Monday Impressions: Special Teams, Defense Doom Vikings

For the most part, Minnesota Vikings fans want their team to embrace one of two extremes: either tank or legitimately compete. At 4-6, something far worse may be confronting us. Indeed, we are in football purgatory, an in-between existence with no clear solution. Six games remain, so there is still time to drift toward either extreme. Let’s hope it ends up being the 10-6 option.

The Offense

  1. Quite often, Kirk Cousins gets the blame when the Vikings lose a big game. Quite often, Kirk Cousins deserves the blame when the Vikings lose a big game. Yesterday, Cousins was the main reason why the Vikings actually had a shot to win. He was 22/30 for 314 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, Cousins was poised throughout the night. Heck, there were even downs when he appeared agile. This loss isn’t on Cousins.
  2. Gary Kubiak is doing a better job of incorporating the tight ends, but there is still room for Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. to contribute more. Mike Zimmer wants a balanced, unpredictable offense. Tight ends are key here.
  3. Kubiak also needs to do a better job of rotating his running backs. Look, we get it: Dalvin Cook is the best back in the NFL, the one who gives Minnesota the best chance of winning. Nevertheless, Alexander Mattison is a talented back. Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone also have plenty to offer. Cook had 32 touches yesterday, bringing his four game post-bye total to 122 touches. It’s not sustainable.
  4. Justin Jefferson has been sensational this season, so it’s hard to be too hard on him. That being said, Jefferson’s drop on that crossing route was backbreaking.
  5. The offensive line had a rough game. Cook’s 115 yards hide the fact that it was tough to find room out there. We miss you, Ezra Cleveland.

The Defense

  1. Harrison Smith tried to do too much yesterday. He’s a phenomenal player, arguably the best safety of his generation. He should get consideration for the Hall of Fame, and his number may be retired by the Vikings. Against the Cowboys, though, Smith had a game to forget.
  2. Eric Kendricks should be in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. He won’t get it; it’ll go to a corner or a pass rusher. Nevertheless, Kendricks is as impactful as any defensive player in the NFL.
  3. We’re really high on Kris Boyd, but the missed opportunities yesterday were tough to overcome. The special teams penalties were bad, but the dropped game-sealing interception was worse. Part of what makes Boyd successful is his energetic, physical style. He needs to harness this energy and ensure he is under control. Boyd will be fine, folks.
  4. The defensive line had a quiet day. We desperately needed them to create issues for Andy Dalton, but Dallas’ beleaguered OL had a good day against Andre Patterson’s group.
  5. It’s hard not to wonder about what could have been. What would Sunday’s game have looked like if Michael Pierce, Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, etc. had played?

Special Teams

  1. The snaps from recently signed Andrew DePaola were crisp. Expect him to keep playing as they move Austin Cutting to the practice squad.
  2. The K.J. Osborn fumble on the opening punt return is yet another instance of the special teams struggling. Combined with the Boyd penalties, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Marwan Maalouf may be looking for a job sooner rather than later.

The special teams and defense are responsible for the Vikings’ loss. Cousins was excellent, repeatedly making great decisions and plays. Going forward, we need at least one of the defense or special teams to improve for the Vikings to have a shot.

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