Not again. This isn’t really happening, is it? The Minnesota Vikings lost 26-20 Sunday to the Washington Redskins.
Their bye week, now more than a month ago, couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Vikings were 5-0 and had all the momentum. They’ve now lost four straight games since and with Sunday’s loss, no longer have the top spot in the NFC North Division. The Lions got it without playing, with the Vikings and Packers both losing.
The Vikings are beat up with injuries, they have one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL and their defense is struggling after a dominant start. And then there is Blair Walsh, who continues to be a hot mess kicking.
Here are four takeaways from Sunday’s loss as the Vikings face a daunting stretch of three games in 12 days.
Vikings Run Game Non-Existent
The Vikings run game has gone from embarrassing to non-existent, not even a threat. The Vikings ran for just 47 yards on 21 total carries against the Redskins. That’s a little more than 2.2 yards per carry. For the season, the Vikings have the second-worst rushing offense in the NFL at 69.8 yards per game. Only the New York Giants are worse. The Vikings have had several third downs and even a few fourth downs this year where they’ve only needed a yard, but couldn’t get it. Defenses know they can’t run, and are going after Sam Bradford in the passing game as a result.
The run game has been terrible, yet they insist on running the ball right up the middle into the teeth of a defense. It doesn’t work, and it rarely has all season. That’s largely because the offensive line is losing the battle up front, and running backs don’t have anywhere to go. Something needs to change in the run game if there’s any hope to make the playoffs.
Offensive Line Dealt Another Blow With Jake Long
The offensive line hasn’t played well most of the year, but they’ve had to deal with several injuries. First Phil Loadholt, then John Sullivan and Matt Kalil. That’s three starting offensive linemen who didn’t play a snap this year for the Vikings. T.J. Clemmings has struggled all season, and the Vikings hoped signing Jake Long would at least give them some depth.
Long is now likely out for the rest of the season after suffering a left Achilles injury in the final series of Sunday’s loss. He’s previously had two major knee injuries, so his NFL career could be over. The linemen healthy enough to play include Clemmings, Joe Berger, Brandon Fusco, Jeremiah Sirles, Alex Boone, Nick Easton and Willie Beavers. There isn’t a lot there after their five starters. The bottom line is they need to play better for the Vikings to have a chance. Between not having enough healthy bodies and not having enough skilled players, that may not be realistic.
Huge Homecoming For Stefon Diggs
Stefon Diggs would rather get the victory, but he was about the only major bright spot in Sunday’s loss along with the play of Sam Bradford. Diggs had a big homecoming. He’s a Washington, D.C., native who played at Maryland and on Sunday, he had a career-high 13 catches for 164 yards. About the only thing Diggs didn’t do was get into the end zone.
That’s two big weeks in a row for Diggs, who had 13 catches for 80 yards in the loss to the Lions. For the season, Diggs has 61 catches for 710 yards and two scores. He has clearly emerged as Bradford’s top target.
Blair Walsh… Again
Blair Walsh tried to motivate himself by getting angry at the fact that Mike Zimmer brought in six kickers for workouts in the week leading up to the Redskins game. Maybe it was purely a motivational ploy, but it didn’t exactly work. Walsh never got the chance to try a field goal and did make two extra points on Sunday, but missed the third.
The Vikings took a 20-14 lead at the half, capitalizing on a Redskins’ fumble. But Walsh missed the extra point, and it seemed to deflate the Vikings. They didn’t score in the second half, and on Monday Zimmer wouldn’t commit to Walsh staying on as kicker. Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman spoke Monday, and Walsh was released Tuesday.
The Cardinals are up next Sunday, then have consecutive Thursday games against the Lions on Thanksgiving and the Cowboys on Thursday Night Football. That’s three games in 12 days, good luck.