Lunchbreak: Vikings 'Still Control Playoff Fate' After Loss to Patriots 

The Vikings suffered a tough road loss to a rolling Patriots squad yesterday afternoon, but Head Coach Mike Zimmer said afterward that the game “won’t define” his team.

Minnesota has four games remaining on its schedule, the next one being at Seattle on Monday Night Football a week from today. The Vikings then will host the Dolphins, travel to Detroit and finish the regular season with a home game against the Bears.

ESPN’s Courtney Cronin delved into the Vikings 24-10 loss at New England and said they “still control their playoff fate” moving forward. She pointed out that the Vikings, Bears (Giants), Packers (Cardinals) and Lions (Rams) each fell to their respective opponents on Sunday, a sweep that hasn’t happened in some time. Cronin wrote:

The NFC North has gone 0-4 two just other times since conference realignment 16 years ago: Week 16 in 2013 and Week 15 in 2009.

With four games remaining, [Zimmer] isn’t panicked about the chances to finish the season strong. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, Minnesota still has a 67-percent chance to make the playoffs.

[…]

But the road to the postseason has been paved with heavy barricades in recent weeks. Since Week 8, the Vikings have lost to the Saints, Bears and Patriots – three teams well on their way to the playoffs. Next week they travel to Seattle, another team eyeing a spot in the NFC playoffs. With Chicago losing to the Giants in Week 13, the Vikings squandered an opportunity to make up ground in the division race, but many aren’t overly concerned about where they could be seeded in January.

Cronin quoted quarterback Kirk Cousins, who during his postgame press conference said he’s most concerned with just “getting in.”

“I’d love a home playoff game, but if we can get in, anything can happen,” Cousins said. “That’s really where my focus is.”

The Vikings started the game down 10-0, and although they did come back and tied the game in the third quarter, Cronin referenced ESPN Stats & Information to say that “history was working against” Minnesota. Since 2001, The Patriots are 100-2 when leading by double digits at home.

Cousins worked her way through the ups and downs of the game before coming to a final conclusion:

The Vikings dropped a chance to grab an important win over a quality opponent, but their next opportunity isn’t far away. Minnesota goes coast to coast in back-to-back weeks and will play the Seahawks on Monday Night Football in Week 14, one of its last chances to beat a team with a winning record – and another team fighting for its playoff life.

PFF: Vikings defense ‘held up its end of the bargain’ against Patriots

The Vikings had positives and negatives on all phases against New England.

Zimmer said afterward that he thought the defense could have played better and been more effective in tackling. There were certainly some bright spots, however, including Eric Kendricks’ interception of Patriots Tom Brady that gave Minnesota at least an opportunity to claw its way back.

Analytics site Pro Football Focus highlighted the Vikings defense in its “Re-Focused” series that reacts to the weekend’s games:

Holding the Pats to 24 points and forcing Brady to turn the ball over is no small task. The defense certainly held up [its] end of the bargain in this one.

The PFF analysis team also praised rookie tackle Brian O’Neill, whom they said “had one of his best games as a pro” despite “much of the Vikings offensive line” struggling throughout the afternoon. PFF pointed out that Cousins and Thielen also had tough outings against New England’s defense.

The Patriots defense bracketed Adam Thielen for much of the game, but on the few times he shook double coverage, Thielen didn’t do a great job of helping himself out.

[…]

Kirk Cousins simply couldn’t get anything going down the field. He was 0-6 on deep passes, and the offense couldn’t consistently move the chains without big plays.

Alan Page meets fans at book signing in North St. Paul

Over the weekend, Hall of Fame defensive tackle and retired Supreme Court Justice Alan Page visited Luv, a North St. Paul ice cream shop, on Saturday for a book signing.

Deanna Weniger of the Pioneer Press wrote about the appearance.

Page autographed children’s books that he and his daughter, Kamie, wrote together. The two read Grandpa Alan’s Sugar Shack to young listeners. All sales from the signing went to the Page Education Foundation.

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