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Wow. What a disappointing game. The team can't seem to get out of their own way. It looked awful. What needs to be done to get this team to fire on all cylinders? You can see the ability to win every game, but they can't get it together. Is it time for the Wilfs to end the Zimmer/Spielman era? This is not good with the talent on this team.
— Mike Boswell in Goodwin, South Dakota
Mike's email was one of many that came through late Sunday night after the Vikings late-game collapse on national television. In fact, nearly 40 emails landed in the inbox immediately after the sickening and gut-wrenching loss on Halloween night.
It is crystal clear that Vikings fans are frustrated right now. And you know what? They have every right to be.
Let's put it bluntly: the Vikings lost, at home and coming off a bye, to a backup quarterback who had thrown three career NFL passes in a game where Minnesota also won the turnover battle.
That's not good enough.
Everyone in the Vikings organization is frustrated, disappointed and ticked off right now. That was evident in Adam Thielen's voice after the game. It was evident in Xavier Woods' postgame comments.
And it was certainly evident in Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's expressions and quotes following the 20-16 loss.
"I think there needs to be some time to think about it and kind of figure out what we need to do from here," Zimmer said. "You know, this was a tough loss tonight. We had a good crowd; it was loud. Home, prime-time game. And we had plenty of opportunities to win that football game and we didn't do it."
Less than a minute later, this was another postgame quote from Zimmer:
"I just feel like we're just not as consistent overall as a football team as we need to be."
So yes, the frustration seems like to be high right now. Internally, the Vikings had sky-high expectations entering the season. And to be at 3-4 at this point in the season means the team has not met those expectations so far.
But what I believe frustrates fans the most is way these games have played out. The Vikings have now had six of their seven games come down to the end and be decided by seven or fewer points.
Minnesota has had chances — on both sides of the ball — to make a statement in the fourth quarter and seal the deal. Both sides have failed, whether it's Sunday's dismal offensive performance (just 1-for-13 on third downs) or a Vikings defense that has now allowed an opposing offense to drive for a late go-ahead score in three straight games.
The Vikings have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. But for whatever reason, it just isn't clicking right now.
Zimmer knows this, as evident by his postgame comments Sunday night. The problem is, the Vikings don't have much time to figure things out at the moment.
They are in the meat grinder of their schedule, with back-to-back road trips against the Ravens and Chargers on deck. A home date against the red-hot (and division-leading Packers) also awaits.
The time is now for Minnesota to get things in gear. The bottom half of the NFC feels like a grab bag every week, where one team is good one week and bad the next week. You can include the Vikings in that mix.
As for the job status of Zimmer and Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman? Quite simply, that isn't my call to make.
One of the people that would make that call — Vikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf — was in attendance Sunday night. I doubt he was pleased with that result.
I'm not about to advocate for people to lose their jobs. That's not my own job, to be frank, and the Vikings focus is on turning the page and getting ready for a rested Ravens team.
But as we near the halfway point of the 2021 season in Week 9, the word "frustration" is one that immediately comes to mind when thinking about the Vikings right now.
I'm still trying to figure out how we can play that well defensively, even against a second-string QB, but one operating behind one of the best lines in the NFL, and lose after getting turnovers and pressures from our defense. And, how we didn't get a touchdown late in the game when the Cowboys continued to get penalties, when we are close to the goal line and have three spectacular receivers. Thanks for listening as usual.
— Brad Lewis
Well, as I've written in previous Mailbags, this is who the Vikings are. They are an average team, as their 3-4 record indicates.
And they are a team that doesn't seem like they are going to be blown out in any game this season. But if you're looking for a blowout or convincing win, I wouldn't expect that either.
Defensively, the answer seems to be focused on the final stanzas of the fourth quarter. I wrote this in my postgame story on the defense, but it's now three weeks in a row where Minnesota has allowed an opponent (Detroit, Carolina and Dallas) to score a last-minute touchdown.
Offensively, to use a Halloween reference, the game felt like watching a horror show. Minnesota converted on its first attempt on third down, but then didn't move the chains on the next 12 tries for the rest of the game. You can't even begin to make that stuff up.
And yes, to Brad's point, the result of the second-to-last drive for the Vikings offense was maddening. The Cowboys were essentially trying to gift them a touchdown with a trio of personal foul calls.
But on first-and-goal from the 4, the ensuing three plays were a Dalvin Cook run for a loss of 4, a pass for minus-3 yards to Alexander Mattison and a 6-yard pass to Adam Thielen that felt close to being a disaster.
It all led to a 24-yard field goal instead of a touchdown. If you're looking for a reason why the Vikings are 3-4, there it is.
Minnesota had a chance to put pressure on Dallas to score a touchdown and only tie the game. Instead, a failure at one end of the field (a field goal on a goal-to-go scenario) leads to a failure on the other end of the field (a botched timeout, missed tackles on third-and-11 and a touchdown allowed).
Add it all up, and you get the 2021 Minnesota Vikings.
Hi Eric, just curious on what your thoughts are on why we are able to go down and score on most of our very first possessions, yet after that our offense seems to stale? Thanks for your response.
— Jeff Wizner in Blackduck, Minnesota
Win, lose or draw, I'm writing this before the Sunday night game is even over. Are you kidding me, the Vikings only have 5 plays in their playbook. Funny how the pass blocking has gotten better but the run blocking has taken a tremendous step back. Minnesota scores on their first drives, and it's nothing after that. The other teams adjust, and Minnesota continues to call the same thing. What does it take for this team to play at a higher level consistently? What an embarrassing performance.
— Dan H.
Jeff and Dan bring the heat here. Again, many emails in the inbox were puzzled as to why the Vikings offense continues to flounder after successful opening drives.
Honestly, I don't have an answer. And it doesn't sound like the Vikings might either.
Here is what Kirk Cousins said postgame after the Vikings scored points on the opening drive for the sixth straight game, and then did essentially nothing the rest of the way.
"Just a combination of factors – not converting on third downs to stay on the field, not being productive enough on first and second down, not finding ways to get explosive plays," Cousins said.
For weeks now, Cousins and Vikings players and coaches have been asked why the offense is "stagnant" (a word Zimmer used after the game) after the opening drive.
And for weeks, they have pointed to opposing teams mixing up coverages, the pass rush from the opposing defense and their own inability to execute.
It's not as if the Vikings offense isn't trying to find solutions. Zimmer said Sunday night that not only is the offense scripting the opening drive of the game, but the opening drive of the second half, too.
But over the past three games, the Vikings have tallied 11 plays for 30 yards on the opening drive of the second half. Whatever the script it, the opposing defense has an answer for it.
And while we're on the topic of offensive miscues, the end of the first half Sunday night was a calamity. There were 21 seconds left on the clock when Cousins scrambled for 13 yards.
Zimmer didn't take a timeout. Cousins didn't take a timeout. Nobody took a timeout. And the Vikings couldn't get lined up as the seconds ticked away and they were eventually booed off the field by their home fans at halftime.
The potential seems to be there for Minnesota. Cousins, overall, has played well this season. Cook, Thielen and Jefferson rival some of the top trios in the league. I believe there are pieces up front along the offensive line.
But it's simply not working right now. Perhaps that's on the philosophy of Zimmer and Vikings Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak. Perhaps is on the players for not fully executing on each and every play.
Whatever the issue is, it's evident to everyone that Minnesota's offense isn't in sync right now. The Vikings can only hope they figure it out before a potential playoff spot fades in the distance.
Do you foresee anyone else coming or going before the trade deadline?
— Blake Dufner in Rockford, Minnesota
We traded Stephen Weatherly, but can you tell me about the other defensive ends we drafted out of Pittsburgh and Florida State. How do they look?
— Warren W.
I'll start with Warren's question first. Neither Patrick Jones II (third-rounder out of Pittsburgh) nor Janarius Robinson (FSU) has played this season.
Robinson landed on Injured Reserve before the season started, so he's out for the season. Jones was active in Week 2 but did not get in the game against the Cardinals. It appeared like he was in line for a bigger role for Week 8 after the Weatherly trade, but he got hurt last week and was inactive for the game. His snaps went to Kenny Willekes, a seventh-rounder in 2020 who was elevated from the practice squad.
So overall, not much of an impact from rookie defensive ends in 2021. And with Danielle Hunter injuring his shoulder (and getting an MRI on Monday), Minnesota might be thin at that position going forward.
On to Blake's question … will the Vikings make a move? History says no, especially if you look at last season. Remember the Vikings were 2-5 a year ago at the deadline and didn't make a move, only for the team to part ways with Kyle Rudolph and Riley Reiff while Anthony Harris departed in free agency.
This year's trade deadline is at 3 p.m. (CT) Tuesday. Here's what Spielman said on Oct. 19 regarding potential moves.
"As we go forward, as we have to manipulate the cap next year, as we try to make decisions on contract extensions on everything going go forward, a lot of these [young] guys are going to have the opportunity and are going to have to step in and fill some of these rolls because — and I don't have the exact number off the top of my head — but I know we're going to have a very big free-agent class coming out, the guys that are out of contract."
Put another way, the Vikings have a lot of players, especially on defense, that are playing on 1-year deals. That list currently includes Anthony Barr, Patrick Peterson, Sheldon Richardson, Bashaud Breeland, Nick Vigil, Xavier Woods, Mackensie Alexander and Everson Griffen.
That's a ton of notable names on defense that may or may not be back next year. But again, history says the Vikings will likely stand pat in terms of being sellers.
And I'd say the same about being buyers, too. Minnesota's isn't flush with cap space to add a big name, so the squad that trudged off the field after Sunday night's exasperating loss is likely the crew the team is rolling with for the rest of the year.