The Vikings battled but came up short on Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium, dropping a 30-20 decision to the New Orleans Saints fall to 4-3-1. Here are five observations from the loss.
1. Defense bowed up without Barr, Rhodes
The high-flying Saints offensive attack had the advantage of taking on a Vikings defense without starters Anthony Barr, Andrew Sendejo and Xavier Rhodes. But the rest of the Vikings starters along with those charged with replacing the injured starters, bowed up and battled Drew Brees and Co. The Saints finished with fewer yards (270), 1st downs (17) and per-play average (5.1 yards) than did the Vikings. Also, only two of the Saints six scoring drives went for more than 35 yards, largely because the Vikings were able to prevent the big play with the exception of an early 44-yard reception from Taysom Hill to Michael Thomas. In the end, the Saints offense made enough plays to build and sustain a lead, but the Vikings defense held up well considering the caliber of opponent and the injuries with which they dealt.
2. Turnovers tipped the scale
As the 4th quarter began, the Vikings held the edge in net yards, 1st downs, passing yards, rushing yards and time of possession. The category they didn't lead? Turnovers. The Vikings had two giveaways and the Saints made them pay, scoring touchdowns off of each one, including a 45-yard return for a touchdown by PJ Williams. The turnovers marred what was an otherwise well-balanced and productive offensive attack for the Vikings.
3. Game changer: Fumble late in the first half
Perhaps the biggest turnover was also the game's biggest moment. The Vikings held a 13-10 lead with 1:11 to go in the first half and they had the ball 1st and 10 from the New Orleans 18; they also were set to open the second half with the ball. At that point, the Vikings were angling for a 10-point lead at halftime plus possession to open the 3rd quarter. Instead, Adam Thielen lost a fumble and New Orleans returned it to the Minnesota 33 and a 15-yard penalty against Laquon Treadwell moved the ball to the 18. A few moments later, the Saints scored on an Alvin Kamara touchdown and they took a 17-13 lead into the locker room at halftime. That sequence of events changed the trajectory of the game, taking the advantage away from the Vikings and putting it squarely in the Saints corner.
4. Diggs, Thielen dominate
The Vikings came out on the wrong end of the outcome, but it wasn't for lack of effort or production from their star wide receivers. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen each surpassed the 100-yard mark, with Diggs hauling in nine receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown and Thielen gaining 103 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. It's the eighth straight game with 100 yards for Thielen, tying Calvin Johnson's NFL record, and it is the third game this season with 100+ receiving yards for Diggs.
5. Some perspective and a forward-looking mindset
The overreaction and Monday morning quarterbacking will ensue as it always does in this League. Internally, though, and for loyal fans who are in it for the long haul, there are two things to keep in mind. First, two of the Vikings three losses have come to two of the best teams in the NFL – the Los Angeles Rams and the Saints. Combined, the Rams and Saints are 14-1 on the season. Although the Vikings lost both games to those opponents, no one would say the Vikings are incapable of coming out on top of a matchup against either team if one were to present itself down the road. Secondly, the Vikings must quickly put this loss in the rear view mirror because they must focus on what's ahead, which is a three-game stretch against NFC North opponents. The Vikings host the Lions next week, then head into their bye, and then travel to Chicago before hosting the Packers the following week. There's a lot of football to be played, including five NFC North games and three of them will be at U.S. Bank Stadium.