For three quarters of Sunday's game at Lambeau Field, the Vikings defense dominated and held Green Bay's offense scoreless. Unfortunately, Green Bay's sharp execution in the 1st quarter and missed opportunities by the Vikings offense throughout the game proved too much to overcome as the Packers came away with a 21-16 victory.
Here are five observations from Sunday's loss in Green Bay.
1. A win was there for the taking, but missed opportunities spoiled a comeback
Green Bay started fast, but the Vikings refused to give up. Over the final three quarters of the game, the Vikings began whittling away at the 21-point deficit in which they found themselves after the first 16 minutes of action. In a game they lost by five points, several mistakes seemed particularly costly. A missed field goal and blocked extra point accounted for four potential points that never reached the scoreboard. A Stefon Diggs touchdown was negated by an offensive pass interference call. And then a Kirk Cousins interception in the end zone near the end of the game was the backbreaker. If any combination or perhaps even just one of these events go the Vikings way, Sunday's outcome may have been dramatically altered.
2. Vikings defense responded with tenacity
Head coach Mike Zimmer comments often about wanting to see his team fight through adversity. He certainly saw that on Sunday at Lambeau Field. The Vikings were down 21-0 after Green Bay's first three possessions. From that point on, though, the Vikings defense was dominant. Green Bay's final 11 possessions ended like this: fumble, punt, punt, downs, punt, fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt. In that span, Green Bay was just two of 12 on 3rd downs and they had six drives of four plays or fewer. The tape of this game will provide Zimmer and the defensive staff with plenty of teaching material – both constructive criticism and a model of how things should be done.
3. The Vikings can run the ball
The Vikings worked hard this offseason, training camp and preseason on becoming a better rushing offense. That work is paying off. The Vikings led the League in rushing during the preseason and through two games in the regular season the Vikings have rushed 65 times for 370 yards (5.7 per attempt) and four touchdowns. Dalvin Cook has a pair of 100-yard rushing games and on Sunday he had a dazzling 75-yard scoring run that helped spark the team's effort over the final three quarters.
4. Too many penalties, including four offensive pass interference infractions combined
The NFL made pass interference calls and non-calls reviewable in 2019, and an ugly byproduct of that decision surfaced in Sunday's game when a three-yard touchdown catch by Diggs was nullified after officials reviewed the score and determined Dalvin Cook was blocking downfield while the ball was in the air. The penalty was not called during the play and was instead called and enforced upon review of the score. The Vikings were penalized eight times for 100 yards, with another costly one being an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Diggs after his 45-yard touchdown reception in the 3rd quarter. That increased the extra point try by 15 yards, and then Green Bay blocked Dan Bailey's attempt.
5. 2019 Vikings makeup: Compete, Run Defend
At the end of the day, the Vikings took a loss on Sunday and their record fell to 1-1. There are no moral victories in this League and if their season falls short of reaching the playoffs then the Vikings will look back at their Week 2 loss as a missed opportunity. With that being said, even in a loss this week the Vikings doubled down on what they showed in Week 1…they are a team with great competitive integrity anchored by an elite defense and benefiting from an improved rushing attack. This is the type of team we've heard Zimmer say he wants, and this is the type of team Zimmer has in 2019.