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Monday Morning Mailbag: Fan Reactions to Packers Loss, Questions on Vikings Approach Forward

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Happy New Year to everyone, even if it started with an unpleasant showing by your favorite football team.

Welp, 2023 didn't start as fun for the Vikings as the 2022 season.

The same teams met in another Border Battle, and neither game has lived up to the billing. Minnesota prevailed at home in Week 1 23-7, and Green Bay returned the favor on the slippery surface of Lambeau Field Sunday with a 41-17 trouncing.

Minnesota's lone double-digit win occurred against Green Bay, which became the fourth team to top the Vikings by 11 or more points.

The offense missed a critical opportunity early and suffered the losses of backup center Austin Schlottmann and right tackle Brian O'Neill in a first half that somehow seemed worse than when Minnesota trailed Indianapolis 33-0 before its historic rally in Week 15. The defense was unable to record a takeaway that could have helped on a day when Minnesota's offense committed four turnovers.

The Vikings (12-4) will visit the Bears (3-13) at Soldier Field next week to wrap the regular season.

Minnesota is guaranteed no worse than the No. 3 seed in the NFC Playoffs, but it did lose its chance to take a run at the No. 1 and fell from the No. 2 because San Francisco (12-4) won and has a tiebreaker with a better conference record.

On to the questions (as a reminder, we'll update with more Monday).

That was just an embarrassing beatdown. On both sides of the ball, to the point that I specifically question the coaching preparation and game planning for this game as a poor and unacceptable effort. Of course, we also had poor execution by the players, too, but our plans of attack on both sides of the ball were ineffective. We couldn't even score a TD after a first and goal at the 1? Did we not have any plan at all for dealing with [Jaire] Alexander being permanently assigned to Jefferson — something we knew or should have known? The Packers punted once until it didn't matter. That just about says it all. We gave away 11 points in the first half by ceding a KO return for TD and taking a FG with field position at the Packers 1-yard line. Our poor level of play and effectiveness on both sides of the ball were surprising to me, especially with the No. 1 seed and bye on the line after the Eagles loss. Here are my 3 Ups and 3 Downs for the game:

UPS:

1. Another blocked punt by the [Josh] Metellus. Wow.

2. Nice, but lucky, three-and-out on Packers first possession. Unfortunately, the Packers didn't punt again until it didn't matter.

3. Nice TD pass to [Jalen] Nailor.

DOWNS:

*1. First-and-goal from the 1 after the blocked punt, and we don't score a TD? More weak calls and execution in short-yardage situations. We have routinely not been converting on third- and fourth-and 1? Not scoring a TD on first-and-goal from the 1 is just another example of this ongoing problem. It was a huge wasted opportunity and inexplicable result. *

2. More weak kickoff coverage by the Vikings. This time we gift the Packers a 105-yard TD.

3. The overall offensive and defensive performances for the entire first half were remarkably unproductive — and continued unabated into the second half. It looked to me like the coaches had a poor game plan to begin with, and our weak execution made it even worse.

4. (Bonus and well deserved downer): multiple missed field goals.

The Packers look like a playoff team; we do not. Looking forward to Da Bears, although even if we play our starters next week, I am not sure we could win. Remember the famous video clip of a mediocre team's head coach at the podium being asked about the playoffs — "Playoffs?" he says disbelievingly. That's the way I feel right now.

Respectfully,

Jeff L.

We'll start with Jeff because of his closing comments. Most of us remember Jim Mora's incredulous rhetorical question or have seen the clip by now.

There's not a doubt that the Vikings will make the playoffs and host at least one game, but the opportunity to host more than one took a major hit with that loss.

To me, the Packers looked like a team playing at home in elements in which it has a strong history of excelling, both over time and under Matt LaFleur. The Vikings are kind of caught in between trying to be as healthy as possible for the postseason with a shot at the No. 2 or No. 3.

Bottom line, if you get the ball at the opponent's 1, you need to score a touchdown. I don't know what went into the game plan, but clearly the Vikings thought there was success to be found by running the ball at the middle of the Packers defense. That's the only way I can explain consecutive middle runs on second and third down, including on Austin Schlottmann's final snap of the game at center (because of a leg injury) and Chris Reed's first.

I also was somewhat surprised Kevin O'Connell didn't go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2. He's been aggressive in his first season as a head coach, and I expected that to continue at that point in the game and spot on the field.

The boys in purple must have been hung over. Heck of a way to start the new year.

The Pack were playing for their lives, and we were playing for a paycheck. We get a gift and can't score from the 1 yd line. Endless penalties and turnovers. We're told that the locker room is enthusiastic, but where is the discipline?

How do you feel about resting our starters next week? I'd like to see [Kene] Nwangwu, [Ty] Chandler, [Nick] Mullens and more of [Jalen] Nailor on offense. Keep the D in-tact.

Cheers

— Nicholas Balkou

The timing of finding out there might still be a shot at the No. 1 occurred right before kickoff in Green Bay as New Orleans finished its upset at Philadelphia. Minnesota then needed to win out and have the Eagles lose next week against the Giants, who are also now in the playoffs.

The final tally of penalties was six against Minnesota and three against Green Bay, but I think it seemed like more because of the timing of them and the fact the Vikings have been one of the least penalized teams in the NFL.

I suppose if it is believed that San Francisco will handle Arizona, then it might make sense to rest the brunt of starters. If it is believed the starters need to try to play another game in the elements to prepare for going on the road (if able to advance in the Wild Card Round), then maybe do a bit of both?

I am perplexed, as the Vikings offense was predicated upon the ability to move players around and put them in motion to create opportunities for them to get open. There was no evidence of this type of scheme, as J.J. was held in check, and nothing was done to mitigate the situation.

Please tell me, in your opinion, if the Vikes were just saving the real offense for the playoffs and just put a vanilla version on display today.

Skol Vikes

— John Stephens

There was one point where Justin Jefferson had a favorable matchup against an outside linebacker and the ball didn't go his way. It seemed like the Vikings struggled to create separation against the Packers, which can be a credit to some things Green Bay did, and the Vikings slipping multiple times.

That's an interesting take on if the Vikings are saving some things for the postseason when a loss becomes final. Folks were pretty antsy when Minnesota closed its preseason after losing all three games, but O'Connell showed the Vikings were ready for the regular season.

Minnesota has been rotating some reserves on offense and defense, and I think that could have impacted only having 10 men on the field for a third-and-10 and having 12 on it later during that same drive.

View game action photos from the Vikings Week 17 game vs. the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Well, it was all right there for the taking with Philly losing. But the team just dirtied their diapers. Sigh. Couldn't watch the replay, as I am a working man, even on Sunday and can't afford lose sleep on a blowout loss.

Enough with the failures.

During last week's Giants game, I found out their QB Daniel Jones will be a free agent next year. Interesting.

A good QB with mobility, NFL experience, and better decisiveness. Plug him into a team with great weapons Vikings, and that's a major upgrade. Add in a driven, sturdy center and a couple defenders through draft or free agency, our team is a legit contender.

Tell me where I'm wrong. I like our QB all right, he's just long in the tooth and prone to pressure failure.

Thanks,

— JD from the Last Frontier

I don't know what's worse for fans to digest, the fact that the No. 1 seed was still a possibility at kickoff, the loss that prevented that occurred against the Packers, or so much of the country saw another nearly nationally televised disappointment.

I don't know what it is, but that's two 3:25 p.m. (CT) games on CBS with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, and that's two 40 burgers on the year and a combined 81-20 score between the Dallas and Green Bay games.

Kirk Cousins is a combined 30-for-54 with 310 yards, one touchdown and five total turnovers when that broadcast crew has covered the Vikings this season. He had a 64.6 against the Cowboys and only a 49.2 against the Packers.

We'll never know how another quarterback would have performed in his first season with O'Connell in his first as a head coach, but I do know the latter has repeatedly credited the former. Cousins' eight fourth-quarter comebacks have tied a single-season NFL record. He's seemed to elevate at critical moments, but he's also had some really bad ones with larger TV audiences.

The Vikings have had to withstand losing a left tackle and starting center for multiple games, and Minnesota losing Schlottmann and O'Neill were definitely less than ideal in a road game.

Cousins is still only 34 years old, which by QBs, seems quite young, and I think it would be highly compelling to see what his second year in this system looks like.

G'day from Down Under

I have been a fan since birth (1961 coincides with the birth of the Vikings). Love my Vikes!

It would seem that we fell into the trap of playing to the Cheesehead's stats and going away from what we've done well at. Too reliant on the tight end and on numerous occasions overlooked an open J.J. assuming he was double teamed. I'm a big Cousins fan, but on this occasion, I reckon he chose way too many wrong options. Injuries aside (and they hurt us) we just made all the mistakes ourselves.

Are we poised for yet another Minnesota meltdown?? Come on team! Don't build the fan base hopes and then kick us in the guts.

Looks like we will have to do it all away from home unless we get a miracle from the Cardinals and we beat the lowly Bears. My question, and most likely everyone else's is do you believe we can have playoff success with this side? Especially on the road and … what will it take?

Here's hoping!

SKOL

— Keith Svendsen in Perth, Australia

Well, we know the Vikings will host one game in the Wild Card Round, but it's now highly likely limited to that weekend.

One of the things I've been thinking about is this is Minnesota's second trip through its division schedule and wondering if foes have been that much better prepared (Detroit got revenge Dec. 11 from a Week 3 loss, and Green Bay exacted its payback with a good bit of self-harm by the Vikings).

The answer to the burning question is I don't know. I believe the Vikings offense thrives on synthetic turf and has generally proven that. The Vikings are 10-2 on turf and 2-2 on grass.

I think it's also important to be battle tested and as healthy as possible in the postseason.

Strong defense and ability to pound the football because passing conditions generally deteriorate have been pretty successful over the years, and I don't think that's the bread and butter of this Vikings squad.

Anything can happen in the playoffs. That's why we all love postseason football.

The following questions/comments were added after the initial publication of Monday's Mailbag.

It seems like for the losses, nothing goes right, and the guys just can't turn things around in time. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think it is more to do with this being KOC's first year as a head coach? He does have the best record [among first-time] head coaches. Except for the Giants at 9-6-1, everyone else is at or below .500 (or fired). I just hope that they get it figured out for the playoffs.

Also, I love to hear KOC's speeches after a win. Why don't the Vikings post his locker room speech after a loss?

— Paula in Mankato, Minnesota

Paula's first question reminded me of this article by NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks from way back in June 2022. The former player and scout ranked each "situation" for the 10 coaches entering their first seasons with their respective teams. O'Connell landed at No. 6, and Daboll landed at No. 7. It's the opinion of one analyst, but based on that, it's also arguable that the teams led by O'Connell and Daboll may have overachieved in becoming two of the teams to make the playoffs this season after not doing so a year ago. The Vikings have a chance to win their 13th game for just the third time in a season (true, there's an extra game this season, but that's pretty impressive). Daboll has secured a playoff berth in a highly competitive NFC East. The Vikings played that division and went 2-2.

O'Connell obviously has the benefit of having won a Super Bowl a year ago as offensive coordinator of the Rams, a team that went 12-5 in the regular season and won close games in the playoffs.

Minnesota's losses have been to Eagles and Cowboys teams who have won 13 and 12 games, respectively, as well as on the road at Detroit and Green Bay, who have both rallied to elevate to 8-8 and have a shot at making the playoffs.

As far as the postgame speeches, having VEN cameras in the locker room for those victory speeches is allowed by O'Connell. Some coaches don't allow cameras, even after victories, so our VEN team appreciates the opportunity to record those, and they've been incredibly popular with fans. The words after a loss might be more important for coaches to keep internal than the words of congratulations that follow victories. The Vikings won seven consecutive games after their loss at Philadelphia, two more after the Dallas debacle and two after losing at Detroit. They've responded before.

I knew going in that this game would be tough. My pregame conversation with fellow fans addressed the fact that we never have the footing figured out in Green Bay in December. Lines got pushed back on both sides, and receivers couldn't get separation at all. At this point in the season, mistakes and failure to execute just breeds more mistakes and ultimately injuries. My hope was that we could get out of this game healthy — regardless if we get the win. NOPE!! Hopefully we will get some key offensive linemen back after we sit the starters next week. No idea on the extent of O'Neill's injury. Kudos to the Vikings for all their close wins, but have to be completely honest, in 50 some years of being a fan, I've never enjoyed a winning season less than this one. Maybe it's because they never established a team identity. Could never count on at least one aspect of their game always showing at every game. Special teams were Jekyll and Hyde from game to game. Defense had more holes than a spaghetti strainer every week and never showed any real improvement all season. Offense could run one game and then not at all the next. Cousins to Jefferson was the most consistent part of the offense, but even they weren't immune from the complete no show from time to time. Thielen and Osborn made a rare appearance in some games. Definitely not enough offense to give the team a true identity. Take away Jefferson and pummel the offensive line into submission is our opponents' game plan. Maintaining hope that we can get healthy and finally show some real improvement before season ends. SKOL Vikes!

— Dale Kruse in Decorah, Iowa

The Packers improved to 10-0 under in December or later regular-season games under Head Coach Matt LaFleur, so it seems like a road team struggling there late in the season isn't exclusive to the Vikings. The Lions will try to change that this week.

Green Bay is 2-2 in home playoff games since LaFleur's hire in 2019.

The injuries are tough, but every team must overcome a key injury at some point or already has. A first-year head coach with new coordinators on offense, defense and special teams has led to a lot of learning on the fly. I don't know if all the newness or specific matchup problems from week to week.

While the schemes might still be developing, and there's been multiple times this season where the Vikings say they don't think they've played their best football yet, I do think they're known around the NFL as a team you don't want to see across from you if it's close in the fourth quarter. They also generally have protected the football and not committed a high number of penalties.

Committing turnovers without offsetting them can be particularly detrimental.

Teams are 1-16 when committing four turnovers in 2022. Buffalo got away with it against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1 but was not so fortunate when having the same number of turnovers against the Vikings.

Vikes had a lot to play for today, and the killer instinct was never there. It looked like a Zimmer-led team.

So very hard not to believe the doubters.

"Frauds"

— John Reid

The Vikings are who we thought they were.

— Doug Langiewicz

I'll keep it short.

It was embarrassing.

We were a 12-3 team until then. How?

— Roy Appleby

Combining the three questions with one response.

Yes, the Vikings did have much to play for, but the Packers also had a good deal to play for in their attempt to rally and make the postseason after entering December 4-8. The Bears led them by 10, 13 and 9 in the first, second and fourth quarters, respectively, before Green Bay scored 18 and allowed 0 in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on Dec. 4.

Coach Zimmer struggled in his first appearance at Lambeau Field, but he had the team ready to clinch the division there in the final game of the 2015 season, and he definitely won plenty of games, despite some late-season dips.

For all the doubters externally, what's more important is whether the people in the building believe. That alone won't do the trick to go all the way. Belief must be accompanied by clean plans and execution, plus a little luck from time to time.

To Doug's point, I think teams continue to evolve throughout the season, but many would feel better if there were more signs of ascending than were shown Sunday. Minnesota has three road losses but went 8-1 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Winning all but one at home and only dropping three, maybe four, is usually a reliable path to making the postseason.

And in Roy's question, because in most games, the Vikings have avoided turnovers, gotten key stops and executed better on offense than they did against a desperate team.

We are looking at J.J. as the first target most of the game, and when teams are double teaming him, Cousins had no time left to find other receivers. Go to K.J. first and often until they back off J.J. We are beating ourselves over and over again. Plus, our receivers are not even looking at Cousins for a quick strike. J.J. made that mistake more than once.

I say rest our players, settle for the 3 seed, be healthy for the Giants, and if Green Bay gets in and can beat San Francisco and Philadelphia, then if we win our two playoff games, we have home field for the Championship Game.

SKOL VIKES

— VIKINGJOE in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

I honestly don't know the progressions, but I can understand why plenty of plays would start with looking Jefferson's direction. Going to Osborn after halftime, however, was what sparked the comeback.

Reed had not played a snap on offense this season prior to relieving Schlottmann. While he does have several seasons under his belt, the time on task with Cousins was extremely limited, and that may have compounded Minnesota's problems. Not an excuse; just an explanation.

Landing at the No. 3 seed would mean hosting the New York Giants, who will be the No. 6 seed regardless of what they do at Philadelphia in Week 18.

The No. 7 seed will go to one of the following teams:

Green Bay if the Packers defeat the Lions, regardless of anything else

Detroit if the Lions top the Packers AND Seattle loses at home to the L.A. Rams

Seattle if it wins AND the Lions top the Packers

Assuming San Francisco tops Arizona in its 10th overall game this season against a team with seven or fewer wins entering Week 18 (the Bears will be Minnesota's seventh), they'll lock up the No. 2. The 49ers also could win the No. 1 if they win, AND Philadelphia loses AND Dallas wins. All three teams would finish with 13-4 marks, and San Francisco would claim a tiebreaker.

My perspective is whether our QB is possibly tampering with his role and responsibility to the team.

It should be noted those recent mistakes, aren't mistakes, they appear to be purposely made to devalue our team.

Just saying, the backup QB came in and immediately changed the energy of the game…. How so?

— Elizabeth Stephens

I'm honestly not seeing it that way. I think mistakes happen, and there's not much a QB can do when a ball is deflected, except hope and pray for the least troublesome impact. We've talked about footing for receivers and other players, but footwork is incredibly important for quarterbacks.

Kirk has been a high achiever at most things he's attempted, and the amount of work he puts in behind the scenes would impress everyone if we're able to pull back the curtain on it at some point.

Nick Mullens had a nice showing, for sure, and good for him because of what he's invested into being Minnesota's backup QB, but the circumstances of the game were a little different at that point.

Not all loses are equal.

As great as this season has been overall, losing to both Dallas and Green Bay by historic numbers in the same season will never sit well with Vikings fans. Those two teams represent our most bitter rivalries, and Coach O'Connell has to coach like he understands that. To this day, I still think of Drew Pearson instead of the Holy Virgin Mother when I hear the term "Hail Mary."

This Vikings team needs to toughen up now, stop giving early up early insurmountable leads, and remind themselves the blood of Norsemen runs through their veins.

And if that isn't enough motivation, consider putting Aaron Rodgers post-game interviews on a loop to play in the locker room as he smugly dismisses JJ, talks about how GB, once 4-8, is "now pointed in the right direction and has their destiny in their own hands" etc. Just one man's opinion but wiping that smug look off his face and pushing it into the ground on a sack or two should be enough motivation for any Viking fan or player.

— Kevin Gorman

Earlier this season, Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels opened one of his media sessions by asking reporters which feeling is stronger between loving to win or hating to lose. It was a rhetorical way to start one of his usually great podium sessions.

Maybe the answer for Vikings fans is it depends on the opponent in each scenario? Were any of the 11 wins (not including against Green Bay) loved more than the losses to Dallas and at Green Bay were hated?

I don't know Aaron Rodgers and have never been in an interview room with him. I know how his comments have been received, and that he would take great joy in trying to add an oracle title to his bio.

While I realize the season is still going, regardless of the outcome of this season, a few things need to change before Week 1 of 2023.

1 — KOC needs to pass off some play-calling to the OC. It's very hard to manage an NFL game if you're only focus is on calling plays. Same thing with Zimmer. The head coach needs to remain flexible, and most get tunnel vision.

2 — Donatell needs to go. His play-calling and philosophy just doesn't work in today's NFL. If you're vanilla and passive, then you will get killed regardless of personnel and scheme.

3 — We need a new kicker. Greg just isn't good enough.

4 — Cook needs to be traded. We just have too much money tied up at the position and we need to invest in line help, and that's hard to do when overpaying the most irrelevant position on that side of the ball.

— Jared from Minneapolis

O'Connell is consistently evaluating numerous things, including his own performance and process. Head coaches who also call offense or defense would probably point to a streamlined efficiency of communication. The Vikings didn't have the day they thought they would, and they'll go back and assess everything from Sunday. Once the season is finished, I'm sure they'll do a deeper dive on everything in general.

The defense was the least of the problems Sunday. The unit limited Green Bay to 315 net yards. Allowing a rate of 7-for-12 on third downs is above ideal, but Green Bay's average gain per play was 5.2. The unit seems to be getting better as it nears the end of its first season with the scheme.

Giving up the 105-yard kickoff return touchdown and suffering the 75-yard pick-six were 14 points that aren't on the backs of the defense. Cousins had already let the pass go before Jefferson, who was being covered by a linebacker, flashed open down the right sideline. Holding one second longer and getting back to Jefferson would have been a touchdown instead of a pick-six and the no-contact injury to O'Neill who was hustling during the run back and went down between the hashes.

Three Packers possessions began at the Green Bay 40-yard line or better, and those resulted in 17 points.

The slips and slides by offensive skill players will be most talked about, but that also would cut into the explosion off the line of a player like Danielle Hunter, and it could impact kickers on field goals, too. Everyone must play on the surface that exists, so not making an excuse, but Joseph had made all 12 extra points and was 6-for-6 on field goals in December.

I'd imagine a few people will be sending in thoughts about Cook. The Vikings running game has been feast or famine, and I don't fully understand why, but his 81-yard run at Buffalo and 64-yard touchdown reception against the Colts were two examples of his unique talent. That said, the offense clearly ran through Cook during the Kevin Stefanski/Gary Kubiak/Klint Kubiak years and has become tilted more toward the passing game. If everyone views running back as irrelevant, however, that would probably mean there isn't much to be offered in a trade.

The ugly. Losing badly to the Packers.

The bad. Injuries. Hopefully both centers and [RT] are back by playoff time.

The "good." Assuming the Eagles stay the one seed, if San Francisco is the 2 seed and Packers or Lions end up the 7 seed, Vikings play the Giants? Maybe a better first-round matchup for the Vikings?

SKOL!

— Noel in Bayfield, Wisconsin

Starting center Garrett Bradbury is making progress. We'll find out more this week. Perhaps he's ready for Sunday, or the Vikings might keep him sidelined for an extra week before the postseason. Maybe they try to get him a few snaps like a preseason game. O'Connell said Schlottmann and O'Neill will have MRIs Monday. We'll keep people posted with the latest on him.

I'm of the impression that most playoff games are tough, and we just saw how much the Giants challenged the Vikings in Week 16. I'm mildly curious to find out what a rubber match with Detroit or Green Bay would look like. It's really tough to defeat a team three times in a season, so maybe that offers a bit of solace?

Why didn't O'Connell go for it on fourth-and-goal in the first quarter or when it was fourth-and-3 at the 40-yard line? I think if we had gone for it on those two fourth downs in the first half and converted, that it would really have shifted the momentum of the game.

— Tom Gustafson

Again, I was surprised the Vikings didn't go for it on fourth-and-2, probably more than the back-to-back runs up the middle that haven't seemed to be Minnesota's forte.

Hindsight being 20/20, there's no way in the world that the Vikings wouldn't have been better off by going for it on fourth-and-goal at the 2 than kicking the chip shot field goal and giving up the 105-yard kickoff return TD on the ensuing play.

The fourth-and-3 at the Minnesota 32, I think at that point, when trailing 7-3, it's probably best to try to play field position. The problem was the Vikings only netted 30 on the punt, so Green Bay took over at its own 38. While the drive that followed ended with the sack of Rodgers for a loss of 16, the Minnesota possession gained just 8 yards before O'Connell dialed up the pass on fourth-and-2 from the Green Bay 37 instead of trying a 55-yard field goal. A few more yards of field position, and perhaps the game is 7-6 at that point instead of becoming 14-3 on the 75-yard pick-six.

Once again, I couldn't stomach watching this team. I lasted until Joseph missed a FG that would have made it 14-6 Packers. I just don't understand. We have good players, but they only play well in stretches, but you never know when that will be. No one in the league or anywhere else on this planet respects the Vikings. My question to you is start telling it like it is. Stop trying to toe the company line. How can we as Vikings fans get excited for the playoffs if we're not confident every week that this team is going to win?

I have been a fan of the Vikings ever since I can remember, and I'm turning 60 this year and to add insult to injury, I have lived near Green Bay for all those years. I would like to see the Vikings get to the SB one more time before I leave this earth. Thanks for letting me vent. I feel better now.

— Al Lindberg in Denmark, Wisconsin

Always appreciate people repping the Vikings across the border. After moving to Minnesota in 2014, it didn't take long to realize the Vikings-Packers is more in line with some intense college rivalries I grew up with in the SEC (not saying they are exclusive to that conference — don't need mail on college conference superiority).

Dalvin Cook has often talked about how much he likes the rivalry.

There was plenty of evidence mounting that it was not going to be a good day for the Vikings, including several things that have already been pointed out by fans.

The Packers have good players and coaches, too, that's why people were surprised to see them lose five in a row and seven of eight during a stretch that started against the Giants in Green Bay's first appearance in London.

The Vikings lost a road division game for the second time in the span of four weeks, but here's a fact to keep in mind: 27 of the 32 teams in the NFL have lost two or more division games this season.

Minnesota will close its season and division slate by visiting Chicago, where things often get a little bizarre.

If the Vikings wind up rematching with the Giants, then it will be interesting to see how that shakes out because New York would then become the fourth team to play Minnesota twice this season. Would the Giants fare better the second time around? Would playing at home again help put the Vikings claim the rematch, too?

If the Vikings are smart, they will settle for third seed, rest their players and try to figure out some way to play defense for what might be their one and only playoff game. They do not give their fans much hope this year with the worst defense in football. I have been a fan since 1965, and they have always found a way to disappoint.

— Mr. Bill (fan since 1965)

I know that wild things happen in the NFL each week, but the likelihood of San Francisco losing to Arizona is incredibly low, so the No. 2 seed would be unreachable.

I'm sure O'Connell will be asked plenty this week if he plans to rest most starters.

After the blocked punt and had first-and-goal on the 1-yard line, why, on the first offensive play, didn't they run the play where they put J.J. in motion and then snap when he was over the center and QB and hand off to him? He would have pretty much walked into the end zone. It would have given us a 7-0 lead, and J.J. and the whole team confidence, and Schlottmann wouldn't have gotten hurt. It seems like a no brainer. That play always gets 1 yard. What is wrong with our coaches and play calling??

— Brad (Bleeding purple since 1977)

The most accurate answer for you is I don't know, but I think we all saw that the Vikings thought they'd find success running up the middle against Green Bay. Despite not having much of a résumé, Minnesota frequented that early in the game, but Cook didn't find much running room. Maybe a sweep would have been the way to go to bank on the misdirection and outflank the defenders.

There may have been some residuals from trying to get creative in Detroit with the RB pass that became a fumble by Cook when the interior defender was not blocked. There's plays every week that coaches would like to have back, and the feeling is even worse when a golden opportunity like that is squandered.

The field was so bad, and cleats were an issue.

Why was this not observed in pregame warmups? Whose responsibility is this to decide on the cleats used?

If the Green Bay defense was having a safety over the top for a loose double coverage, could Kirk not find an open receiver?

What is the outlook for the O line?

— Pete Siemers

Not to use as an excuse, but that field seemed to be in horrible shape, which I attribute to the lessening lethality of our pass offense, especially J.J. Did Green Bay intentionally soak the field by any chance to hinder our pass attack? Did the wet field factor into the two lineman injuries? Curious minds would like to know.

— Chris Forget

Combining these. Full disclosure, I did not travel to Green Bay, so I didn't see the turf in person with my own eyes. (Lindsey Young made the trip for our Vikings.com team).

Vikings players said after the game that they tested their cleats in the pregame and thought they were in good shape. Usually, if conditions are expected to be slippery, then the 7 stud cleats are recommended but not forced. The Vikings equipment staff increases the amount of gear and options for players when going to outdoor venues, particularly Lambeau Field late in the season.

If receivers are struggling to plant and change direction, it slows them down and helps the defense. Jefferson's speed and fluidity at the tops of his routes has proved problematic for plenty of defenders this season.

As for the outlook on the offensive line, it was tremendously tough for the team and all players to see teammates injured.

I'm not knowledgeable enough to speak on the injuries that happened, but all of our eyes saw O'Neill go down in the middle of the field while running on the pick-six without anyone around him.

Earlier this season, there were several players on social media speaking in favor of replacing turf fields with grass. Unfortunately, injuries happen as part of the sport on turf and grass.

This game was truly disappointing and heartbreaking not just for the players, but for the fans as well. I guess I would like the team to know that many Vikings fans stand with them. This team plays as ONE and the fans can feel it. We feel a part of the team. When we stink, we really stink! No doubt about it. However, because this team shares the same heartbeat and sometimes heartbreak, they can overcome great adversity. We need to keep it in perspective. It is just one game. This team has had an AMAZING season and has done many unbelievable things TOGETHER.

I am so tired of people nitpicking and criticizing certain players, like Kirk, stating we should get rid of them, like that is the answer to a loss. Our players all feel the heartbreak. I am sure, because we feel it with them. To lose our backup center and our right tackle was difficult. However, the focus should be concentrating on our team's strength, working together as ONE. When this year's Vikings do that, they are winners because they overcome the hardships together, hardening them into a stronger more resilient team. That is the secret to winning those close games. Please don't forget what got you here. Just dust yourselves off; get back up; and focus on the next challenge. The rest is just noise! I don't plan on listening to it and hope the team doesn't either. Trust me; you have Fans who believe in you!

— Marie, A Viking Believer

This was certainly a disappointing performance by our Vikings, but it's important to keep our eye on the big picture. We're in our first season with a new GM and an entire new coaching staff. We won the NFC North, and we're going to the playoffs likely as a No. 2 or No. 3 seed. I doubt anyone expected that at the beginning of the season. That's pretty impressive, and our future looks bright. SKOL!

— Joe from Des Moines, Iowa

We'll close here with a bit of positivity to start your first weeks of the new year.

When O'Connell and others stress connectivity of the team, I think it goes beyond the locker room, to others in the building and beyond. Players do feel and appreciate the support, and they know that not all NFL teams receive the kind of support they enjoy here.

When Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired, he described the team attempting a competitive rebuild.

Did that mean maybe have a shot at the playoffs? Take teams to the wire but only be able to play a spoiler role by the end of the season? Or what the team wound up doing — winning the division for the first time since 2017 and prepping for a home playoff game?

The Vikings believed they could be in the mix to win games while building their foundation for the future. They can remain true to the latter while trying to do something that has never been done by Minnesota before.

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