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Vikings Run Game Thrives, but Offense Doomed by Lack of Points

A look at the box score shows a solid day for the Vikings offense, even though it only had eight total possessions in Week 14.

Minnesota went three-and-out just once and reached Tampa Bay territory on seven possessions while totaling a respectable 335 net yards of offense.

But the Vikings lost 26-14 to the Buccaneers, and it's that latter number that annoyed Minnesota in a game that slipped away.

"I thought we moved the ball well for much of the game and had strong drives, but it didn't turn into points a couple of times in the red zone," said Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. "When we're in field goal range, a sack moves us out of field goal range.

"The endings to some of those drives were what upset us," Cousins added. "Overall, it was a game we didn't win and didn't make enough plays."

Added Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer: "I thought offensively we moved the ball well today, just didn't score enough points."

The Vikings scored a pair of touchdowns — on a 1-yard Dalvin Cook run and a 14-yard pass from Cousins to Irv Smith, Jr. — but there were plenty of frustrations in between.

Vikings kicker Dan Bailey, who missed the extra point after Cook's first-quarter score, pushed three field goals to the right.

He missed attempts from 36 and 54 yards in the second quarter and a try from 46 yards in the final stanza.

But Bailey's offensive teammates were quick to point out that miscues by that unit — such as a sack or failure to gain additional yards — didn't put the kicker in favorable circumstances.

"It's always disappointing not to get those points. Sometimes that's part of the game," Cook said. "Sometimes stuff don't go your way, sometimes things don't always go how you want them to go.

"I'm just proud of the guys, how they kept fighting, gave us a chance at the end to get back in it," Cook added. "It just didn't go our way today."

Added Cousins: "We win as a team and we lose as a team. This league will test you no matter what position you play and you know it's one day. I've always believed to encourage myself in those games where I've thrown four interceptions and felt like I cost the team the game. I've been in that moment, and what you do is you realize you're playing for the long game. It was one day, it wasn't one season or a career. It was one day. And Dan's done a lot of good things for us this season and made a lot of big-time kicks, and through his career has made a lot of big-time kicks. So, you don't ever want to make a bigger deal out of one day than it needs to be."

A bright spot for the Vikings offense was the run game, which won the battle against a defense that entered Week 14 as the league's top unit in that category.

Tampa Bay allowed just 74.2 rushing yards per game in the first 12 games of 2020, but the Vikings ran for 71 yards in the first quarter alone.

Cook ended up with 102 yards and a score — the first player to record a 100-yard game against Tampa Bay in 22 games. (Seattle's Chris Carson had 105 yards in Week 9 of the 2019 season).

Cousins used his athleticism to scramble for a career-high 41 yards. Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone added 19 yards on five combined carries.

"I thought we blocked them well up front," Zimmer said. "Dalvin ran hard, and I thought Ameer had a couple good runs, and Boone.

"Scheme-wise, I thought we did a nice job," Zimmer added. "They were trying to blitz off the back side a few times and couldn't get to the runner and then we were able to create some seams."

Cook, who had seven runs that went for at least seven yards, said Minnesota's rushing total should have been higher than it was.

"I'm hot about that, I'm mad about that," Cook said. "I just couldn't find my – it's different playing on this grass after playing on turf for three weeks and trying to cut the same way. It's different.

"Sometimes I was losing my feet. I was mad at myself. Left some runs out there, but just gotta go watch the film and get better from it," Cook added. "The thing about it is just like how we played hard, I ran hard, kept our team in manageable downs. I think that was most important."

Cousins completed 24 of 37 passes for 225 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.

He had a passer rating of 90.5, and was sacked a season-high six times, which also marked the highest total of his career.

Minnesota's offensive performance started with an early lead and a dominating run game, but a lack of third-down conversions (5-for-15) and other miscues led to just two scores for the Vikings.

Now with a 6-7 record and out of the playoffs (the Cardinals moved to 7-6 and into the final Wild Card spot), Cousins and Co. know how crucial the final three games of the season are.

That stretch starts Sunday at home against the Bears.

"We've got to move on, and obviously, the last three weeks become critical," Cousins said. "We don't have a lot of room for error now.

"I would like to win out, so that will be my focus," Cousins later added. "But you never know what the scenarios will come down to in Week 17. I would prefer to try to go 1-0 each week and give ourselves every chance to be playing January football."

Said Cook: "We just gotta win games. I think we've got three more left. We gotta win these games."