View game action photos between the Vikings and Rams during the Week 16 matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.
MINNEAPOLIS — You can't make the playoffs this time of year if you don't have a 60-minute effort.
Minnesota didn't get that throughout the lineup in Sunday's 30-23 loss to the Rams at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Minnesota's defense — led by linebacker Anthony Barr — had its moments. But the Vikings offense couldn't overcome a slow start, and special teams had a day to forget as Minnesota's playoff hopes took a hit.
A week after putting up a season-low 193 yards against the Bears, the Vikings offense didn't give much to write home about early on against the Rams.
Minnesota scored 23 points, but 10 of those came when the offense started with the ball close to Los Angeles' end zone.
Minnesota's special teams didn't have a day to remember either, as the unit struggled with kickoff returns and allowed a 61-yard punt return for a score.
The loss dropped the Vikings to 7-8 on the season and likely out of the final playoff spot in the NFC, as the Eagles got their eighth win of the season in Week 16.
Minnesota also missed its fourth chance in 2021 to get above .500 this season. The Vikings, who haven't been above .500 since the end of the 2019 season, also missed out chances to get there in Weeks 1, 8 and 12 earlier this season.
The Vikings have their final road game on deck in Week 17. Minnesota is at Green Bay, which is currently the NFC's top seed and has already locked up the NFC North. Kickoff for the Border Battle is at 7:20 p.m. (CT) on Sunday Night Football from Lambeau Field.
Here are four more takeaways from Minnesota's Week 16 loss:
1. Barr, Vikings defense pick off Stafford
Barr was the last defensive player introduced during pregame warmups, a nod to the linebacker being Minnesota's nominee as the 2021 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
Barr then had his best game of the 2021 season against an old foe, as he nearly matched his career total in interceptions.
Barr notched a pair of interceptions against Stafford, with both takeaways coming deep in Rams territory … and both leading to points for the Vikings.
He first picked off Stafford in the second quarter, which led to a Greg Joseph field goal.
Barr then corralled an interception after Dalvin Tomlinson tipped a pass, returning it to the Rams 2-yard line. Alexander Mattison scored on the ensuing offensive play.
This was the first multi-interception game of Barr's career, as he entered the contest with three total picks in 95 career games.
Xavier Woods also had an interception on Stafford, who threw at least three interceptions for the 13th time in his career.
The Vikings likely should have had more takeaways, but Cameron Dantzler, Camryn Bynum and Patrick Peterson all couldn't haul in Stafford throws at various points of the game.
2. Slow start for the Vikings offense
Not much went right for the Vikings offense early on.
Minnesota's offense started with the ball but immediately went three-and-out. Down 7-0, the Vikings looked poised to tie the game but Cousins was picked off in the end zone.
The Vikings scored just three points in the first half, which accounted for a season low.
Minnesota's first two scoring drives — which added up to 10 points — were for a combined nine yards after both of Barr's interceptions.
It wasn't until that final half of the third quarter that Minnesota got rolling, with 10 points on back-to-back scoring drives that total 158 yards.
The Vikings, who played without Dalvin Cook and had Adam Thielen in and out of the lineup on an injured ankle, also struggled on third downs.
Minnesota converted just twice on 12 different third-down tries, while Los Angeles moved the chains on half of its 14 third-down attempts.
3. Vikings defense sets unfavorable record
Minnesota's defense set an unpleasant record Sunday afternoon.
By allowing a Rams field goal late in the second half, the Vikings have now allowed 78 points in the final two minutes of the first half this season. According to ESPN Stats and Info, that total surpassed the 2018 Bengals as the most points allowed in that timespan in this century.
Another bugaboo for Minnesota on Sunday? The run defense.
The Vikings allowed 161 total yards on the ground to the Rams, which marked the 12th time this season that Minnesota has allowed 100-plus rushing yards on the ground. Los Angeles averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
Sony Michel ran for 131 yards, which was nearly a career high for the Rams running back.
The Vikings also had no answer for Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who had 10 catches for 109 yards.
4. Vikings allow 2nd special teams score
It wasn't the best performance of the season for Minnesota's special teams group.
The Vikings allowed their second score of the season on special teams, with this one coming on a punt return. The other was a blocked punt against the Panthers.
Minnesota trailed just 13-10 midway through the third quarter and had just gone three-and-out on offense.
But the wheels fell off when Brandon Powell danced his way down the left sideline for a 61-yard return that made it a double-digit lead for the Rams.
Minnesota also struggled to gain much traction in their own return game.
Kene Nwangwu had a 9-yard kickoff return and Wayne Gallman had a 7-yard return, with both efforts pinning Minnesota inside its own 15-yard line.