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The Vikings challenged the Chiefs but lost 27-20 Sunday, falling to 1-4 and continuing their nightmarish start to the 2023 season.
Minnesota lost the football on the opening play of the game, quickly falling behind 7-0 after Kansas City recovered Josh Oliver's fumble and smoothly drove 45 yards for a touchdown.
One potential interception went off the hands of rookie Mekhi Blackmon, and another barely avoided the reach of Camryn Bynum to convert third-and-18 on the third play of the third quarter.
The offense suffered from plays that weren't made, either, including a couple passes that Kirk Cousins and T.J. Hockenson would like to do over, as well as a drop by Alexander Mattison on a screen pass with about five minutes left in the game. It looked like Mattison would have had running room to convert the second-and-7 from the Kansas City 19, but he didn't see the ball until late in the play.
Minnesota also lost Justin Jefferson to a hamstring injury earlier in the fourth quarter. His timeline for recovery is unclear until further evaluation. We will keep you posted.
Yet another good opportunity for a win wasted because of mistakes — turnover on first play from scrimmage and multiple dropped passes. Third-down defense was also poor. Otherwise, Vikes gave strong effort and fought toe-to-toe with defending SB Champions.
Some have criticized officiating, which resulted in several rather questionable calls which went against Vikes at critical moments, and clearly impacted the trajectory (and perhaps outcome) of the game. In fact, there have been multiple bad or missed calls that could have been determinative in Vikings games both last year and this year. For example, officials missed 12 men on the field call against Buffalo in OT last year, which could have cost Vikes that game. Officials also missed false start against Lane Johnson on play resulting in long Eagles touchdown during Thursday night game a few weeks ago. Philly won by six.
Is there a pattern here? It's hard to say. Nonetheless, it doesn't appear at all that the bad and/or missed calls have evened out. That could be because the Vikings have not earned sufficient respect from the officials to get their share of the close calls. Since the Vikings have developed a reputation for consistently messing the bed, the refs simply don't show them much love.
Perhaps some growth in maturity and poise will improve things. But until they do, Viking fans will continue to lament all the near misses that have frustrated the organization and its loyal fans for far too many years.
— Brian Mason in Waterford, New York
I think the phrase "near misses" in Brian's final paragraph rings the loudest through five weeks.
For whatever reason, the Vikings can't seem to ever get what they need or the final play of a sequence to sway a game. They've been close, and they have been resilient despite still not playing at what people thought would be their max level.
Turnovers are crushing this team, with Minnesota losing its eighth fumble of the season on the first snap of the game. It proved to be the only giveaway by either team.
The Vikings are at minus-9 in the turnover margin, which is tied with the Raiders for the worst in the NFL (Las Vegas hosts Green Bay tonight).
Of all the plays by the defense, the one I'd love to give the group a second chance on was the pass that Bynum nearly picked. He sized up the ball but jumped too early. Had he not tried to secure the catch, he probably could have knocked it away, which is the most important aspect on third-and-18.
That would have been a three-and-punt to start the second half. Instead, the pass moved the ball to midfield, and the Chiefs scored a touchdown eight plays later. According to Next Gen Stats, Kansas City's win probability jumped from 51 percent before the snap to 64 percent after the completion.
The Vikings must start making their own breaks in these games. I think by now they should realize they can't count on external benefits to go their way.
The combined record of the teams we have lost to is 14-4. Every loss decided by 7 or fewer points. How close are we to turning these into wins? 1-4 gives us a big mountain to climb, but we have to take them one game at a time.
— Gerald Goblirsch
There's a lot of people disappointed in Minnesota's start (and more comments from fans that follow will continue to illustrate that), but I did want to have Gerald's observation early in the Mailbag.
We all knew the start of the schedule was particularly brutal, with five playoff teams from a year ago in seven games, including Minnesota's first four home opponents. There's been a handful of plays each week that could have made a difference in the final score.
Of Tampa Bay (3-1), Philadelphia (5-0), the Los Angeles Chargers (2-2) and Kansas City (4-1), only the Chiefs have a negative turnover margin (minus-2).
Now that the loss total has matched last season's, it's creating more and more need to put together a winning streak for the Vikings to have any shot at defending the NFC North/improve their chance at a Wild Card spot.
So I've been a lifelong Vikings fan, and a lot of people have told me over the years that it's all rigged! As I have watched the game over the last couple years, I am starting to believe it! How can the refs miss or change their minds on so many game-deciding plays? How can you pick up a flag when there is clearly one or more penalties on the same play: PI, hands to the face, removing your helmet in the field of play? Come on, this is really getting ridiculous!
— Brian in Central Minnesota
The play that had most Vikings fans up in arms and that Brian is referring to occurred on fourth-and-12. Cousins was pressured but lofted the football toward Jordan Addison.
Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, who had been flagged earlier in the game for illegal use of hands to the face as he walloped Jefferson at the line of scrimmage, had both hands on the shoulders of Addison as the ball fell incomplete. Officials initially threw the flag.
As they conferenced, Sneed removed his helmet to dispute the call. Video showed an official reminding him to put his helmet back on instead of flagging him for the infraction. After the conference, referee Land Clark announced there was no foul for pass interference.
Some 25 yards or so away from where the ball landed in the end zone and before it was thrown, the Chiefs blitzed with linebacker Drue Tranquill and cornerback Trent McDuffie. Replay showed Tranquill was illegally using his hands to the facemask of C.J. Ham, who was picking up Tranquill's blitz.
Coaches and players and teams' staff members (including yours truly) can be fined or punished for criticizing officials.
Head Coach Kevin O'Connell did his best to explain the situation when asked what he was told about the flag that was picked up.
"Yeah, not much. I clearly — when the flag came out in the first place, was not surprised in that moment that that was called a flag. You know, I guess trying to figure out where and when that veered the other way," O'Connell said. "Want to be careful on this one. But that was very unfortunate, as well as, you know, the scenario there where not every player on the field had their helmet on, either. But it is what it is. We've got to overcome whatever the adversity is, and we didn't do enough of that today and that's what we'll go back to work on as a group. We've got to commit to doing — every little thing matters in a game like this in those circumstances when things may or may not go your way. We've got to find a way to eliminate that and some of those outcomes from affecting our chances of winning the game."
External media members could have requested a pool report with one person able to ask questions of the officials, but they declined that option.
There's private dialogue that happens between teams and the league each week, but it never puts the toothpaste back in the tube.
What do they have to do to wake up?
The season may soon be over because of a fumble on the first play. OK, maybe not, but whatever message was sent to the players about the importance of ball security was lost on that otherwise promising opening play. The Chiefs looked totally beatable, yet here we are at 1-4. We could be on pace for a 4-13 record if they don't turn things around.
Apparently, I'm told that they wanted to control the clock by running the ball, but it's tough to do when you're already behind a TD but not impossible. So why go to the air? Speaking of which, I was hoping to see some N'Keal Harry. [Brandon] Powell just isn't the answer for this team and after last week, more [Cam] Akers and especially [Ty] Chandler would be a welcome sight. Happy Thanksgiving from Canada.
— Nicholas Balkou
Ball control and possessing the football are strategies when an opposing quarterback is so elite and an offense has a history of putting up points. Patrick Mahomes made a couple of mistakes but was able to get away with the "intercept-able" footballs. He also made a couple of key plays that set him apart from every other QB.
We don't fully know the extent of Jefferson's injury, but it could lead to more opportunities for Harry and Powell. Harry made some nice plays in his limited time at training camp and in the preseason and offers size at the position that the Vikings don't have among other players. Powell made plays all through camp as well and is skilled with the ball in his hands. It looked like he was already going to be involved in the game plan for some plays before Jefferson's injury. I think he can still contribute.
Akers and Chandler could continue to see more opportunities going forward. The Vikings wound up with only 18 rush attempts for 70 yards, and their only run that gained double digits was a 15-yarder by Chandler on a fake punt.
The Vikings still don't have a run of 20-plus yards or a rushing touchdown this season.
Very disappointing loss again. Feels like Groundhog Day, another turnover and start by spotting the opposition a TD. Third quarter was terrible. Whatever adjustments were made at half didn't work. K.C. controlled the entire quarter and put the game away by pressuring in the fourth quarter on defense after two scores and we again couldn't execute when we needed to. Lifelong Vikings fan, but this team is about as disappointing as any I can remember since their start. Moved to K.C. in 1998 and watched how the K.C. organization built a championship team. Vikings have a long way to go. Seems like they have talent but can't execute when they need to. I am about ready to dig up my memorial brick at U.S. Bank Stadium and cheer for the Chiefs. Sorry for the negativity, but just feeling a lot of frustration as a longtime fan.
— Joel J. in Overland Park, Kansas
Minnesota has now been outscored 27-3 in first quarters this season, so the Vikings have to do a better job of protecting the ball early.
The start of the second half was so promising after the first two plays, but Mahomes' ability to overcome that with a deep throw — it's either going to be an incompletion and punt, an interception that works like a punt or a game-changing play — was so pivotal in setting the stage for a terrible third quarter in which the Chiefs outgained the Vikings 133 to 45 and outscored Minnesota 14-0.
I'm not mad. I'm not angry. O-line played well, and I think the D-line played well enough to give the secondary some opportunities to make plays. Unfortunately, they didn't take advantage of them. Now, I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I'm trying to wrap my head around why [Travis] Kelce was given so much room for easy catches. Everyone knows that's Mahomes' go to guy, but you look around and no defender within 5+ yards. I would think the guys in the booth are seeing the same thing. But it was Mattison's chance as RB1 — all he had to do was catch the ball and then I wouldn't have to mention the horrible referees in the last two Vikings series. Hopefully J.J. is OK and we're kicking it in gear next week.
— Dan H.
I know I've harped on the third-and-18 a couple of times, but the most puzzling play for Minnesota's defense was Kelce's 4-yard touchdown catch.
It simply was one of the easiest throws and catches Mahomes and Kelce will ever have.
The Vikings seemed to drop into a zone coverage deep in the end zone, and Kelce just stopped well before any defender. He totaled 10 receptions for 67 yards on 11 targets.
As if losing wasn't enough, J.J. gets hurt and who knows how badly. I had us at 3-2 at this point, counting Philly and the Chiefs as losses. Losing our first three at home is really going to cost us down the road. Offensively, [Andy] Reid & Mahomes put on a clinic, and we had nothing for them defensively. We're still playing too soft and giving them free routes too often. Fumbling on the first play was nice too! I'm not sure what to think of the use of timeouts in the second half. We looked confused. Lastly, there were several dropped passes that, in my opinion, should've been caught. Mattison's being the most crucial. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, the words of a loser. Next week going to Chicago and then followed by the Niners coming to town, 1-6 is a real possibility if we don't figure out how to hold the ball and play better defense.
Also, there was way too much red in the stands!
— J.B. Brunet
Hey, look at that — we only lost by the touchdown we gave up after fumbling on the first play of the game!
— John Madvig in Spearfish, South Dakota
I had the Vikings with the same results as J.B. when I made my personal predictions before the season, but if you had told me the team would be minus-9 in turnover margin, then it probably would have been 1-4 or 2-3.
Minnesota's defense was put in the bad situation early, but it rallied and gave the Vikings a couple of chances in the fourth quarter by allowing just 38 yards and only two first downs for the Chiefs.
I expected there to be plenty of Kansas City fans in attendance for a few reasons, including the success they've had in recent years, the close proximity to Minnesota, the rarity of the matchup and the fact it was the first time for the Chiefs to play at U.S. Bank Stadium, but the visual was pretty stark.
We've seen Vikings fans show up just as strong in road games over the years, and there was a big showing of purple when the teams met at Arrowhead Stadium in 2019.
I can't put to words the frustration of this game. From being undisciplined to extreme questionable calls that resulted in dangerous pulse and blood pressure readings, I cannot believe (again) what I am seeing this season.
T.J. dropping multiple passes, K.J., J.J., and Mattison (at a critical moment) dropping passes, Vikings burning three timeouts with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and let's not forget the play that changed the entirety of the game — the catch and fumble from TE Josh Oliver. (And his whiffed block and dropped pass to be added to his "stat line.")
I was hoping [O'Connell] would've made an example out of him and benched him for the remainder of the game. For five consecutive weeks they've preached ball security and on the VERY first play, you fumble it, and it leads to K.C. putting up 7 points.
Lastly, OFFICIALS. Yes, turnovers and dropped passes kill momentum, especially late in one-score games. But they missed such obvious calls and gave gifts to the other team so they could score 14 points in the third quarter, unless Cam Bynum deflects that bomb to #84 (Justin Watson) and the Chiefs go three-and-out in their first possession of the [third quarter]. Vikings continue to play awful and now their playoff hopes are out the window. This game is a prime example of how players can alter games and change momentum, and how refs can also do the exact same.
— Z. in St. Peter, Minnesota
The usage of the timeouts in the second half was really tough.
Minnesota burned one on its first series of the second half when facing a third-and-7, which was already going to be a tough conversion.
On the previous play, a second-and-10 run that gained 3, center Garrett Bradbury was flagged by the independent spotter to come out of the game for an evaluation. He explained to Vikings.com's Lindsey Young that he had gotten cut on his neck when Derrick Nnadi took him to the turf.
Minnesota had to scramble to get Austin Schlottmann into the game and burned the timeout.
The Vikings tried to connect with Jefferson on third-and-7 with a deep pass to Jefferson into double coverage, but it fell incomplete.
Minnesota lost its second timeout of the second half soon thereafter. Josh Metellus challenged a pass to Kelce as both players went to the turf. The ball wound up in Metellus' hands, but officials ruled Kelce had control of the ball and was down before losing it. Another close call that did double harm (the completion for a first down and the loss of a timeout).
Football is an incredibly emotional game. Coaches always have to check their emotions somewhat to continue what they think gives the squad the best chance to win. Oliver's participation was part of the plan Sunday and is likely to be going forward.
First play of the game, another fumble. At what point is this a major coaching issue? Why isn't [O'Connell] spending every practice focusing on ball security? This should be the only thing they work on every day for an entire week at minimum. You cannot win games if you turn the ball over, full stop.
— Jared from Minneapolis
The Vikings have spent a tremendous amount of time on the field and in meetings talking about the importance of ball security. It still hasn't translated to games. I don't know what else can be done between games.
It is so hard watching the Vikings now. I find myself just yelling at the TV. I don't even know what to fix at this point. I want them to win so badly, and it seems we are always coming up short. I love the Vikings and I really don't know where to go from here. Is it the offense, is it the defense? Who knows anymore.
— Jason Noell
When a team is 1-4, there's generally a shared responsibility for those bad outcomes, and that's the case. There's still a lot of season left, but fixes have to start happening soon.