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Monday Morning Mailbag: Unpacking Vikings O-Line Play & Penalties in Week 1

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town on the email. The questions below have been edited for clarity.

You can also send Eric a Mailbag question via Twitter.

Hi Eric, I refuse to be one who blames the officiating for a loss. There's enough blame to divvied up, but most of it goes to the coaches. The Vikings were NOT READY to play! Call it "team discipline" or "football intelligence," we evidently don't understand what a "false start" is and what "holding" is, amongst other penalties! It's preparation and details, and that's on the coaches!

— Randy in Las Vegas

With all the practice we've have had, why was the offensive live so bad? I see this as a big problem in future. We need to sign some veteran free agents before this season really goes down! Our center was getting dominated the whole game, and Rashod Hill played awful! Please explain!

— Corey Alexander in Richmond, Virginia

Might as well rip the Band-Aid off and tackle the obvious: Minnesota's offensive line was the most disappointing unit on the field Sunday.

But in saying that, and this goes to the end of Randy's initial comment, this loss is on everyone.

It's on the offense for a slow start and a bevy of penalties. It's on the defense for a lackluster final two minutes of the first half in which the Bengals scored 14 points. And it's on the coaching staff, too. It's on everyone.

No, the Vikings were not ready to play. That was evident from the first drive, which included a false start before the first snap of the season, plus three more penalties on the opening possession.

By the time it was over, the Vikings had been called for 12 penalties for 116 total yards. The offense alone was whistled for 11 of those infractions for a total of 90 yards.

And the offensive line tallied seven fouls for 70 yards, with each member of the starting five getting flagged at least once.

The most disappointing thing is that these penalties weren't an issue in training camp or the preseason.

Vikings coaches and players spoke for the past week-and-a-half about how practices had been crisp and that the lackluster preseason results were a thing of the past. But Sunday showed there is a clear difference between early September practices and when the games start for real.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer wants his team to be tough, disciplined and difficult to play against.

The exact opposite happened Sunday, as the Vikings essentially beat themselves with a disastrous opening half.

And the schedule doesn't get any easier. Did you see Arizona's Chandler Jones get five sacks in Week 1?

No, the Vikings won't be looking for any veteran free agents along the line, simply because there aren't many options out there to choose from. This is the group Minnesota will roll with going forward, and they need to be better starting Sunday in the desert.

We need to come up with the big play. It is only one game, but how we respond will help define our season. We have to make teams earn it. Not give it to them.

— Gerald Goblirsch

C'mon, losing to the Bengals?? I don't care that it was a road game, you have to win them, too! What's going to happen when they play a playoff team? I think Zimmer's time is up!!

— Brian Fleming

Gerald and Brian touch on what I think is perhaps the most disappointing thing from Sunday's loss.

Not only did the Vikings play poorly and show the exact opposite of what Zimmer wants his team to be, but they cost themselves a chance to make an early statement.

I wrote in Final Thoughts last week that there are many unknowns entering Week 1. And if the Bengals had come out and just lit it up, you would have tipped your cap to them for a nice win.

But that didn't happen. Cincinnati gave Minnesota every chance to get back into the game, including gift-wrapping the Vikings a 30-yard field after a failed fourth-down call late in the third quarter.

View game action photos of the Vikings before the season opener against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

The fact that the Vikings couldn't take advantage of the Bengals miscues make this one all the more difficult to stomach.

Add in the fact that the Packers, Lions and Bears all lost in Week 1, and the Vikings missed a chance to get out to an early division lead. Yes, there is an extra game and more time to make up ground, but as Brian points out, this is a game the Vikings needed to win.

If they play perennial playoff teams such as the Ravens and Rams like this, there's almost no chance those games make it to overtime. Same for the upstart Browns who will visit Minnesota in Week 4.

As for Zimmer's status, I'm not even going to go there. It's one game into his eighth season, and there's a long way to go in 2021.

My hunch is that the players will put this one on themselves, especially with the amount of yellow flags that littered the field Sunday.

Disappointing loss in what (at least from the highlights which is all I saw) seemed to be a winnable game. Michael Pierce was a bright spot. Any others?

— Kevin in Mississippi

Yep, Pierce was a bright spot and he had a pair of sacks in his Vikings debut. Other players I thought looked good were Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks and Patrick Peterson.

And let's give some kudos to special teams, too, which shook off a rough first few minutes to really come through late.

Harrison Hand was all over the place in coverage, and Jordan Berry helped flipped the field a few times in his Purple debut.

Kicker Greg Joseph surely inspired some confidence with his game-tying, 53-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. That is as clutch a kick as you'll see, and I'm a firm believer that he would have nailed the game-winner if given the chance on the final offensive possession that ended when Dalvin Cook fumbled.

(A disclaimer: Yes, I think Cook was down and that the refs missed the call. No, the Vikings didn't play well enough to win despite that call).

So while there were a few bright spots, there weren't enough to get a win. That will need to change Sunday if the Vikings want to avoid a second consecutive 0-2 start.

I was wondering if you had any insight on Cameron Dantzler's status on the depth chart. If a quarterback coming back from a major injury can seemingly complete any pass at will to whoever Bashaud Breeland was covering, was Dantzler not even worth a look other than the few plays Breeland came out for injury? Competition only gets better, and there was no help on Sunday.

— Todd Jewell

Dantzler, for those of you who missed it, was inactive and presumably a healthy scratch in the season opener.

My initial reaction was one of surprise, but then I thought about it for a second. The Vikings have six cornerbacks on the active roster and obviously chose to dress five for the game.

Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland and Mackensie Alexander (nickel) are your starters, so they are obviously in.

Kris Boyd has drawn praise this summer, with Zimmer saying he was above Dantzler on the depth chart. And as mentioned above, Hand is a strong special teamer in addition to being the backup slot cornerback behind Alexander.

That leaves Dantzler as the odd man out, which is a weird thing to write considering he was probably the team's best cornerback a year ago. But he struggled with inconsistency in camp and the preseason, and might need to earn back the good graces of the coaching staff.