The Vikings were unable to end their two-game losing streak on Sunday, falling short in overtime to the Detroit Lions by a score of 22-16. The loss drops the Vikings to 5-3 and improves the Lions mark to 5-4.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday's loss…
1. Win as a team, lose as a team
In their first five games, all of which they won, the Vikings played complementary football. Yes, the defense dominated games and often times paced the winning effort, but the offense was efficient and protected the ball and special was solid, particularly in helping to win the field position battle. The Vikings won as a team. In Sunday's loss to the Lions, the Vikings lost as a team. All three phases will have things to clean up from the effort, including red zone offense (two for five), defensive 3rd downs (Detroit was 50%) and the kicking game (missed field goal and point after touchdown). Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has stressed the importance of the team mentality for his entire Vikings tenure, and that hasn't changed even in the three-game losing streak. Expect that to remain his mantra as he and his players go back to the drawing board to try and end their losing streak next week in Washington.
2. Greenway stepped up, but Kendricks was missed
Veteran linebacker Chad Greenway played well, collecting six tackles and also gathering his 11th career interception when he was in the right spot at the right time as Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was hurried by defensive end Danielle Hunter and threw errantly. Greenway's interception set up the Vikings offense at the Detroit 19, but two penalties and a sack eventually pushed the Vikings out of field goal range and no points were scored off the turnover. Regardless of that, Greenway played well in his increased work load with starting middle linebacker Eric Kendricks inactive because of injury. Despite how well Greenway played, the Vikings defense missed its man in the middle. It's hard not to wonder if Theo Riddick's 42-yard run and Eric Ebron's big day (seven receptions for 92 yards on eight targets) would've been inhibited with Kendricks on the field.
3. Defense's late game gaffes hurt, but overall production was good
Allowing Detroit to move the ball 35 yards in four plays and 23 seconds and then giving up a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime were obviously significant in the loss, but the miscues involved in those series of events spoiled what was actually yet another solid day for the defense. Detroit's top weapon is Riddick, and he was held to 76 yards on 15 touches, including just one catch for six yards. Receiver Marvin Jones also had just one catch – his was for five yards. Stafford 63.9% of his passes, but for a per-attempt average of only 6.1 yards and he was intercepted once. With 23 seconds to go in the game, the Lions had 13 points and were losing. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Lions made the most of those final 23 seconds and then daggered the Vikings defense in overtime.
4. Diggs, fellow WRs showed up
Stefon Diggs is one of the Vikings best playmakers and the Vikings did everything they could to get him the ball. He was targeted 14 times on Sunday, hauling in 13 receptions for 80 yards. While his longest reception was 12 yards, he made several clutch catches and was a thorn in Detroit's side all game. Diggs also stepped in as the punt returner when Marcus Sherels left the game, totaling 29 return yards on three tries. Cordarrelle Patterson and Adam Thielen also had solid outings, combining for 10 catches and 113 yards. Thielen was especially productive on the game-tying drive, hauling in back-to-back passes of 29 and 17 yards and then adding a six-yard grab moments later. Patterson added three kickoff returns for 87 yards to his output.
5. Criticism, doubt will mount around the Vikings
With the way the Vikings lost on Sunday and with it being their third consecutive defeat, you can be sure the constant and effusive praise lofted toward the Vikings by the media and public during the five-game winning streak to start the season will be history. There is a "what have you done for me lately" climate in and around the NFL, and that will result in plenty of criticism and doubt in the minds of observers. In the past, Zimmer has been able to use that narrative to motivate his team and, more times than not, surprise and delight the fan base. It looks like an opportunity to do that again is on the horizon for the Vikings. The key for the team will be to continue adhering to their coach's mantra about keeping a team-first mindset and continuing to believe in one another. There should be little doubt that's exactly what will happen, and the Vikings need it to start happening as soon as this week because their next task is a road game against the Washington Redskins.