The Minnesota Vikings had a three-game win streak snapped after a 30-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The good news: The Lions and Packers both lost, putting the Vikings in a good spot in the NFC North Division at the halfway point of the season. The Chicago Bears went from last in the division to leading it after Sunday’s results. Now, the Vikings face a crucial stretch with three straight division games before a road game at New England.
But first, there are some things to clean up after Sunday’s loss. It was both encouraging and disappointing, with Kirk Cousins moving the ball up and down the field. But turnovers gave the Saints 10 points, and a cleaner game on all fronts would’ve given the Vikings a much better chance at a victory.
Here are four takeaways from Sunday’s loss:
2 Vikings Turnovers Give Saints 10 Points
The Vikings were in good shape with a 13-10 lead late in the first half, driving the ball with the potential for a score before the end of the half. They also knew they were getting the ball to open the third quarter. Adam Thielen catches a pass, gets a first down, but then a rare fumble. The Saints pick it up and get a long return that sets up a touchdown before the end of the half. Consider the momentum changed.
Then down 201-3, Cousins was looking for Stefon Diggs. But Diggs stopped his route, Cousins anticipated he would still be running and it was intercepted for a touchdown. The Vikings could’ve been up two scores and attempting to pull away, but instead they played from behind for the entire second half. The margin is that thin to win in the NFL, especially when you’re facing Drew Brees.
Mike Zimmer’s Game Management
It’s easy to nitpick when you lose, but Mike Zimmer has often been questioned for his game management in certain situations. Sunday was no exception. After Thielen’s fumble that led to a touchdown, the Vikings still could’ve gotten a score before the end of the half with 30 seconds and two timeouts. But Zimmer opted to run the ball and let the clock run out. We’ve seen that movie before.
He also attempted an early challenge that failed on cost him a timeout. But maybe the most troubling was in the fourth quarter, down 30-13. Sure, the game looked basically over, but there was no sense of urgency among the offensive unit to at least try and make a game of it. There weren’t many throws to the sidelines, and there wasn’t a ton of hustle to get on the ball. It left something to be desired, especially when Zimmer and the Vikings stress playing until the clock hits zero.
Brees Throws For 120 Yards… And Wins
All the talk coming into the game was about attempting to contain Drew Brees, a lock for the hall of fame when he retires. But the Saints won in the most unusual of ways. They got a defensive touchdown, and Brees only completed 18 passes for 120 yards. That’s less than half of his season average. The Saints ran for 108 yards.
It was an all-around weird way for the Saints to win and Vikings to lose. It goes to show anything can happen, especially when you turn the ball over.
Vikings Offensive Line Struggles
Kirk Cousins managed to throw for 359 yards and two touchdowns. Both Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs got touchdowns and were over 100 yards receiving, but don’t let the numbers fool you. It was far from easy. The Vikings offensive line had all kinds of issues protecting Cousins, especially keeping Cameron Jordan away. He was pressured on about half his offensive snaps. He was sacked four times and nearly had a costly fumble because of pressure.
The Vikings were without injured Riley Reiff and Tom Compton, and not having Dalvin Cook didn’t help matters. But the offensive line didn’t do itself any favors, and the play must get better the rest of the season if they want any shot at the playoffs.
The Vikings now have a pivotal stretch in their next three games, all within the division. They host Detroit this week, travel to Chicago after their bye and host Green Bay on Nov. 25.Win those games, and you set yourself up to be a playoff contender the rest of the season.