The Vikings couldn't hold onto their playoff spot in Week 14, as Minnesota fell 26-14 on the road against Tampa Bay.
Minnesota claimed an early lead with a strong first quarter, but a litany of mistakes filled the final 45 minutes as the Vikings dropped to 6-7 on the season.
John Breech of CBS Sports analyzed Minnesota’s loss and what went wrong after such a promising start.
If you just watched the first quarter, you'd give the Vikings an 'A' and come away with the belief that they were going to win. That wasn't the case, however. Even with a largely dominant start to this game, the Vikings failed to produce more than six points in the opening quarter, which kept Tampa Bay hanging around. Part of the problem for Minnesota offensively was in the kicking department, as veteran Dan Bailey missed all three of his field goal attempts and botched an extra point try.
In all, the Vikings missed out on 10 points due to Bailey's miscues and essentially took the wind out of their sails for the bulk of the contest. Mike Zimmer's club also had a couple of untimely penalties, including a DPI in the end zone on a Hail Mary pass by Tom Brady that gave the Bucs the ability to kick a field goal they otherwise wouldn't have had.
Bailey missed wide right on field goal tries from 36, 54 and 46 yards. He has missed seven total kicks (three extra points and four field goals) in the past two games.
Minnesota was also whistled for five penalties for 71 yards. Linebacker Todd Davis was called for defensive pass interference at the end of the first half that accounted for 46 total yards, an extremely rare call in the NFL (there wasn't a single instance of one during the entire 2010s).
Sunday was the 10th game this season, and fourth in a row, that the Vikings were called for at least five penalties. The 71 penalty yards were the second-most of the season, trailing only the 80 yards in infractions from Week 11 against Dallas.
As for positives from Week 14, Chase Goodbread of NFL.com praised Dalvin Cook and the Vikings rushing attack.
The NFL's No.1 rushing defense looked ordinary at best against Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. The fourth-year pro had 49 yards in the first quarter alone against the Bucs, behind some impressive blocking up front, and consistently broke away from initial contact. Once Tampa Bay built a double-digit lead, Minnesota turned more to the passing game, but Cook still finished [with] 22 [carries] for 102 [yards] to become the first 100-yard rusher against Tampa Bay since Week 9 of 2019 (Chris Carson).
Minnesota ran for 162 yards on 33 carries (4.9 yards per attempt). Cook delivered his seventh 100-yard game of the season. He ranks second in the league with 1,352 rushing yards and is tied for the league lead with 14 rushing touchdowns.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins added a career-high 41 rushing yards in the loss.
The Vikings now occupy the eighth spot in the NFC playoff picture. Minnesota hosts Chicago (6-7) in a crucial meeting between the NFC North rivals next Sunday.
Arizona (7-6) moved into the final Wild Card spot with its win over the New York Giants in Week 14.
Cousins credits Conklin after 1st start of 2020
Tight end Tyler Conklin had the busiest day of his three-year career Sunday, catching five passes for 40 yards. He set a single-game best in catches and produced the second-highest yardage total in his career.
Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune noted Conklin’s performance, which came after Kyle Rudolph was inactive because of a foot injury. Conklin played 45 snaps, which was 57 percent of the Vikings total offensive snaps.
Fellow tight end Irv Smith, Jr., played 28 snaps. He didn't practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday and Friday with a back injury.
Conklin made his first start of the season while Smith was eased into action. But Smith looked healthy on a 14-yard catch and run for a touchdown in the third quarter, barreling through Bucs safety (and ex- Gopher) Antoine Winfield, Jr. Without Rudolph, Conklin and Smith combined for nine catches for 103 yards and a score as the Buccaneers defense tilted coverages toward wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
"[Conklin] is the real deal," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "He can pass protect, he can run; in man coverage, he can win. He's smart, so we can put a lot on his plate mentally, and we do. So I was grateful for him to get that opportunity because he's been working really hard."
Rudolph's 98-game start streak, stretching through regular-season and playoff games since 2014, ended because of a foot injury suffered Dec. 6 against the Jaguars.
Conklin, a fifth-round pick in 2018, now has nine catches for 66 yards on the season. Smith has 19 receptions for 245 yards and three scores.
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