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Monday Morning Mailbag: Concerns After Vikings 1-3 Start  

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You can also send Eric a Mailbag question via Twitter.

The first checkpoint of the Vikings season is over, and Minnesota is staring at an uncomfortable 1-3 record.

And Mitch's tweet above likely echoes how most Vikings fans are feeling, even if the three losses by a combined 11 points.

For what it's worth, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer struck a positive tone yet again after Sunday's loss, just like he did after Week 2 against Arizona.

"We made a couple too many mistakes to win the game, but I firmly believe that this is a good football team," Zimmer said postgame. "We've got, offensively we can move the ball — obviously we didn't very well today — and defensively when we're playing good we're pretty darn good, and special teams, same thing.

"We've just got to stick with it," Zimmer added. "I believe, we've still got a lot of time left, we've just gotta get going and gotta continue to win some games."

Have the Vikings played close games? Yes. Should they likely have another win or two on their record? Likely.

But the team is 1-3, and the best they can be at the bye is 3-3. And that's only if they rebound with wins against a feisty Lions team and a Panthers squad that is off to a 3-1 start.

For the sake of this exercise, let's say the Vikings are .500 at the bye. Then comes a hellacious stretch of five straight games (three on the road) against teams that are all currently .500 or better.

Dallas (home) looks legit, and Baltimore (road) is among the league's toughest teams. The Chargers appear to be a team on the rise, and flipping from the East Coast-West Coast swing might be the toughest back-to-back on the schedule.

Then it's a home game against Green Bay, which looks to have found its groove, before another trip out west to face San Francisco.

Good teams might take a 3-2 record in that stretch and walk away satisfied. Anything else is just gravy.

The problem is that the Vikings have dug themselves into another early hole. Minnesota started 1-5 in 2020 but clawed back to be 6-6 before running out of gas (and bodies) down the stretch.

At this point, it appears the Vikings will face yet another uphill climb just to get into the postseason. Can they rebound and be competitive? Sure.

But the work that lies ahead could be exhausting, as the Vikings have already left themselves little room for error after the first game in October.

Hey Eric, just curious how you think this team responds going forward after another close loss where they arguably beat themselves? Another catastrophic 2-minute drill to end the first half on both sides of the ball. The defense calling a timeout we didn't have and not to mention being the only 11 people in the stadium that didn't realize a draw was coming on 3*rd*-and-forever. It seemed like more mental mistakes that are adding up quickly on the season.

— Todd Jewell

Maybe it was me, but Sunday's game just felt like a weird one. It wasn't as if either team blew the doors off the other, but it also felt as if some questionable late-game tactics by Cleveland kept opening the door for Minnesota to have a chance.

The Vikings, of course, couldn't take advantage as the offense couldn't find the end zone on their final 12 offensive possessions.

My colleague Craig Peters wrote about that draw play and the totality of the sequence of events in the final two minutes of the second half.

For those counting at home, the Vikings have now allowed an astounding 35 points in the final two minutes of halves so far this season. Even more improbably, three teams (Cincinnati, Arizona and Cleveland) have now had two scoring possessions in that timespan, too. It's hard to make that up, or imagine a rougher section of the game for the Vikings as a whole.

How do I think the Vikings respond? With plenty of fight and effort, of course, because Zimmer won't let his team respond in any other way.

Remember that in his seven previous seasons, the worst record the Vikings have posted is 7-9 — in Zimmer's first year in 2014 and during a weird and wacky 2021 season.

The Vikings aren't a franchise that bottoms out. Minnesota will be competitive, but as I stated above, a playoff berth could be a tough goal based on the slow start.

With points at a premium on Sunday, I was a bit surprised that Coach Zimmer elected to go for it on fourth-and-6 from Cleveland's 36-yard line at the 10-minute mark of the second quarter instead of opting for a 54-yard field goal try. The kick was well within Greg Joseph's range and would've extended the Vikings lead to 10-0 if successful. Your thoughts…

— Brad in Illinois

I didn't have a problem with the fourth-down attempt. It was no secret that both teams wanted to control the ball and the clock Sunday.

Cleveland was the clear winner in those categories, by the way. The Browns held the ball for a whopping 35 minutes and 32 seconds, and rushed for 184 yards. The Vikings possessed the ball for just 24:28 and tallied a season-low 65 rushing yards.

It was evident by the numerous fourth-down conversions on both sides that the Vikings and Browns were trying to best each other at similar approaches.

Zimmer likely wanted to keep the ball and keep controlling the clock, but Kirk Cousins was pressured and his attempt fell incomplete.

Joseph has certainly proven this season that the 54-yard attempt would have been in his range, as he has three makes from 50-plus yards.

But keep in mind that he was dealing with a hip issue all week. He was limited Thursday but practiced in full Wednesday and Friday.

I'm not saying it was the concrete reason Zimmer went for it, but it's just something to keep in the back of your mind.

Why is it that when the defense plays well, the offense doesn't or vice versa? Why is this a habitual problem with the Vikings for years? It's frustrating to watch!

— Corey Alexander in Richmond, Virginia

Ahhh yes, the seemingly million-dollar question. My hunch is that if you asked every other fan base, they would have a similar reaction after most games.

Heck, Browns fans are probably praising their defense today and wondering why the offense scored just 14 points.

Very rarely do both units fire on all cylinders, with teams able to score a 49-0 win with dominating performances on both sides of the ball.

And to me, that is what makes the National Football League so fascinating. Games usually come down to just a of handful plays that swing the tide one direction or another. And that likely leaves fans playing the "What If?" game week-in and week-out.

What if Dalvin Cook is ruled down in overtime of Week 1? What if Joseph makes the final kick in Arizona? What if Eric Kendricks isn't called for a lame holding call on fourth down Sunday?

Maybe we're talking about the Vikings being 3-1 or 4-0?

But, what if Seattle's offense doesn't stall out in the second half? And what if Baker Mayfield hits the multiple wide open receivers down the field Sunday?

Then we're still talking about the Vikings being 1-3, or maybe even 0-4. The line between a win and loss in this league always feels as thin as a razor's edge.

Which is why, as I circle back to the original point in this Mailbag, the Vikings need to get things in gear soon. Close losses are fine to point to on a week-by-week basis, but wins and losses are the only numbers that matter at the end of the season.