EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings capped the 2023 season with a 30-20 loss to the Lions at Detroit Sunday.
Minnesota finished 7-10, dropping its final four decisions, including two against Detroit, which won 12 games for the second time in franchise history and claimed the NFC North (established in 2002) for the first time.
Before fully transitioning to the offseason, here's a look at some of the deeper elements from the finale against the Lions.
Next Gen Stats
The Vikings lived by the blitz for most of the season, including Sunday when the Lions thrived against it.
According to Next Gen Stats, the Vikings blitzed Jared Goff on 26 of 33 dropbacks, a rate of 78.8 percent that is the fourth-highest blitz rate in an NFL game since 2018.
Goff completed 18 of 26 passes for 259 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to Sam LaPorta and a 70-yarder to Amon-Ra St. Brown. The quarterback entered the game with the lowest sack rate (4.3 percent) against the blitz in 2023.
St. Brown was a huge part of Goff's success against Minnesota's blitzes. He was targeted on nine of 19 routes against the blitz (47.4 percent) and recorded six catches for 143 yards. St. Brown gained 81 of his 144 receiving yards on the day after catches and delivered a career best 47 yards after catches over expectations.
Mullens and four offensive linemen who started — left tackle Christian Darrisaw, center Garrett Bradbury, right guard Blake Brandel and right tackle David Quessenberry — played all 73 offensive snaps.
Left guard Dalton Risner only missed two snaps because of a chest injury. Chris Reed filled the gap.
Receivers Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison played 68 offensive snaps, and K.J. Osborn played 41. Johnny Mundt was in for 55 snaps at tight end, and Josh Oliver played 39. Nick Muse was in for two offensive snaps, which included his first career reception.
Ty Chandler played 39 snaps at running back, compared to 23 for Alexander Mattison.
Fullback C.J. Ham played 20 offensive snaps and 17 on special teams.
Safeties Josh Metellus and Camryn Bynum each played all 57 defensive snaps. Outside linebacker Pat Jones II was in for 54, and Harrison Smith played 53.
Outside linebacker Danielle Hunter (49), defensive lineman Harrison Phillips (48), linebacker Jordan Hicks (45) and defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (44) each played more than 77 percent of defensive snaps, and defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga was on the field for 36 defensive snaps.
At cornerback, Andrew Booth, Jr., played 32 defensive snaps, undrafted rookie Jaylin Williams played 31 and Akayleb Evans was in for 27.
Rookie linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr., played 17 defensive snaps and a team-high 23 special teams snaps, and Anthony Barr played 15 snaps.
From the Inbox
Note: General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell are scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. (CT) Wednesday. We'll bring you coverage of that and keep rolling through content as the offseason progresses, but this is obviously the final Rehash. Future fan comments will land in the Mailbag, which will continue weekly during the offseason. Thanks very much.
I grew up in Minnesota and North Dakota and have been a Vikings fan for over 45 years.
This season, there were just too many setbacks related to player injuries to overcome. I realize it's difficult to completely prevent injuries, but are the team and the players doing enough to mitigate the risk of injuries?
I felt [O'Connell's] play calling was not always the right call for the many different QBs that we had or other players that are on the field. If you have a QB that can run and/or roll out, leverage that rather than regularly forcing them into a pocket pass situation, which ends in a sack and several yard loss.
Blitzing needs to be more strategic and effective. If we can't regularly get to the QB and hurry a bad throw or get a sack, in-game strategy adjustments need to be made quickly.
Finally, over the many years I've always enjoyed watching the Vikes play whether on TV or at 'The Bank' — even listening to the games has been fun. This season was no different. Aside from a few games (last Packers game), we were in it until the end. Hopefully, we have some strategy takeaways from this year and are injury free for a great season next year — which WILL be OUR year.
— David Lee in Portland, Oregon
I haven't done a deep comparison between the number of games missed by starters compared to last season and this season (the Health & Performance staff leaders were hired in 2022 by Kevin O'Connell). I do know that this group has applied advanced science and training to try to stay as healthy as possible, but some things can't be helped.
The leg injury Jordan Hicks sustained against the Saints, and the knee injury suffered by T.J. Hockenson are two examples that come to the forefront.
The coaching staff seemed to grapple with system vs. availability at QB, and that's somewhat understandable given much of the install had occurred throughout the offseason with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, Nick Mullens as the backup and Jaren Hall as the third QB. It just so happened the timing of Cousins' injury overlapped with Mullens also being on Injured Reserve and then Hall leaving the next game with a concussion as the Vikings scrambled to Joshua Dobbs.
The numbers in the Next Gen Stats above show what can happen when an opponent handles the blitz. I believe the philosophy of blitzing so often was to try to cover voids elsewhere in the defense and hope to generate pressure for a group that was shorthanded at edge rusher all season.
The Vikings will conduct a full evaluation of everything. With a 7-10 final record, clear eyes ought to be in place.
There are few of us Vikings fans here in Hawaii, but we are loyal to the core — born and raised in Minnesota over 65 years ago. I've seen a lot of Vikings football!
I'll just make it simple:
Kirk Cousins: I believe you want to stay at least one more season, true? Do you need a great amount of funds to do so? Why not sacrifice some of those funds to the Vikings "brotherhood" and give of your HEART for them instead. I would love to see you lift up your brothers once again, and I BELIEVE you are key to make it happen in 2024.
J.J.: We know your work ethic is of the highest standard. You got injured and it was devastating. You will always be competitive, but if you continue to lead by example, that is all the team can ask for. You are the best receiver in the NFL. Good luck this year!
Practices: Decades ago, the Vikings ruled the North. Building a world-class facility is great, but opponents no longer fear us. They study our weaknesses and go in for the kill. In the winter, does the team practice outdoors in the frigid cold? This could help prepare the team for Lambeau, Soldier and other outdoor stadiums' brutal weather conditions — just saying.
Somewhere in time, the Vikings have become vulnerable and have lost our way. We need to right the Viking "ship" and play like our lives depend on it, because IT DOES. Vikings lived for pillaging and plundering villages. Take that Gjallarhorn and shove it down opponents' throats in 2024!!!
— Omi K. in Oahu, Hawaii
Cousins spoke with media members for an extended period of time on Monday. He described the connections he has with teammates, his outlook on pending free agency and the potential for accepting a "hometown discount." Please read that recap here.
Jefferson's talent and drive have both consistently impressed.
The Vikings did practice outside before the 2022 late-season game at Lambeau Field, but with the final three games on this year's schedule being indoors, O'Connell opted for inside practices.
Build the offensive line so whoever is the QB is not running for his life. Given time to throw, the team will score more points, whoever the QB is.
— Matt Gruntner
The Vikings offensive line was designed to bank on continuity by returning each starter from 2022 to 2023, but Week 1 provided an omen when Bradbury was hurt on Minnesota's seventh snap of the season and Darrisaw also was knocked from the game early.
There were numerous fill-ins and adjustments throughout the season, which concluded with Brandel starting at right guard in place of Ed Ingram and Quessenberry starting at right tackle for Brian O'Neill. Detroit is a bad team to face when trying to fill in on the right side of the line.
I thought Cousins summed up Mullens' effort in Sunday's game with playing his guts out. He withstood multiple hits and kept slinging the football.
Last game a microcosm of the entire season. A middle-of-the-pack quarterback able to stand in with time and dissect the Vikings. Two reasons, really good Detroit offensive line and mediocre pressure from an undermanned Viking defensive line.
On offense, quarterbacks being harassed, under constant pressure and unable to make reasonable decisions. Poor offensive line play results in no time, no runs and numerous miscues. Draft day mantra — "Where's the Beef?"
— Tom F. (Disappointed in Canada)
For all the fun we have in fantasy football (honestly, I only play in one free league with a couple of good friends), there have been reminders down the stretch about the importance of what happens at the line of scrimmage.
I'll also say that Goff has played well this season, and the Lions have supplemented that with a strong run game.
A disappointing season, but there are legitimate reasons. Take the starting quarterback and best receiver from any team and see what happens to their offense. Then add a tackle, guard and tight end. I think [O'Connell] is a great offensive mind, but at times out-thinks himself. It also seems to me that he has the respect of the players. I thought [Defensive Coordinator Brian] Flores did a great job with the defense until teams started to figure out how to attack our corners. Add more key injuries.
It is amazing to me that despite several attempts we have not been able to draft one shutdown cornerback who can play man-to-man.
The Vikings are as good or better than the other NFC North teams when healthy.
It all comes down to signing Cousins, Jefferson, Hunter and Darrisaw in the offseason and adding a couple of pieces to the defense. A tall task for sure, but no reason this team can't be in the playoffs next year.
Let's see what the front office can do!
— Tim in South Dakota
I feel like O'Connell and the staff had to try to find more solutions to unique problems than usual within one season. There were some really good, explosive moments, but then there were other times when drives ended abruptly. If there's a way to blend some of the explosiveness with more consistent sustaining of drives, it will really take things to the next level (injuries also could have impacted this a bit).
Flores' innovation this year was able to get a nice yield on that side of the ball and help the unit improve statistically, but the depth on defense took major hits down the stretch at a time when more and more ways to try to attack the Vikings were being developed. It will be a major offseason, but the Vikings don't feel quite as far from the playoffs as some 7-10 squads might.