MINNEAPOLIS – The Vikings moved the ball offensively, but two touchdowns wasn't enough against the defending Super Bowl Champion Chiefs.
Minnesota fell 27-20 to Kansas City Sunday. And though the Vikings only punted once, two could-be touchdown drives ended in field goals, and a handful of missed opportunities peppered the afternoon.
"We need to score more points. We need to finish more drives in the end zone. I feel like we had some really good drives, and when you finish with two field goals in the first half, you really need those to be touchdowns. Touchdowns win in this league; field goals don't," said center Garrett Bradbury, who started the game after missing the past three. "We had a lot of success moving the football, but at the end of the day, we have to score touchdowns and we can't turn the ball over. It's those two things."
The Vikings first play of the game went from effective to disastrous in a split-second, and it felt like Minnesota fought an uphill battle the rest of the day.
Kirk Cousins connected with tight end Josh Oliver, who shook off a defender and got into space, gaining 15 yards. But Kansas City safety Justin Reid got his helmet on the ball and knocked it loose from Oliver's grasp. Bryan Cook recovered the fumble for the Chiefs, who drove down the field and capitalized with a 1-yard touchdown.
"I was trying to make a play, and I was doing too much," Oliver said. "Anytime you have the ball in your hands, you have the whole organization in your hands, and I let the Vikings down today.
"You've got to tuck it when you're in traffic, and I didn't do that today," he added. "It's on me."
Fellow tight end T.J. Hockenson said he hopes the fumble doesn't shake Oliver's confidence.
"He's a great player," Hockenson said. "Stuff like that happens. It's happened too much on this team, obviously, but you can't let your confidence get hurt from that. The move that he made to make a guy miss, and then to be able to create an explosive play and then it just comes out. I mean, he knows. He knows what happened. It was just a tough one."
Hockenson expressed frustration with himself, as well, having his fingertips on a few balls throughout the day he just was unable to secure.
"The first one, that branch route, I think Kirk is just getting a little bit of pressure in the backfield and has to get it out, and I didn't quite have my eyes around yet and I see it late, and I get one hand on it," he noted. "Then later, I think we were just on different pages. I thought he was gonna kind of put it high and back, because I thought the [linebacker was] inside, and then he put it out in front and it was kind of like, 'Oh, [shoot].'
"Those things are always tough," Hockenson added. "The deeper we get into the season, the more we'll connect on all those and just be on the same page with all those."
Cousins took onus for the incompletions to Hockenson.
"I think he's a great player and I think he did a great job tonight. I think my ball location tonight was too high. I felt like it was consistently high, and I don't have a great answer for that," Cousins said. "But I felt that it was showing up and yeah, maybe catchable, but it shouldn't be that hard on him. The ball needs to be right in their chest."
K.J. Osborn also had a couple of missed chances, and Alexander Mattison dropped a screen pass on second down late in the game.
"Just gotta catch the ball. One of those things, you see it last second, couldn't see Kirk, and it touched my hands, so I've gotta catch it," a frustrated Mattison said postgame.
On the latter drive, the Vikings advanced to the Chiefs 19 but stalled out. After the incomplete pass to Mattison, Cousins had back-to-back incompletions to rookie Jordan Addison, including a fourth-down attempt.
On that fourth-and-12 throw, an official initially threw a flag but picked it up after discussing with the other referees. No penalty was called, and the Vikings turned the ball over on downs.
Minnesota's defense answered the bell on the ensuing drive, forcing Kansas City to punt, but the Vikings were left with just over a minute to work with – and no timeouts – from their own 19.
Cousins' pass to Brandon Powell fell incomplete, and his next landed with Hockenson for a 9-yard gain. Another incompletion on third-and-1, then a 3-yard pass to Powell for a fresh set of downs as the clock ticked down.
Cousins spiked the ball on first down to stop the clock on Minnesota's 31, then on second down got off a nice 26-yard pass to Powell to move into Kansas City territory. Cousins spiked the ball again to stop the clock at :05. But on the final play of the game, the Vikings QB was sacked for a 10-yard loss.
"I was trying to get out to my left because that's where the throw was going to be. Felt I couldn't get out and was trying to say, 'OK, I'll step up,' " Cousins said. "Felt like I couldn't and so, 'I'll get right,' and that was when I got hit. It's always a hazard of the business on Hail Marys, knowing you have to buy time to get down there, but they are rushing, so there's no guarantee you're going to have that time."
Cousins finished the game 29-of-47 passing for 284 yards and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 92.9. Addison led the team in receiving with six catches for 64 yards (10.7 average), followed by Hockenson with five grabs for 51 yards.
"Jordan is the real deal. We hit on that draft pick. He's a great player," Cousins said. "Has great hands and runs great routes. I've played with some really good skill groups in my career, been fortunate enough to do that. When I look at our group right now, it's as good as I've ever been with."
Osborn had five catches for 49 yards, and Powell had four for 43 on his heaviest offensive day as a Viking.
"B.P.'s been doing that since he got here," Bradbury said of Powell, whom the Vikings signed as a free agent in March. "All [training] camp, he was stepping up and making big plays, big blocks. No matter his size, he'd step in there and block a d-end. And we love that as o-linemen.
"We love B.P., we love what he does physicality-wise, and we trust him if he has to go in there," Bradbury added.
Powell was utilized early on but also took on extra snaps when Justin Jefferson led the game with a hamstring injury.
"That's tough to lose a player like that. He's one of the greatest," Powell said of Jefferson. "I've been in the league six years, and he's one of the greatest I've seen. We've just got to [fill in for] him. We've got a lot of talent in our room."
Hockenson also suffered an injury, going down midway through the fourth quarter, but was able to return to the game.
Bradbury, meanwhile, was asked how he felt after returning from a back injury.
"It's good to be back out there, but you can't really simulate playing a full football game. So just general soreness," he said.
Bradbury at one point was taken out by one of the independent certified athletic trainers (AT spotters). He went back in after being evaluated and assured he's OK.
"I got thrown down, and my helmet kind of scratched my neck, so I was kind of holding the back of my neck, and all of a sudden the ref said, 'They're pulling you from upstairs,' " Bradbury explained. "So it was frustrating because it was a third down, but I guess they've got to do their job and protect the players. But I'm all fine. I checked out fine. Just a protocol thing."
Minnesota's Week 5 loss dropped the Vikings to 1-4 on the season.
The hole to dig out of has deepened, but no one is sticking his head in the sand.
"My job is to go attack this thing from this very moment forward. I'm going to remain – I think you guys know this about me now – I'm going to remain positive through and through because I believe in this group. I believe in our coaches. I believe in this organization," Vikings Head Coach O'Connell said. "Results just have not gone our way, and I believe my job is to figure out, look very closely at all of these results and continue to find ways to coach this team better, deploy our personnel better, give people opportunities to maybe prove some things to us to earn more ops and then continue to drive forward.
"There's not going to be any questioning or doubt in my mind knowing that we've had four tough results. But I do feel like this team is able to compete and we're going to do that every single week," O'Connell continued. "And I believe in the end, we're going to find out exactly what we are through writing our story for this whole season. And I look forward to the challenge of continuing to seek becoming that team."
Next up is the team's first NFC North matchup, as the Vikings prepare to travel to Chicago next weekend.
"Our attitude is that we've gotta keep working," Osborn said. "We don't have any other choice but to continue working."