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Monday Morning Mailbag: Uncharacteristic Mistakes Lead to Loss

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Tough loss, but mainly because we could have won it. Mental errors like penalties, missing or being late to fill gaps and dropped passes killed us but can be fixed (and generally are our strength). The toughest part about it was the offensive line getting banged up. How concerned should we be with injuries along the offensive line? Any idea where Mike Remmers is at? -- Chris Stewart

Injuries are always a concern, especially when players aren't able to suit up, as was the case this week for Pat Elflein and Remmers, or when they leave the game and aren't able to return, as was the case with Riley Reiff. I am guessing head coach Mike Zimmer will be asked about the injuries at his Monday press conference, so we'll have to wait and see what he says at that point. For now, though, the biggest concern coming from the game is probably the status of some key players, particularly along the offensive line, rather than what transpired on the field that led to the loss.

Haven't felt this way in two months but I'd rather this happen now than in January! That being said, what adjustments do you think need to be made or is it as simple as you gotta catch passes in the end zone when there thrown at you? Rare drops all across the board, but we'll right the ship! -- Raymond Bustos The Dalles, OR

Dropped passes were an issue for the Vikings offense on Sunday. The Vikings entered Week 14 with 11 dropped passes, fewest in the NFL. Case Keenum's pass catchers have been solid all season, and they did make plays against the Panthers. Kyle Rudolph reached over a defender to A) save a potential interception and B) score a touchdown on a pass in the 1st quarter and then Thielen caught a Keenum pass and then turned on the jets for a 52-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter to help the Vikings pull to within three points. But at other times on Sunday, dropped passes were a problem. Thielen got his hands on the ball twice in the end zone at the end of the first half, but couldn't secure a touchdown. Stefon Diggs dropped a pass that wound up being intercepted and Kyle Rudolph missed an opportunity for an explosive gain down the left seam. All three of those players are sure-handed receivers, so this isn't going to be a long-term issue, but it was part of what went wrong in Carolina.

Do you think there's some good that can come from this going into the postseason? Of course you always want to win, but the truth of the matter is you can't win every week. Kind of like the way we lost to the Lions this year in Week 4…we leave a little bit on the table and then we learn from our mistakes and fix it going forward. Do you think of the Viking can actually take this loss and make something good out of it? -- Casey Hansen Grand Island, NE

Yes, coaches and players can learn lessons from a loss and apply it to the following week's work to help generate improvement. But they can also do that in the wake of a win, so you won't ever find a coach telling his team it's okay to lose games. Wins are hard to come by in this league, so when a team is giving you ample opportunity to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat, it stings to not get the job done. The important thing now is to move on quickly by burying the loss to Carolina and starting to unearth the right plan to beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

How psyched is the team going to be for a chance to not only beat Zim's former team but to possibly clinch a playoff spot in front of its home crowd? -- Jake Loftus Circle Pines, MN

I can assure you that Zimmer will very quickly make it clear to his team that Sunday's game against the Bengals is not about defeating his former team. The Vikings have a chance to win the division and secure at least one home playoff game with a win on Sunday, and that objective is far more important to Zimmer than beating his old team. With that being said, there's no question that the familiarity between Zimmer and many of the Bengals coaches and players does add an intriguing dynamic to next Sunday's contest. You can be sure the Vikings won't overlook this 5-8 opponent and you can be equally as sure that this 5-8 opponent won't lose its focus or give up easily despite the circumstances of its current season.

That was a tough loss, but don't panic Vikings fans. Turnovers, missed assignments, dropped balls and bad penalties contributed to this loss and we still were in it to the end. We have three winnable games coming up. Let's take care of business and get some momentum going before the playoffs. Skol! -- Corey S. Sioux Falls, SD

Well-stated and I agree. The main concern in the early part of the week is on the injured players. Aside from that, the Vikings are still in excellent shape and can take a big step toward securing the NFC's No. 2 seed by winning on Sunday. A win over the Bengals next weekend would assure the Vikings of a lead of at least one game over the leaders of the NFC South and NFC West with just two games to play.

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