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Monday Morning Mailbag: Fans' Thoughts on Vikings 2023 Season Finale

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The Vikings 2023 season ended Sunday with a 30-20 loss to the Lions in Detroit.

Minnesota put together several explosive plays but also allowed multiple big gains on the way to its fourth consecutive loss.

Harrison Smith lamented a finish of the season that amounted to "not enough" done by the Vikings.

Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison put forth monster and milestone days, but the Vikings were unable to complete a comeback.

Minnesota needed to win and have either Carolina defeat Tampa Bay or Atlanta win at New Orleans, but none of those things happened in the noon (CT) games to make results of the later games matter to the Vikings.

The Vikings finished in third place in the NFC North, which combined with other results across the NFL, resulted in 2024 home games against the Falcons and Jets and a road game against the Giants, to go along with other games that were already known (more on 2024 opponents).

2024 HOME OPPONENTS: Bears, Lions, Packers, Cardinals, 49ers, Texans, Colts, Falcons, Jets

2024 ROAD OPPONENTS: Bears, Lions, Packers, Rams, Seahawks, Jaguars, Titans, Giants

Minnesota also was awarded the 11th overall pick based on reverse order of finish, as well as the 42nd overall selection. The position for later rounds will be assigned after compensatory picks are awarded.

I'd like to thank everyone who has read and submitted comments this season. Obviously things did not go as well as they could have for the team, but I do appreciate the time that our readership invests in staying connected with the Vikings, even in a rough season. Hopefully you all continue to stay connected through the offseason (we'll continue the Mailbag and other content).

The final game of the season; glad it's over. The offense was inconsistent and unable to finish drives with TDs to start with, going 0 percent on third downs through much of the game. Ty Chandler and the running game were spot-on today. The defense gave up two quick TD drives but did force more punts than usual in the first half. More par for the course in the second half — we don't score on our opening possession of the second half, but the Lions do. The Lions are simply a better team than the Vikings. Here are my 3 Ups and 3 Downs for the game:


  1. Nice game-opening three-and-out stop by the Vikings defense.
  1. The Nick Mullens-led scoring drive in the second quarter. First, converting a [second-and-30] — where in the heck did that come from? Then, Mullens converts a fourth-and-6 scramble at midfield. Then a laser to Jefferson over the middle for first-and-goal. Followed by another delay of game penalty, failed trick play and settling for a FG. An entertaining drive, but I expect so much more.
  1. Beautiful TD pass from Mullens to Jefferson at the end of the third quarter. Followed by our own quick answer to the Lions score in the fourth quarter with a bomb to Addison for a TD. Wow.


  1. Another delay of game after a first down? A season-long problem. This was followed by more dumb and undisciplined offensive penalties throughout the first half. Weak coaching and weak play.
  1. Poor punt coverage again. The Vikings must lead the NFL in first tackler misses. If [NaJee] Thompson does miss, there should be three other guys in position to take the returner down immediately? Giving up two big punt returns in this game is just another way the Vikings prove they are incapable of finishing strong. I wish our punt return game could at least make up a little for our repeated punt coverage lapses, but it does not.
  1. The fourth quarter TD pass to a wide open [Amon-Ra] St. Brown. That Lions answer didn't take long. The Vikings defense is inconsistent and weak when it matters today.

A very disappointing season. Especially our total collapse at the end of the season. Unfortunately, the Vikings proved themselves incapable of finishing strong in any conceivable way. Looking forward to next year already!


— Jeff Ludwig

The fourth consecutive loss to conclude the season wasn't for a lack of heart, desire or effort.

Mullens, Jefferson and many more players tried their hardest, but the Vikings didn't play complementary football very much in 2023. Mullens became incredibly emotional at the podium on Sunday in summarizing this season. It's worth a watch to gain a better understanding of how much he cares about football and teammates.

Field position was tilted all day, and Minnesota was unable to take the momentum of the 38-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter because of the 70-yarder to St. Brown to open the fourth quarter. The Vikings again answered with a long touchdown pass to Addison, but then Detroit held the ball for five-plus minutes before kicking a field goal for the game's final points.

There's a little bit of relief when a tumultuous season ends, especially with so many players injured, but there's also the knowledge of how much rosters change from year to year in professional sports.

No one anticipated the apex of the 2023 Vikings season was 2-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to T.J. Hockenson, a 43-yard interception return by Josh Metellus and a 20-yard touchdown pass to Addison in the span of five plays at Green Bay in Week 8.

The season, of course, was dramatically altered less than a quarter later by Cousins' injury.

Hello from Berkeley, California, where I have been a fan since 1977, when I was 8 years old. I have been surrounded by Raiders and Niners fans, including my brother (Raiders) and father (Niners). Also thank you for all you do. I remember when Randy Moss was playing for the Vikings. I kept thinking every game, just throw him the ball, whether open or not, and he will catch it. And he did. I think they should have the same philosophy with Jefferson. I think the odds are with us. Besides what's the worst that can happen, an interception? Our QBs are doing that anyway. Also I think we need to re-sign Kirk. Otherwise, I see J.J. leaving, and I wouldn't blame him. Players want to win or be given a chance to win.

Thank you,

— Ande from Berkeley, California

Hello in Northern California. Appreciate you and others in the area repping the Vikings where most are Raiders or Niners fans.

The catches that Jefferson makes would lend themselves to that temptation. His excellent skills are matched by a relentless heart. But I think there also can be a problem from having too much Jefferson dependency.

Jefferson, Addison and Hockenson are such a strong combination of receiving options to build around, and I'm sure each wants to be in the best position to contribute at the end of passes.

The Vikings and Cousins will be having discussions on if they can work out a deal for him to remain in Minnesota.

I know you work for the man, but [Kevin O'Connell's] play calling and decisions have to be scrutinized this season. Overall, I think the offense design is really good and players need to make the plays, but too many situations this year where bad coaching decisions impacted the game instead of putting players in a position to be successful.

Cute stuff doesn't work again and puts us in an unmanageable down and goal position. What's worse is we call these plays at times where negative plays can't happen and we haven't shown we can execute them at all.

O'Connell has to start running the ball, with a running back, on third- or fourth-and-short. My god, the run game has been good, and it doesn't seem to be an option in the playbook in critical positions. This is even true when we are at a point on the field where we will go for it even if we don't get it on third.

Making the above worse, we don't have effective short plays unless it's sneaky TE stuff not in short-yardage situations, so we can't counter the blitz unless our offensive line is heroic.

O'Connell has to get better or even fewer injuries, better players and fewer turnovers won't take this team much further.

— Josh in South Dakota

I came across this quote from visionary inventor Thomas Edison the other day, "The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil."

The Vikings have talked quite a bit about collaboration in the past two years. No coach ever calls something he or she thinks will not work, but I think in reference to the maligned reverse pass that lost 12 on second-and-goal from the Detroit 8-yard line early in the second quarter was an interesting choice at that point in the game.

Minnesota's third possession of the game had started at its 20-yard line, included runs of 14 and 12 yards by Ty Chandler, a grounding penalty overcome with the 32-yarder to Johnny Mundt on second-and-30, the 6-yard scramble by Mullens on fourth-and-6, a defensive holding penalty on third-and-6 and a 22-yard completion to Jefferson.

Alexander Mattison was stuffed for no gain on first-and-goal right before the trick play.

Jefferson has shown in the past that he is good at making decisions and delivering the football, but having him do that within a drive that's currently working takes away his threat as the best receiver in the NFL.

The Vikings also tried a pass by Jefferson on first-and-10 at the Cincinnati 27 after having driven 57 yards on a possession in the second quarter. It was incomplete, and the Vikings were behind the chains the rest of that possession, which ended with the interception at the goal line.

Maybe the wide-ranging inconsistency in the run game throughout the season led to the use of those plays?

O'Connell has spoken openly about the full evaluation he plans to conduct. It's still early in his tenure. Removed from the week-to-week grind, he stands to use the turmoil the Vikings encountered this season as learning opportunities.

We had 3 QB hits and 1 sack. Detroit had 15 QB hits and 4 sacks. You will not win with this discrepancy. We need to address that with training and the draft. Ouch.

— Gerald Goblirsch

I'm not sure if anyone checked out the game observations from yesterday, but one item was about this major disparity.

The Vikings were down two starters on the right side of their line, which doesn't help on the road or against a physical front that got a boost in the return of Alim McNeill.

It's fitting that we lost because, frankly we do not deserve to be in the playoffs. There's always next year! My wish list for the offseason is as follows….

  1. Sign Kirk because there's no better option available and hopefully Kirk will work with the cap hit.
  2. Sign J.J. and make him highest-paid WR in league history.
  3. Sign Danielle Hunter, again hoping he'll work with the team.
  4. Both sides of the line need to be addressed.
  5. We desperately need help in our defensive backfield.

That's all. Not much to ask for, but 1 & 2 are critical.

This offseason should be interesting.

There's always next year!!


— J.B. Brunet

There's no shortage of items on the to-do list for teams that didn't realize their full goals. There's also no shortage of items for Minnesota to figure out during the offseason.

Quarterback, receiver and dominant edge rusher are critical components in today's NFL, but blocking and tackling (pass protection/disruption stats in the previous question help illustrate this) remain essential.

The big plays against the Vikings down the stretch really took off and linked up with the loss of Byron Murphy, Jr., as the team's top cornerback, as well as edge rusher D.J. Wonnum, who was having a fine season with an increased role. Offseason addition Marcus Davenport appeared in four games and recorded seven tackles on a contract that included a good percentage of guaranteed money.

Watching this final game, I thought about my predictions, pleasant surprises and expected eye-rolls with some final thoughts going back to last April.

  1. We need better recognition of our areas of need when it comes to the draft. After missing out on Kyle Hamilton and Trent McDuffie to trade back for Lewis Cine in 2022, we passed on impact players Deonte Banks and Joey Porter, Jr., to take Jordan Addison. If you've watched the last three seasons, you know we aren't losing games because of wide receivers, but because of our pass coverage and O-line. Spending huge money on flash players is worthless when our plays are broken up and we can't stop the other team.
  1. You will not replace Danielle Hunter effectively. He's worth every penny.
  1. "Less-known" players like Ivan Pace, Jr., Camryn Bynum, Dalton Risner, Ty Chandler and Josh Metellus gave us some great play this year. I really appreciated them.
  1. This offseason is the most critical of the Kwesi [Adofo-Mensah]-Kevin [O'Connell] regime. How they handle these Jefferson/[Christian] Darrisaw/Cousins contracts will determine whether or not this team has the finances remaining and has a chance to compete for championships in the next decade or if we stay a "middle tier-draft in the 20s-maybe a Wild Card game" kind of team.

Last, thanks so much for all your work on this forum this season. I appreciate the opportunity to comment here and appreciate that you don't always gloss over or ignore the tougher conversations or issues the fans want to talk about.

Skol Vikings! We'll see you next year.

— Michelle Brady

We'll never know what Cine's development track would have looked like without the broken leg he suffered as a rookie, but we have seen players you mentioned make good on their opportunities.

Addison finished with 70 catches for 911 yards and 10 scores. The catches are the second-most by a Vikings rookie behind Jefferson, and the touchdowns tied Sammy White for second in team history. While one could definitely argue that Minnesota's depth issues elsewhere could have benefited from a different choice, his production in a season with four starting quarterbacks should bode well for years to come.

It was kind of a season of not having/getting whatever was needed at particular moments.

Hunter's season was incredible, and I think Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores really optimized multiple players. The Davenport signing not working is a reminder that free agency can be very expensive and not always deliver ideal outcomes. I'd imagine there will be plenty of conversations between the team and Hunter this offseason. In addition to the Pro Bowl output for Hunter, Flores' creative use of some other players helped them potentially exceed some preseason expectations.

It will be a massive offseason for sure. We'll do our best to keep you filled in on everything as we are able to do so.

Super disappointed, almost embarrassed, at the loss to our biggest rival. I saw Coach O'Connell's press conferences, and he sure sounded sincere and convincing. I think giving good press conferences is his best trait. I've lost faith in the man and don't think he is ready for the job. Do I think he is good enough to someday win? Yes, but it's gonna cost us Vikings fans several more years like this one as he learns from his many mistakes, as did [Bill] Belichick and [Pete] Carroll at their first HC jobs.

Is it gonna be worth the wait? Is he gonna have to be on his second job before he wins? Your thoughts?

— C.T. from So Cal (Carlsbad)

I think most would assess O'Connell as a gifted communicator, and I also don't think that should be an insult.

People see his press conferences, but they are much less privy to the communication skills he deploys at the front of the room during team meetings. Those are incredibly important, and I think they showed up in the team continuing to fight down the stretch as setbacks stacked up.

He's 20-14 through his first two regular seasons, 17-8 with Cousins as the starter and 17-0 when Minnesota finishes games even or better in the turnover margin.

So that's a strong position to build from, but no one is perfect.

There were definitely some calls and decisions he'd like back. How could there not be over the course of a 17-game schedule with 14 one-score games?

I do think the Vikings would have won at least two more games, perhaps more, with the way things were starting to take shape with Cousins at QB. That's likely postseason bound two years in a row, despite what's being considered as a version of a rebuild.

I am beginning to wonder about the trajectory of this team with our general manager. Watched the Green Bay and Bears game. Look at what their young players are doing and compare it to the lack of contributions of our last two drafts. Who has had an impact on the team besides Addison? Murphy was good as a free agent but who else? What do you think happened to the defense over the last four games? If we have to pay Cousins and Jefferson next year, the Vikings are going to have a hard time winning without some more hits in the draft.

— Dave in Illinois


Does Minnesota have any true understanding of building through the draft? 2023 has been a huge disappointment. False hope is all that kept me engaged.

— James Bauman

Grouping these thoughts from Dave and James.

Part of the circumstance is this is two years into the offense and is the third different defense Minnesota has used in the past three seasons. Continuity could help some residuals of selecting players to be in the same systems for multiple seasons.

The Vikings have nine selections in the draft and will proceed through the first couple of waves of free agency before going on the clock.

The number of picks should allow more navigational opportunities. Assuming Flores returns as defensive coordinator, the Vikings will be able to lean more into his personnel experience and a year of knowing what he'd like to further implement or strengthen some of the success the defense found.

Over the past month, I've thought about the final stretch of the season quite a bit. First, leaving Las Vegas after a 3-0 win and then the final four opponents averaging 30 points per game, a run that didn't even start until the fourth quarter in Cincinnati.

U.S. Bank Stadium has been a good home-field advantage for a team that has always enjoyed a home-field advantage, whether at Metropolitan Stadium, the Metrodome or the University of Minnesota, but the venue's playing conditions are ideal for passers (no wind, rain or other elements) and catchers (great lighting). Opposing kickers have generally done well, as well.

All of those things point to having to reduce the impact of opponents' ability to move the ball through the air, either through enhanced pass rush or pass coverage — preferably both.

Dear Vikings Team,

Thanks for another season of highs and lows. Good luck with the upcoming offseason moves, that hopefully get the organization in position for a run at the championship.


— Martin

Appreciate those thoughts to close us out. A 7-10 finish after a 6-4 start will likely cause the "lows" to stand out more than the "highs," and they truly should when a team doesn't reach multiple goals, but there were some fun highs along the way and some completely unexpected moments that I'll always remember.