The Vikings finished 2021 with an 8-9 mark that ushered in an offseason of change after the team missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
The Vikings and other teams played a 17-game season for the first time in team history, and Minnesota had a knack for making things closer than they needed to be and keeping them closer against favored teams.
A whopping 14 games were decided by one score, including 12 in a row from Week 4 through Week 16. The first two weeks — a 27-24 loss at Cincinnati in overtime and a 34-33 loss on the game's final play at Arizona — provided quite a bit of foreshadowing.
Here's a look at 21 "big numbers" for the team and players from the 2021 season.
425 to 426
Positive: The Vikings finished with 425 points for, the fourth-most in a season in team history.
Negative: The Vikings finished with 426 points against, the sixth-most in team history.
The point differential of minus-1 was the skinniest margin since the 1987 team finished plus-1 before going on its magical postseason run.
View the best defensive end photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.
The Vikings defense recorded 51 sacks, which ranked second behind Pittsburgh's 55 and tied for the second-most in team history. The mark equaled the 1992 squad but didn't challenge the whopping 71 by the 1989 Vikings, which ranks second in NFL history (since sacks became an official stat in 1982).
Since 1982, there have been 101 instances of an NFL team recording at least 51 sacks in a season.
The Vikings offense allowed 30 sacks, the fifth-fewest in the NFL in 2021.
Since 1982, there have been 343 instances of an NFL team allowing 30 or fewer sacks in a season, including six times by Minnesota.
View the best offensive line photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.
The Vikings finished plus-11 in turnover margin for the fifth-best showing in 2021. They recorded 24 takeaways (16 interceptions and 8 fumble recoveries) and committed 13 giveaways (7 interceptions and 6 fumbles lost). Minnesota suffered from 23 giveaways in 2020 when if finished minus-1 in turnover margin.
Individual Players' Numbers
33 and 7
Kirk Cousins threw 33 touchdown passes against 7 interceptions. If that combo sounds familiar, it might be because it matched Brett Favre's 2009 totals in both categories for the Vikings.
Cousins and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (37 and 4) were the only two quarterbacks in the NFL this season with more than 30 touchdown passes and fewer than 10 interceptions.
Cousins compiled a passer rating of 103.1, which ranked fourth in the NFL this season behind Rodgers (111.9), Joe Burrow (108.3) and Dak Prescott (104.2). Although it was Cousins' third consecutive season with a passer rating above 100, his quarterback rating (devised by ESPN to account for factors beyond completion percentage, yardage, touchdowns and interceptions) was calculated at 52.4, which ranked 14th. Rodgers led the NFL in QBR with a 69.3.
View the best quarterback photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.
Justin Jefferson finished his second pro season with 1,616 yards. That fell just shy of Randy Moss' franchise record 1,632 in 2003. It ranked second in the NFL and made him the first player in NFL history to post more than 3,000 receiving yards in his first two seasons.
Jefferson recorded 27 catches that gained 20 or more yards for the second-most by a Viking in one season. Moss set the mark with 28 deep completions in 2003.
Jefferson totaled 108 receptions, upping his rookie total by 20 catches. That 2021 tally ranks fifth in team history behind Cris Carter (122 in 1994 and 1995), Adam Thielen (113 in 2018) and Moss (111 in 2003).
3 with 650-plus
Jefferson, Thielen (726) and K.J. Osborn (655) became the first Vikings trio of receivers to record at least 650 yards apiece since 2004 when Nate Burleson (1,006), Moss (767) and Marcus Robinson (657) hit the marks.
10 and 10
Thielen and Jefferson each finished the season with 10 touchdowns, becoming just the second Vikings receiving duo in team history to reach double digits in the same season. Carter and Moss did so in 1998 and 1999, so Thielen and Jefferson have a chance to match the Hall of Famers in 2022.
Thielen's 10 in just 13 games followed his career-best 14 in 2020. He joined Carter and Moss as the only receivers in franchise history to have back-to-back seasons with 10-plus touchdowns.
0 to 655
Osborn's jump from a rookie season in which he didn't play an offensive snap to recording 655 yards marked the biggest differential for a Vikings player from his first season to his second. It topped a difference of 597 by Jim Lash from 1973-74. Burleson was next with a net change of 551 from 2003-04.
Rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette recorded 103 yards in Week 18 against Chicago, becoming just the fourth Vikings player to have more than 100 receiving yards in his first career start. The others were Jefferson (175 in Week 3 of 2020), James Brim (144 in Week 3 of 1987) and Stefon Diggs (129 in Week 6 of 2015).
Tyler Conklin became the fifth different Vikings tight end to post at least 60 receptions in one season. Thrust into a major role, Conklin nearly doubled his 32 total receptions in his first three seasons (2018-20).
Dalvin Cook led the NFC with 1,159 rushing yards, which ranked fifth in the NFL and gave him three consecutive seasons with at least 1,100 yards on the ground. That's the second-longest run of such seasons in franchise history, behind four by Adrian Peterson (2007-10).
1,300-plus X 3
Cook totaled 1,383 yards from scrimmage to become the only player with at least 1,300 scrimmage yards in each of the past three seasons.
Right tackle Brian O'Neill, who was recently named to his first Pro Bowl, and left guard Ezra Cleveland played all 1,141 offensive snaps.
5 with 5.0-plus
For the first time in team history, the Vikings had five different players record at least 5.0 sacks apiece. D.J. Wonnum finished atop the leaderboard with 8.0 thanks to his 5.0 in two games against Chicago, a Vikings single-season record against the Bears.
Danielle Hunter finished second with 6.0, despite only playing in seven games. Everson Griffen (nine games), Eric Kendricks (15 games) and Armon Watts (17 games) each added 5.0.
140, 5.0 and 2
Kendricks recorded career highs in tackles (143) and sacks, and he nabbed two interceptions. He became just the fifth NFL linebacker since 2000 with at least 140 tackles, 5.0 sacks and two picks in a season.
The other four players with that combination are Keith Bulluck (2004), Lavonte David (2013), NaVorro Bowman (2013) and Darius Leonard (2018).
33 and 7 again?
Cousins' TD-INT numbers weren't the only instance of a player combining with 33 and 7 in two stat categories. Kicker Greg Joseph totaled 33 made field goals and 7 from 50-plus yards.
The 33 makes ranked fifth in the NFL in 2021 and were the fifth-most in a season by a Vikings kicker. The seven from 50-plus trail only the 10 netted by Blair Walsh in 2012 on the franchise leaderboard.
2 in 5
Kene Nwangwu became the fastest player in NFL history (stat tracked since 1970) to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in his first five games. Nwangwu topped the mark of six games by Jerome Mathis (with Houston in 2005) and Brandon Tate (with New England from 2009-10).
Former Vikings rookies Cordarrelle Patterson and Percy Harvin are the only other Vikings to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in their rookie seasons (both in their first seven games).