we want to earn the right to punch our ticket into the playoffs we sure better have a playoff-worthy type performance, which I did not think overall as a football team we did today,” O’Connell said in his postgame press conference, adding that he bears blame along with the rest of the coaching staff. “That’s ultimately something that falls on me and I can do a lot of things better — myself, our coaching staff — and then we’ll just go back to work and clean up some of the execution and be ready to be at our best.”
Vikings Offense Dug Itself Another Early Hole
A depleted defense was the bane of the Vikings’ success on Sunday, however, the offense’s failure to launch was again a concern for a team that has needed to play complementary football to have success this season.
Just one of six drives in the first half resulted in points, a 10-play 64-yard drive capped by a 1-yard run by Dalvin Cook in the first quarter that tied the game through the first 12 minutes. Squandering their next two drives and allowing Detroit to take a 14-7 lead, the offense had its answer zapped by a Cook fumble on the Lions’ 3-yard line in the waning minutes of the half.
A three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half put Detroit in a position to chew up over seven minutes on the clock with a 10-play, 76-yard drive touchdown drive that put the Lions ahead by 14 points.
The Vikings offense, stricken by the third quarter again, had a lull coming out of the intermission but made things interesting. Kirk Cousins threw for over 400 receiving yards for just the seventh time in his career, while Justin Jefferson set the franchise record for receiving yards, racing up 223 yards through the air.
But all to no avail.
Detroit effectively played keep away from Cousins and Co., scoring on all four of their final drives and dominating time of possession 20:07 to the Vikings’ 9:53 in the second half.
The Vikings defense broke and couldn’t force any turnovers for the third time this season. Meanwhile, Cook’s fumble proved costly after it zapped the unit’s confidence in the midgame.
“When I look at it there were some positive performances from some individual players and some things that gave us a chance to be in the football game but just across the board not enough,” O’Connell said.