EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings were unable to even their record to .500 on the young 2021 season.
Minnesota suffered a 14-7 home loss to Cleveland Sunday. Despite scoring on the opening drive, the Vikings failed to return to the red zone for the final 52-plus minutes of the game.
Here's a deeper dive at some "next-day stats" with an eye on the ever-increasing number of Next Gen Stats. References to rankings across the league include all Week 4 games except for tonight's game between the Raiders and Chargers.
1. In the running game
The Vikings entered the game with nose tackle Michael Pierce dealing with a shoulder and elbow injury he suffered last week during a practice.
That's a bad situation heading into a grinder of a game with Cleveland's two-pronged threat of running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Even with Pierce leaving the game in the second quarter, the Browns directed their paths toward the perimeter. According to Next Gen Stats, Chubb ran 15 of his 21 carries for 80 of his 100 yards on the edges of the line. Hunt rushed 12 times for 64 yards on the outside.
The most problematic run all day was a 33-yard gain by Hunt that converted a third-and-20 and led to a field goal in the final minute of the first half.
Next Gen Stats categorizes runs as "Remarkable Rushes" when players gain more yards than expected. According to NGS, Hunt was expected to gain 10 on the play, which would have forced a punt. The surplus of 23 yards was the fifth-largest excess run of Week 4.
2. No passing fancy
Both passers struggled mightily, with Cleveland's Baker Mayfield totaling 155 yards through the air and finishing with a passer rating of 59.5. Kirk Cousins finished with 203 yards passing and a passer rating of 66.0. The passer ratings were the third- and fourth-worst of Week 4 among qualifying passers.
Deep passes were incredibly ineffective. Mayfield was 0-for-6 on passes 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and Cousins was 1-for-5 with a 31-yard completion and an interception.
Cousins was really good on intermediate throws, completing seven of eight passes for 121 yards and a 12-yard touchdown to Justin Jefferson, but the Browns took away Minnesota's short passing game.
Cousins was just 7-for-14 with 36 yards on passes up to 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage (Mayfield was 4-for-10 with 26 yards on such throws). The Vikings netted 15 yards on a 5-for-9 showing on passes behind the line of scrimmage.
Mayfield's 45.5 completion percentage was 13.5 points lower than what was expected, the third-worst differential in the NFL. Cousins' completion percentage of 52.5 was 5.1 points lower than expected, the ninth-worst.
View game action photos from the Vikings game against the Cleveland Browns at U.S. Bank Stadium.
3. Here's a catch
Lost in the shuffle on one of 11 Vikings possessions that did not yield points was a 20-yard reception by K.J. Osborn.
The amazing reception along the Browns sideline on the catch contested by cornerback A.J. Green was challenged but stood as called on the field.
The play landed on SportsCenter's "Top 10" and also in Next Gen Stats' list of the week's "Improbable Completions."
Osborn's reception had a 26-percent likelihood of a completion, which ranked eighth among the least likely catches made in Week 4.