The Minnesota Vikings started last Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers on the wrong footing… literally.
After the team “strongly recommended” players wear seven-stud cleats for better traction on the grass at Lambeau Field, many players went against the advice and stuck with their molded cleats that are better suited for turf.
The Vikings offensive stars weren’t the only players to not heed their coaches’ advice, however their mistakes were more evident with numerous drive-killing slipups in the team’s first-half demise and eventual 41-17 loss.
Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips, visibly frustrated in his Thursday press conference, did not mince his words, putting the players’ professionalism into question.
“We definitely have to take the conditions into account and we have to be professional about whatever the environment we’re playing in. The margin for error in this league is small. It was noticeable that it happened with us and it didn’t happen with them. It was something that was addressed,” Phillips said on January 5. “Guys got to understand the margin for error is so small. It can’t be like, ‘Oh, I’ll get it next time.’ You don’t know how many times you’re going to have that play to change a game or continue a drive. We have to be professional about it. Whether it’s technique at times — you cut off the wrong foot on any surface, you’re going to fall down. But it was noticeable. It has been addressed prior to the game and post-game. We’ve got to be better there.”
Vikings Slipups Led to Momentum Swing
The start to last week’s game at Lambeau Field saw wild swings of momentum from the onset.
Following a blocked punt that set the Vikings on the Packers’ 1-yard line, Justin Jefferson slipped on his route in the end zone, burning a down and eventually leading to Minnesota settling for a field goal.
Green Bay responded with a 105-yard kick return touchdown where Keisean Nixon scorched up the center of the field with little resistance.
On the next series, T.J. Hockenson fell while trying to get set up to catch a screen pass. Later in the quarter, both Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen slipped on a third down, prompting Kirk Cousins to scramble for a first down.
The Vikings offense didn’t see a second series until their fifth drive of the first quarter. A failed field-goal attempt led to a 14-play Packers scoring drive that extended their lead to 21-3.
The slipups and falling behind is what finally prompted the Vikings’ players to change their cleats midgame — a move that was too little, too late to Phillips.
“You do have to go out in pregame and make sure you’ve got it right before we go out there. You can’t make that decision afterwards,” he said. “We have to be better in that area.”
The Vikings didn’t lose because of the grass field or cleats. But for a 12-win team that has rarely imposed its will and instead ridden the momentum of games to the finish, a demoralizing start was too much to come back from.
Vikings Have More Grass Games in Their Future
Minnesota got its lesson learned in time for the postseason. The Vikings have another grass-field game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field this Sunday to close the regular season.
Their path to the Super Bowl could be on grass as well.
If Minnesota advances beyond the first round of the playoffs, a likely rematch with the New York Giants, the Vikings are bound to play the second-seeded San Francisco 49ers or the top seed Philadelphia Eagles in the following rounds.
Both teams play on real grass in outdoor stadiums.