What a frustrating Sunday for the Minnesota Vikings. Things started to look so promising after Casen Keenum had a career day in a 34-17 win over Tampa Bay two weeks ago.
We all know Keenum can’t keep up that type of play consistently, but the Vikings were delivered yet another gut punch in Sunday’s 14-7 loss to the Detroit Lions. Dalvin Cook is out for the season, yet the game was still there for the taking.
Turnovers and a few key missed plays ultimately led to Minnesota losing its first divisional game. But more importantly, the running game is now a huge question mark. And with that, the passing game will also be affected. The Vikings get the Bears and rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky next Monday night, but can they right the ship?
Here are four takeaways from Sunday’s loss.
Dalvin Cook Done For Season
All it took was one wrong cut for the Viking’s season to potentially go in the toilet, in a year where Minneapolis is hosting the Super Bowl. Dalvin Cook had done everything but break a long touchdown run. He had success up the middle against the Lions’ defense. He was catching passes out of the backfield. He was holding up with making blocks for Keenum in pass protection. But in the third quarter against the Lions, he suffered a non-contact left knee injury on a rushing attempt, fumbled as a result and the Vikings lost the ball. Detroit scored on the ensuing possession and took the air out of U.S. Bank Stadium.
The worst fears were confirmed Monday as an MRI showed Cook tore his ACL. He’s done for the season. Latavius Murray will get more carries, but he admitted he’s not 100 percent recovered from offseason ankle surgery. Jerick McKinnon could get snaps, but he also struggled on Sunday. Cook’s injury causes major changes to the run game, and it could affect Keenum’s ability to throw downfield. Defense’s had to respect Cook, but now they can attack in passing situations.
Defense Misses 4 Potential Turnovers
The Vikings’ defense certainly played well enough to come out with a victory, but there were a few plays left on the field that will make any defensive unit frustrated. Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr and Andrew Sendejo all missed potential interceptions. Rhodes and Barr could’ve had touchdowns if they make their interceptions. The Vikings also couldn’t get to a Matthew Stafford on a fumble that would’ve given them the ball deep in Detroit territory. The Lions punted, and the Vikings didn’t take advantage.
While as a whole, the Vikings defense had a good enough game for a win, they all said after they didn’t make enough plays. Get a couple of those turnovers, change the momentum of the game and the result is a completely different story.
Wildcat Play Fails Miserably
There are times when offensive play-calling can be creative, and there are times when it’s over-thought. That was the case when Jerick McKinnon entered the game and the Vikings took the wildcat formation. Before Cook got hurt, the Vikings were having success running the ball. Usually, you do the wildcat formation to try something different when things aren’t working, and to give a defense a different look and catch them off balance.
The only thing it did Sunday was give the Lions the ball back. McKinnon tried to fake handing the ball off, but we waited too long to take it back and fumbled. The bigger question is why even call the play when you’re having success running the ball? It was one of many self-inflicted wounds the Vikings had Sunday.
Social media was all over Vikings coach Mike Zimmer during the game after a sequence that allows one to question game and timeout management. The Vikings were facing a 4th and 1 from their own 40-yard line. They let the play clock wind down and took a timeout. Most thought they were using the timeout to engineer a play to go for it. Instead, they lined up and Keenum tried to draw Detroit offside for a first down. But the Lions weren’t fooled. The Vikings called another timeout and punted.
First off, if you’re going to take the original timeout in that situation, go for it. It’s one yard and if you don’t get it, your defense is playing well enough to hold the Lions. Second, if you’re going to try and draw them offside, take the delay of game penalty if you’re going to punt. If nothing else, it’s a good situation to learn from.
The problem now? Cook is done for the year, and the Vikings head to Chicago to play the Bears next Monday night. The Vikings rarely play well at Soldier Field, including getting dominated last year in a 20-10 loss on Halloween night. One bright side? The Vikings get Michael Floyd back from suspension to add another weapon to the pass game. But if they can’t run the ball and keep defenses honest, it may not matter.