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I know you're already sick of the Dan Bailey topic, but one question requires obvious consideration:
Does his body of work over his career give him enough credibility to stick with him at least until season's end, or are we looking at a different kicker for the Bears game next week?
— Robert Langston in Akron, Ohio
We'll begin with perhaps the biggest storyline from Sunday's game, which is Dan Bailey's rough outing. To recap, he missed the opening extra point wide left, and subsequently pushed all three of his field goal attempts (36, 54 and 46 yards) wide right.
Of course, this comes after a disappointing performance a week ago when he missed a pair of extra points and also hooked a 51-yard try wide left late in the fourth quarter.
Here's what Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said postgame when asked what Bailey will need to do to keep his spot on the team going forward.
"I don't know right now. He kicked good during the week this week," Zimmer said. "So, we'll just have to make a decision and go with it. I like the kid a lot. Like I said before, I've had tons of confidence in him. He's had a very good year. He's had a couple bad weeks now.
"But you know, we can't throw away 10 points and things like that. It's not just Dan Bailey," Zimmer added. "We gave up a 50-yard throw because a couple guys weren't in the right place. You can't do that either. If you guys want me to fire guys for making a mistake here, a mistake there, then we wouldn't have any players. Let's not put this all on Dan Bailey."
The Vikings aren't built this year to blow teams out, so every point matters, as well as the momentum shift and advantageous field position a miss can provide.
Current COVID-19 policies make it more difficult to bring in players from outside the building quickly.
The team does have a kicker on the practice squad in Tristan Vizcaino, and the Vikings could choose to do a standard elevation to the active roster similar to what they did with long snapper Andrew DePaola before signing him. Such a move would give the Vikings an opportunity to look at Vizcaino in a game while giving Bailey some time to work through things.
Did Bailey's missed kicks severely hurt the team in Tampa Bay? Of course. Do I believe they were the sole reason for the loss? No.
Bailey isn't a young kicker who is struggling in his first season. He's a 10-year veteran who has had two poor games in a row. Even with the three missed field goals Sunday, Bailey is now 246 of 286 on field goals in his career. That's good for 12th all-time in NFL history.
He's proven to be reliable in his career, even if the past two weeks have been subpar. With only three regular-season games left, let's hope Bailey turns it around to close 2020 and then evaluate where we're at once we get to the offseason.
At the beginning of the season, I was sure the problem was Kirk Cousins. Now I'm not sure. It seems against TB we did everything we could to lose. Special teams … well, not enough words to describe them. The O-line needs to give Kirk some time to throw. And the defense behaved like a terrible kid doing just what they are told not to do. Thanks for your time, I would appreciate your thoughts on today's game. Be safe and happy holidays
— Juan Parks from Mexico
Appreciate the email, Juan, and the support from Mexico. And, I give you lots of credit for changing your mind on Cousins … that's not something we see often from fans (or anyone else) these days.
You're spot on that Sunday's loss was a frustrating one. I thought the offense played well, the defense held its own and special teams were fine (outside of the missed kicks).
But if there was a glaring issue, it was probably Minnesota's offensive struggles on third downs, including handling pressure from Tampa Bay's defense. Overall, the Vikings converted just five times on 15 total attempts.
Cousins dropped back to pass on 12 on those plays, getting sacked three times. He also had a 12-yard run to move the chains on a third-and-2. He completed half of his eight pass attempts for just 32 yards, picking up a pair of first downs through the air.
That's not good enough to win against a team like Tampa Bay, but it's also not entirely on Cousins. The Bucs like to blitz a lot, and certainly brought the heat Sunday. It also didn't help that Brian O'Neill missed a chunk of the game with an injury, forcing Rashod Hill to come in at right tackle for a bit.
Cousins often says that the byproduct of a team's success is a collective effort from everyone on each play. I think that's the case here. Cousins himself said he should have ditched the ball instead of taking the first sack of the game. Other times, it looked like the pressure overwhelmed or confused the Vikings pass protection.
The Vikings talked all week about how they needed to be ready for Tampa Bay's pressure. And with six sacks allowed — including three on third downs — the entire offense wasn't good enough to get a win.
I know I'm hard on our guys when we lose, but these refs need some kind of accountability! I mean, pass interference on a Hail Mary hasn't been called since 2009. And the call on Jeff Gladney … what can be done?
— Toby in Alaska
We'll end with this one from Toby, who has a solid point with his critique of the officiating from Sunday's game.
The Hail Mary call on Todd Davis was especially puzzling to me. Every time that play happens, it seems as if the refs allow some jostling in the end zone in the fight for the ball. ESPN's Kevin Seifert backed up your research, too.
Detroit was awarded a 31-yard pass interference penalty on Cleveland's Hank Poteat at the end of a game in 2009. Then a rookie, Matthew Stafford followed with a 1-yard touchdown pass on the untimed down for a 38-37 win.
There was also the lowering the helmet to initiate contact call on Harrison Smith that gave Tampa Bay a fresh set of downs inside the red zone. I didn't think that one was warranted, and it seems like No. 22 has been the target of a few questionable calls this season.
On the pass interference against Gladney, it appeared Mike Evans slipped and held onto Gladney, which denied the rookie of his first NFL interception. Multiple players slipped at multiple times throughout the game.
Zimmer certainly made note of the calls on Davis and Smith: "I just know two calls changed the complexion of the game."
Those are frustrating to live with, especially since they essentially help Tampa Bay score 10 points … a big difference in a 12-point game. But the Vikings can't change the calls now, and must quickly turn their attention to the Bears.
Minnesota fell to 6-7 with Sunday's loss and is now out of a Wild Card spot after Arizona won to improve to 7-6. Chicago is also 6-7, meaning the winner of the Week 15 game keeps its playoff hopes alive. Postseason play will likely be dashed for the losing team.
In other words, Sunday might as well be a playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium.