The Vikings were unable to complete their sweep of the AFC South, losing 34-6 to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Colts took control early and never let up, running away with a win and dropping the Vikings record to 7-7 with two games to play in the regular season. Here are five observations from Sunday's loss to the Colts.
View game action images from the Vikings-Colts game at U.S. Banks Stadium.
1. Colts started fast, Vikings did not
In all phases of the game but particularly on offense, the Colts were out of the gates quickly while the Vikings couldn't get anything going. Indianapolis began the game with an 11-play, 46-yard field goal drive. The Vikings went three-and-out. The Colts scored a touchdown to cap their second drive. The Vikings picked up one 1st down and then had to punt again. In the first half, the Colts ran 47 plays and netted 281 yards and 21 1st downs. The Vikings ran 13 plays and netted 69 yards and two 1st downs. The lopsided statistics resulted in a lopsided score at halftime, as the Colts built a 27-0 lead and then turned the Vikings over on the first drive of the second half to put the game out of reach.
2. Self-inflicted wounds exacerbated Vikings slow start
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has emphasized recently that his team needs to eliminate self-inflicted mistakes, but his team wasn't able to do so on Sunday. There were three early mistakes that proved most costly and aided the Colts as they built up a lead that proved to be insurmountable. The Vikings defense permitted Indianapolis to drive down to the 3-yard line, but then bowed up for a goal line stand to force a field goal try. On the field goal, though, DT Linval Joseph was flagged for a leverage penalty. The result was a fresh set of downs for the Colts and they took advantage with a one-yard Robert Turbin plunge two plays later. Rather than being down 10-0, the Vikings self-inflicted wound created a 14-point deficit. In the 2nd quarter trailing 17-0, the Vikings had a promising drive going after a 40-yard Cordarrelle Patterson kickoff return and a 15-yard personal foul penalty against the Colts. Kyle Rudolph hauled in a 28-yard reception on the first play, moving the Vikings to the Colts 22 in the blink of an eye. On the next play, Adrian Peterson, playing for the first time since a knee injury knocked him out of Week 2, sprinted 13 yards up the middle and was encountered by several defenders. He used extra effort to gain more yardage, but fumbled the ball in doing so. The Colts jumped on the fumble and the offense cashed in via a 13-play, 91-yard drive that resulted in another touchdown and a 24-0 lead. Sam Bradford threw an interception on the first play of the ensuing drive and the Colts kicked a field goal to go up 27-0 as time expired in the first half.
3. Run defense didn't allow Vikings pass rush opportunities
Zimmer was asked after the game why his defense wasn't able to pressure and pester Andrew Luck the way it had been able to fluster other quarterbacks this season. Zimmer cited poor run defense as the reason, saying the Colts weren't in many pass-predictable situations, which is when a pass rush is at its best. The Colts averaged 4.0 yards per carry, with lead back Frank Gore churning out 101 yards on 26 carries. The productive ground game put the Colts offense in favorable 3rd downs the vast majority of the time, as Luck encountered to-go distances of longer than six yards on 3rd down only five times in 13 attempts. The Colts converted 54% of their 3rd downs and Luck finished the game going 21 of 28 for 250 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions, no sacks and a passer rating of 126.5.
4. Adrian Peterson's return did not spark offensive production
The return of Adrian Peterson to the lineup provided a boost to the home crowd, as he was introduced last during starting lineups. The same impact was not seen in offensive production, though. Peterson rushed six times for 22 yards and had a long run of 13 yards, which was also the run on which he lost his fumble. The Vikings ran for only 17 yards in the first half and had no drives of more than four plays or 41 yards. The Vikings finished the game with 34 rushing yards on nine carries and Peterson had just two carries in the second half.
View behind-the-scenes pregames images and images of fans braving the cold before the Vikings-Colts game on Sunday.
5. Vikings playoff hopes took a significant hit
A path to the postseason existed for the Vikings entering Week 15. The most likely paths included the Vikings winning their final three games and getting some help from fellow NFC foes. A path to the postseason does still exist, but the Vikings loss on Sunday makes that path much more complicated and unlikely. The details of that path won't be known until Week 15 action concludes, particularly with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing on Sunday Night Football and the Washington Redskins playing on Monday night