Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

Presented by

Monday Morning Mailbag: Playoffs on Way, Fan Reactions to 13th Win

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town on the email. If Twitter is your jam, you can send a question to me that way as well.

The Vikings accomplished several team goals Sunday in Chicago.

Minnesota wanted to bounce back from a bad outing in Green Bay the previous week, earn a win to keep its outside shot at the No. 2 in line (that was nullified when San Francisco won) and keep everyone as healthy and fresh as possible for the playoffs.

The Vikings did all those things, and Justin Jefferson finished the season leading the NFL in receptions (128) and yards (1,809).

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

The Vikings will make their 31st appearance in the playoffs this weekend. It would seem next to impossible to earn a postseason bid 30 times without winning a championship, but that's our reality. We've never quite seen the same ending in the Super Bowl tournament occur twice — it's almost as if, every year the Purple invent a new way to not win the Lombardi Trophy. After going 11-0 in one score games this year, my gut tells me they lose to the Giants by 8 or fewer (similar to Gary Anderson not missing a kick all season). Please convince me I'm wrong. Tell me they will finally run the table, because being the most successful unsuccessful team in pro sports has got to end. And by the way, have you noticed that the older PA (Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen) gets, the more he looks like Hub Meeds?

— Paul K. Oates in Lockport, New York

View postgame celebration photos from the Vikings regular-season finale win over the Bears at Soldier Field.

The Vikings have completed 62 regular seasons, and as Paul mentions will be making their 31st postseason appearance. That's a solid showing for a team that has been competitive most seasons but hasn't hoisted a Lombardi Trophy, despite other franchises with far fewer trips to the playoffs ending their season under celebratory confetti.

Along the way, there's been quite a bit of no-one-but-the-Vikings anguish along the way that has added to the resolve of fans.

The 1969 Vikings did win the NFL Championship before falling in Super Bowl IV. Minnesota then made it back for VIII, IX and XI during the Purple People Eaters era. The Vikings have not been back to the Super Bowl since January 1977, despite making six more appearances in NFC Championship Games.

A 13-4 mark was good enough for the No. 1 seed last season, but Minnesota is going to be the No. 3 this time around. The solace for No. 3 seeds is that No. 2 seeds no longer get a bye in the first round.

That means hosting the Giants, a team the Vikings just saw on Dec. 24 and outlasted 27-24.

The Vikings set an NFL record for the most one-score wins in this season. The Giants went 8-4-1 in one-score contests in 2022.

I haven't spent much time comparing PA to Hub Meeds, the original Vikings mascot who came to fruition the season after being let on the field for Super Bowl IV while dressed appropriately.

I've had the fortune to interview each of them for stories and appreciate both being part of the Vikings fabric. Meeds has a special display at the Minnesota Vikings Museum, by the way, if you haven't visited yet.

From one Monday morning QB, give [Alexander] Mattison the rock, at least more. When the Packers are at their best, you get doses of [Aaron] Jones and [AJ] Dillion. Mattison is running hard. We all love [Dalvin] Cook, and he needs the rock, too. A better blend could be helpful. Bottom line, Mattison runs hard!!!

— Kevin Hartzell (St. Paul hometown)

The run game has continued to evolve, but it was encouraging to see Minnesota balance between gains on the ground and through the air as they spread the ball around. Seven Vikings rushed at least once, and 11 caught at least one pass.

The Vikings have tried to reduce some of the workload on Cook throughout the season, and that continued Sunday. Although he left the game briefly, Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said Cook took a cleat to the leg and will be ready to go next week.

Mattison was able to score two 1-yard touchdowns, which also was a sign of encouragement, given that Minnesota has had some struggles on short-yardage plays.

There's almost a chicken-and-egg situation of being able to run the ball well and staying on the field and staying on the field providing more opportunities to run the ball.

View game action photos from the Vikings Week 18 game vs. the Bears at Soldier Field.

Still plenty of time left in the game. The "patchwork" offensive line has played well. We've been able to run the ball, and for the most part our QBs have had plenty of time. They are often overlooked, but they've earned some recognition today.

— Troy Boblitt in Springfield, Illinois

Tony's message came in as the Vikings were comfortably ahead of the Bears on a day when Minnesota started reserves at center (Chris Reed) and right tackle (Olisaemeka Udoh).

In the second half, the Vikings subbed in rookie Vederian Lowe at left tackle and Kyle Hinton at left guard in place of Christian Darrisaw and Ezra Cleveland, respectively.

The Vikings were able to run the ball with success and protect the passer against a Bears squad that finished with the worst record in the NFL.

The sledding is about to get tougher, but it's always better to build off positives, like running 38 times, which helped Minnesota keep the football for 36:36, not allowing a sack and only surrendering two quarterback hits.

I think a quick fix for the offensive line is to go to a two-tight end set. This should help the pass protection and run blocking. It will also bring a new twist to the offense. Hopefully Irv Smith can be activated and having him and T.J. [Hockenson] on the field at the same time would be awesome!

Go Vikes!

— Steve Lowenstein in Chino Hills, California

Steve's email was sent Thursday, two days before the Vikings activated Irv Smith, Jr., on Saturday.

It was great to see Irv back in action after undergoing his second extensive rehab of an injury (counting the preseason). He was targeted three times and caught all three passes, totaling 14 yards. Those numbers aren't going to jump of the page, but beyond that, Irv looked comfortable with the scheme and confident in his execution.

The prospect of having Hockenson and Smith on the field at the same time should be pretty exciting because it can add multiple elements to Minnesota's offense and present opponents with something to defend that they haven't seen Minnesota deploy much.

Hockenson was acquired just before the trade deadline in the week that followed Smith's injury against the Cardinals.

Going with two tight ends could dictate personnel changes by the defense and allow Minnesota to help on the edge of its offensive line, a group that is trying to move past losing right tackle Brian O'Neill for the rest of the season in Week 17.

Kudos again to the offensive line for what they were able to do Sunday after a week of preparation.

I've been meaning to write for weeks now to thank our strength/conditioning staff for their part ensuring that our players have had enough stamina to play such a long and tightly contested season and stay relatively healthy. While other teams were able to sit out some of their starters from time to time, we haven't had that luxury (until this week).

Secondly, where has Adam Thielen been?? I saw some comments online suggesting we trade him as apparently "he's lost a step and unable to shake off man-to-man coverage" but that's not how I feel at all. From what I've seen on TV, it appears like he is rarely the first option, and regardless, when the ball is thrown to him, it's almost always poorly thrown. Can you comment on what you see regarding Thielen's play? Is he having a problem getting open or not?

My last question is what is up with Kirk's inaccuracy? Again, is the system so challenging that he can't hit receivers/running backs/TEs in stride this point in the season?? It seems like way too often our "receivers" have had to make acrobatic catches regardless of if they are open or covered. When KO keeps saying what an accurate QB Cousins is, I'm a bit baffled as all I see is our "receivers" having to make difficult catches.

My one comment is it's sure gonna be a contested game in my house as my husband and son are huge Giants fans, but I'm ready for it! They don't have a team victory song, and I have a lot more team decorations than they have, including a personalized Cris Carter autographed jersey. Skol!

— Bernice in New York City

Thanks for sending. The health and performance staff is such a critical part of football success, and the group has applied specific knowledge and advancements to give the Vikings the best chances to be at their best each week and over the course of the season.

Thielen finished with 70 catches for 716 yards and six touchdowns on 107 targets. While the touchdowns aren't as high as 2020 when he caught 14 or a season ago when he racked up 10 in 13 games, those are numbers that would lead multiple other teams. It just so happens Thielen is teammates with arguably the best receiver in the game, and the Vikings added a high-volume catching tight end in the midseason. The connection from Cousins to Thielen looked good on the touchdown in Chicago.

Kirk's march through his first season in yet another system has been fairly impressive. He finished Sunday's game 17-of-20 passing with 225 yards and a touchdown for a season-high passer rating of 130.2. The Jets game comes to mind as one where there were some throws he normally makes but was unable to do so.

It was interesting after Sunday's game when Kirk mentioned that he felt it wasn't until after the second Lions game (the week after the Jets) when he really felt an increased comfort in the system. He was 31-of-41 that day with 425 yards and two scores.

Lastly, have fun repping the Vikings in your house. The last time the teams met was a great game.

It seems as though the Jets are going to part ways with QB Zach Wilson. I think he would be a great asset under the tutelage of Coach [O'Connell] and the Vikings system. Learning and developing under Kirk and the offensive staff, I believe, could take him to his next level of play. At some point he could be a viable successor at the QB position. Any thoughts on this?

— Rich Pallotta

As an employee of a team, I can't weigh-in too much on players who are under contract with other teams because of league rules.

It was nice to see Nick Mullens enter a game under much different circumstances than in Week 17 at Green Bay. Mullens completed 11 of 13 passes for 116 yards. He was intercepted once and finished with a passer rating of 71.8, but he seemed to have a good flow with what was being asked of him and with relaying to teammates.

Mullens joined the Vikings via trade in August and has been all about football, learning the system and supporting Cousins in multiple ways. He is schedule to become a free agent as well, so the Vikings will need to decide if they work out a deal to bring him back behind Cousins, who is currently under contract through 2023.

Glad O'Connell weighed in on [Damar] Hamlin's issue. Tell him thanks from me. Been a Vikings fan since they were born in 1961. This has been a great year for the organization, regardless of the end result.

Good thing I have a strong heart.

— Bob Geib

O'Connell has shown an understanding of Xs and Os, no doubt, but that knowledge is enhanced so much by his strengths as a communicator.

He's been quite intentional in building relationships with players and staff, including those who preceded his arrival, and I believe those investments help at a time when trying to lead a team through a difficult situation like the great concern for Hamlin, who has progressed so well.

So we lost [at Green Bay]. The way I look at it, after 50 years of watching, this year we have a 13-4 record with four losses that we won't soon forget, but we also have 13 wins with a couple of not-soon-to-be-forgotten, come-from-out-of-nowhere wins. I've never seen a more exciting season than this one, and it isn't over yet. We're in the playoffs and could go all the way. Whatever happens, happens. Right now, I say thank you team for the 2022 season, and if you win, you win; if you lose, you lose. You're still my team!

— Tony Vernier

Hello Vikings fans,

With all the scared fans wondering which team the Vikings will bring to the playoffs, let us remember, it is just a game and entertainment. Yes, we all wonder when it will be our turn, and yes, we have heard all the Vikings jokes. Let us remember, those young men are very lucky to be in the NFL. Many had to have a break somewhere along the way. Yes, we might think they are overpaid for what they do, but we also remember they are the best of the best. So let the games begin, and let's rock this playoff season. We do believe that they are not playing their best football. Pressure that QB, hold that football like it is your child, hustle down on kickoffs and punts, make good kicks, scramble when nobody is open to extend the play, do YOUR job. Believe, get ready mentally, study, see it in your mind, and let's go play top-level football, and great things will happen. SKOL.

— Todd from South Dakota

View pregame photos of the Vikings at Soldier Field ahead of the Week 18 matchup vs. the Bears.

Combining the thoughts from Tony and Todd. The team appreciates the support through thick and then. I've tried to remind folks over the course of the season that stacking wins, even if they weren't the prettiest would be important by season's end.

Now, the mindset shifts to win or end. We'll see how the Vikings transition to that, but going 13-4 is to be commended, even if it guarantees nothing in the playoffs.

Never did I think we would be 13-4 when the season started. I'll take it!!! Hopefully the injury bug doesn't kill us for next week. Offense looked better but left points on the field. I'd like to say the defense looked better, but who did we play? Strong defense will be needed next week.

O'Connell sounded confident that everyone who played was able to make it through and will be available next week. He also sounded optimistic about returning Za'Darius Smith and Harrison Smith to the lineup after both did not play Sunday.

The offense had some nice execution, but Kirk lamented not doing a little bit better inside the 10-yard line. Scoring touchdowns there will be of utmost importance in the postseason.

The defense played the team that was in front of them, albeit with backup quarterbacks from start to finish. Minnesota limited Chicago to 13 completions and 147 yards on 27 passes.

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

The following questions and comments were added after initial publication of this Mailbag.

OK, we are back to the Mailbag. Monday's schedule was a bit different with a full-fledged open locker room, in addition to making headway on the Playbook game program, so we're closing out the updates on Tuesday.

I read the bio on Nick Mullens and was pleasantly impressed by his experience and skills!!! My question is will O'Connell play him more and will they keep him once he's a free agent? I think the Vikings have a hidden gem there!!!

— Dan Gallagher

Vikings coaches have been complimentary of Mullens' approach and contributions to the team, even if his playing time has been sparse. He played eight snaps at Green Bay and 33 at Chicago under very different circumstances.

I can go back to Minnesota's preseason game at Las Vegas to say I was impressed by what Mullens did in a Raiders uniform against the Vikings back in August.

I'd imagine, that unless the Vikings are able to create some distance against an opponent, which hasn't been the norm for this team, that it will be Cousins under center during the playoffs. Coaches will be able to evaluate Mullens with some more in-game reps on tape thanks to the past two weeks as Minnesota evaluates the entirety of the roster after the season ends. It seems like he's been a good fit to the quarterbacks room.

The Vikings could approach him before free agency opens, but he'll also be eligible to field offers from other teams. If the latter happens, the Vikings and Mullens could always work out a deal after the start of free agency.

Can the Vikings get two home playoff games?

— Brittany Clark in Albert Lea, Minnesota

The answer is yes, but only with some help along the way.

Because the NFL resets the deck after each round to pit the highest remaining seed against the lowest remaining seed (instead of a straight bracket), the No. 3 seed Vikings (if they defeat the Giants in the Wild Card) would need the No. 7 Seahawks to upset the No. 2 49ers on Saturday in order to host a Divisional Round game.

Seattle winning would send the Seahawks to Philadelphia to face the top-seeded Eagles. The Vikings would then host the winner of the Dallas-Tampa Bay game.

The Vikings could also host the NFC Championship Game if Philadelphia and San Francisco are both eliminated, so there could even be a way to get to three home games.

Or there could be a chance to win in the Wild Card Round, visit San Francisco and then return home to host Dallas or Tampa Bay if one of those teams were to topple Philadelphia in the Divisional Round.

What a great year. 13-4. We've been season ticket holders for years. We saw just one loss at home. The Vikings are ready for a great game on Sunday.

— LaMar and David Lundell

Excluding the loss to the Cowboys — Dallas has been the best visiting team at U.S. Bank Stadium (4-0 since 2016) — the Vikings restored the homefield advantage they've generally enjoyed at the venue. Winning all but one of a team's home games in a season means that finding four road wins will result in double-digit victories every season and trips to the postseason.

All six teams who only lost one home game in 2022 (San Francisco, Dallas, Minnesota, Buffalo, Kansas City and Cincinnati) made the postseason, and five won their divisions.

Minnesota is 39-18 in 57 regular-season home games since the venue opened, which is tied for the fourth-best win percentage (.684) in the NFL and trails only Kansas City, Green Bay and Pittsburgh.

Removing the 2020 season in which fans were not allowed to attend U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings have the second-best win percentage in home games (.735 with a 36-13 record) behind only Kansas City's .776 (38-11).

The last time the Vikings and Giants met — way, way back in 2022 (ha!) — fans filled the stands and participated in the Winter Whiteout to provide highly memorable visuals. I expect another tremendous crowd this Sunday.

Let's go Vikings, put God first. God bless.

— James Saunders in Elizabeth City, North Carolina

There are a number of players who have connected through their religious beliefs as one way to strengthen the bond between each other.

The team's process has been to build connectivity and belief among players that each will do his tasks to the fullest on each snap. We've seen them help each other through some tough situations between the lines and concerted efforts to uplift members of the community who are struggling through tough times, whether there's an expressed tie-in to religious faith or not.

Have we seen all of the Vikings offensive plays? Have Wes Phillips and O'Connell expended every option including the kitchen sink? How wide open have the two opened the playbook?

— Raymond Ward

This one is particularly interesting to me, given that the Vikings are facing the Giants three weeks after hosting them. Minnesota might get to something it didn't use the last time against New York or might make some tweaks on what was already presented.

When the teams met, everyone knew there was a strong chance that a rematch in the playoffs could be looming.

Phillips and O'Connell will now have the added wrinkle of Irv Smith, but they'll also keep in mind that the team's offensive line will be without Brian O'Neill for sure and may or may not have Garrett Bradbury back. Absences up front can impact the menu of plays, and so can what the opponent likes to do or is good at.

I'd imagine the Vikings staff will have a few postseason surprises because they've known for quite some time that they'd have the opportunity to host at least one playoff game.

But it could go both ways. Maybe the Giants did not use as many blitzes against the Vikings as they did for much of the season? New York led the NFL with a blitz rate of 44.7 percent (272 of 1,078 defensive snaps).

View Vikings players in Big Head Mode as the team defeated the Bears 29-13 in Week 18's regular-season finale at Soldier Field.