MINNEAPOLIS – The Vikings defense isn't making excuses.
No matter how you slice it, things just weren't clicking Sunday night, as the Packers rolled to a 33-10 defeat of Minnesota.
"I don't know. We've gotta look at it tonight and figure it out," Jordan Hicks said postgame. "I don't know. We've gotta figure it out, though."
Minnesota forced Green Bay into a three-and-punt on its first possession, but everything from there went downhill.
Of the Packers 10 possessions, six ended in points – four touchdowns and two field goals. Two ended in punts, one was a turnover on downs, and the final possession ended the game.
Rookie cornerback Mekhi Blackmon put it simply following the game: "We didn't make plays."
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell told reporters there wasn't much to say "other than we got outplayed" by the division rival.
"I've got to do a much better job, clearly, preparing our team," he said. "Regardless of circumstance, we have to play better than we just did.
"I didn't think it was an effort thing. I think our guys came out with a lot of energy," O'Connell continued. "Just was a combination of a lot of things. Early on the execution offensively could have been much better, and defensively we put them on the field far too much."
The Vikings were without starting corner Byron Murphy, Jr., so played Blackmon and Akayleb Evans outside for most of the evening.
Blackmon said there was "too much space" allowed in the secondary, as demonstrated when Packers quarterback Jordan Love found open receivers on multiple occasions.
Wide receiver Bo Melton, whom Green Bay elevated from the practice squad Saturday, led the team with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Jayden Reed nabbed six catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns before exiting the game with an injury, and tight end Tucker Kraft also had six receptions, totaling 48 yards.
"All in the secondary," Blackmon said. "I feel like [the front seven] did a good job tonight. We've just gotta be more sticky in coverage."
Love finished the night 24-of-33 passing for 256 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was 125.3.
"I thought they had a good plan," O'Connell said. "Any time we were soft in coverage they were taking completions. When we tightened up, they were able to get some explosives down the field."
Green Bay enjoyed success in the ground game, as well.
Aaron Jones racked up 120 yards on 20 carries (an average of 6.0), while AJ Dillon and Patrick Taylor combined for another 57 yards. Yards after contact seemed to be a problem for Minnesota in multiple instances.
"They seemed to be able to get enough of their run game going to stay efficient," O'Connell said. "There were a lot of times where they were third-and-shorts, third-and-inches, getting first downs, and kind of able to stay on the field and possess the ball when they moved it."
The Vikings defense was on the field nearly 38 minutes for the second straight week. It's tiring, no doubt, but the players refuse to blame mistakes on time of possession.
"I like being out on the field. I want to try to step up in those moments," Harrison Phillips said. "We've gotta make stops. We've gotta get off the field. We've gotta look internally to figure out how to do that."
"It's been a grind, I can tell you that much. You play a lot of snaps, but there's no reason to try to throw a pity party or anything like that," Phillips added. "[Grab your] lunch pail, get back to work and figure out how we can build this thing for the future."
For the Vikings, rookie linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr., led the team with 11 combined tackles, followed by safety Camryn Bynum with 10. Pace and Pat Jones II had one and two quarterback hits, respectively, but Minnesota didn't have any sacks of Love.
"These types of games are weird because it feels like nothing's going right," Hicks said. "Obviously there are issues. Obviously there's things we need to fix – a lot of things we need to fix. But we've gotta watch the tape and see."
Hicks' four tackles brought his season total to 100. That marks his fifth consecutive season with at least 100 tackles, which is the seventh-longest current streak in the NFL. The feat is especially impressive considering the four weeks Hicks spent on Injured Reserve recovering from compartment syndrome and emergency surgery.
But it's simply too difficult to celebrate personal accomplishments when the team isn't winning.
"Maybe in a few weeks," a somber Hicks said. "This one hurts."
The Vikings New Year's Eve loss dropped them to 7-9 on the season with just one regular-season matchup left to go.
Minnesota technically hasn't yet been eliminated from playoff contention, but a host of things would need to line up in order for the team to have a shot. Regardless, the intent is to do everything possible to net a Week 18 win at Detroit.
"You've gotta finish the season strong, regardless of how this went," Blackmon said. "We're gonna put our heads down, go watch the film, make corrections and try to get a [win]."
Added Hicks: "It's about pride, it's about moving forward, it's about responding to adversity. We've got another opportunity."