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Lunchbreak: The Athletic Says Vikings Loss to Rams 'Epitomized' 2021 Season

The Vikings had chances against the Rams Sunday, including three forced turnovers by the defense, but ultimately didn't capitalize.

Minnesota fell 30-23 to L.A., and the NFC loss dropped the Vikings playoff chances to the low teens.

Arif Hasan of The Athletic said the Vikings outing against the Rams epitomized their 2021 season: "filled with potential but replete with missed opportunities." He wrote:

Their 30-23 loss to the Rams featured chance after chance to take control of the game and put together a defining win en route to the playoffs, but they squandered the breaks they created. The Vikings entered the matchup with a lot on the line. Had they won, they would have given themselves better than a 50 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to nearly every projection system. A loss would put their odds of making the playoffs between 10 and 16 percent.

That kind of high-leverage matchup wasn't just an opportunity to more seriously enter the playoff conversation, but to finally get above .500 for the first time since the end of 2019.

Hasan pointed out that against the Rams, Minnesota won the yards-per-play battle, the turnover battle and the field-position battle.

But it isn't a surprise that they lost, nor were there many moments in the game when one could say they were in control. At the most important points, they faltered. They converted 17 percent of their third-down attempts, earned touchdowns on only 40 percent of their red zone trips and gave up 37 yards on a third-and-6 with seven minutes to go, salting away the game.

Sunday's most memorable image — a ball falling through the hands of a Vikings player — is a good metaphor for the Vikings season, with leads slipping through [Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's fingers.

The Vikings have now played in 14 one-score games this season, which is tied for a league record. Minnesota is 6-8 in those contests.

Frigid temps forecasted for 'SNF' at Lambeau Field

Bundle up, Vikings fans.

Sports Illustrated's Bill Huber noted through a weather.com forecast that the kickoff temperature will be about 5 degrees when the Packers host the Vikings this weekend on Sunday Night Football. Huber wrote:

Sunday's forecast calls for a high of 13 and a low of 2. The Packers presumably will have some sort of edge because they play in the elements, but the Vikings live in Minneapolis – a colder climate than Green Bay – so probably won't turn into Frosty with horns protruding from his snowy head.

With sunset set for 4:23 p.m. (CT), there will be three hours for the temperature to plunge before the 7:20 p.m. kickoff. Going with a kickoff temperature of 5 and winds ranging from 5 mph to 10 mph, the wind chill will be about minus-10.

A kickoff temperature of 5 not only would be cold. It would be rare. According to stathead.com, there have been only six games league-wide with a kickoff temperature of 5 or colder since Aaron Rodgers took over as Green Bay's starting quarterback in 2008.

Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Packers.

Three of those games involved the Packers, and Huber pointed out Green Bay lost all three: 24-21 to Houston with a kickoff temperature of 3 in 2008, 20-17 at Chicago two weeks later with a kickoff temperature of 2, and 23-20 to San Francisco in the 2013 playoffs with a kickoff temperature of 5.

Including the 2007 NFC Championship Game, a 23-20 loss to the Giants in which it was minus-1 at kickoff, the Packers haven't won a 5-degrees-or-colder game since the 1996 NFC Championship Game. With a kickoff temperature of 3, Green Bay romped 30-13.

On the other hand, Rodgers is 26-4 at home in regular-season games played in December and January. Two of those losses came in 2018 – 20-17 vs. Arizona in what would be Mike McCarthy's final game and 31-0 vs. Detroit in which he suffered a concussion on the first series.

With these types of temps forecasted for Sunday, it might seem natural to expect Green Bay to ditch the passing game and rely heavily on the run. Not so fast, said Huber, who quoted Packers Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

"I've never seen anything like what Aaron Rodgers can do," Hackett said. "We had a game earlier this year, the wind was howling a little bit. It's fun because you always have coaches out there throwing to the guys in pregame. Balls are going everywhere and they're fluttering. Aaron is just dime-ing it all over the place. It's almost like he can adjust to the wind.

"It's an amazing thing to watch him throw the ball. It's very difficult because you have to play it, the ball starts turning," Hackett continued. "It doesn't come just straight at the wide receivers, which make it even more difficult to catch than it already is. He's very talented when it comes to throwing the ball in the wind."

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