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Monday Morning Mailbag: Analyzing Sunday's Loss & Vikings Quarterback Decisions

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Wow. I couldn't even finish watching that embarrassing showcase. Called it quits after watching yet another run up the gut on second-and-9 with eight minutes left in the third quarter while losing by 24. It defies logic. However, I'd like to give credit to Sean Mannion — he was given a terrible hand, yet he is the only Viking on the field tonight (coaches included) who actually looks to be playing with any energy. Everyone else just looks dejected. Defeated.

And that's what bums me out the most. Not the win/loss record, but the lack of conviction in the players. No one looks to be playing with heart. There's no determination or drive. How can I, as a fan, believe in this team, if they don't believe in themselves?

— Alex in Virginia

Alex's emotional email likely sums up how a lot of Vikings fans are feeling on this Monday. With a week left in the regular season, the Vikings are out of the postseason picture and won't be participating in the playoffs for the second straight year.

The Vikings, once in position for a playoff spot, saw their postseason hopes fade in recent weeks with back-to-back losses to the Rams and Packers. Those losses continued a wild streak of two wins followed by two losses that had occurred three separate times since Week 4.

Minnesota put itself in an early-season hole and then scratched and clawed for 12 weeks trying to find a way above .500 … find a way into the dance.

The nail in the playoff coffin came Sunday night with a lopsided loss against your biggest rival.

It was clear early that the Vikings would need to start fast and get a lead by relying on Dalvin Cook, who had an all-world performance the last time he was at Lambeau Field.

It didn't happen, as Cook tallied just 13 yards on nine rushing attempts. In fact, he tallied 13 yards on 12 total touches, as his three receptions amounted to zero yards receiving.

With Mannion under center, the Packers focused on shutting down Cook and executed the play. In essence, the Packers weren't about to let Cook do it to them again.

And you can't blame Mannion for this performance, not after he barely practiced last week and only had three days to prepare for his first start since Dec. 29, 2019. Mannion is who he is, and he couldn't be asked to be the hero on the road.

View game action photos between the Vikings and Packers during the Week 17 Sunday Night Football matchup at Lambeau Field.

Really, there's not a lot of finger-pointing needed after Sunday night.

The Vikings are still who they have been all season, an inconsistent team that failed to take advantage of numerous opportunities … and a team that made it way too hard on themselves this season, leaving no margin for error.

Even in games that the Vikings won (Detroit, Carolina and Pittsburgh come to mind), Minnesota somehow found a way to exert even more energy than the usual amount needed to win in the NFL.

And by the time Sunday rolled around, the task of going to Green Bay and getting a win was too much.

It's been a long, trying and emotional season for many in Minnesota.

And if we're being honest, the team didn't do enough to deserve a playoff spot.

With Kirk Cousins … that's the icing on the cake of the last months!!! I really don't want to go in detailed discussion about responsibility of vaccination and personal rights. But if your most important employee(s) misses the most important meeting to keep the year target alive, because he acts selfish and therefore against your company policy … he must be fired. And his supervisor can leave directly with him. No matter what the outcome in Green Bay will be… the last 18 (!!!) months are a total disaster if you compare goals and reality!!!!

— Peter Pásthy in Germany

Peter's email centers around Kirk Cousins going on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, which was undoubtedly the story of the week (and perhaps the league) heading into Week 17.

It's similar to inquiries I've received this season about other unvaccinated players who have popped up on the list and missed games, including Cook and Harrison Smith.

With that in mind, I'm going to stay consistent in what I've written all season on this topic.

Once again, it is disappointing for the Vikings that they had to play a key game without one of their captains. Games against Green Bay are always big, especially late in the season when playoff implications are usually on the line.

While I appreciated Peter's candor and honesty in his email, it must be pointed out that Cousins didn't go against a company or league policy in choosing to not get vaccinated. Players have always had the choice to make their own decision on that.

With that said, has there been extra scrutiny on Cousins compared to other players? Yes, but that's simply because No. 8 plays quarterback and the other players don't.

Fair or unfair, the QB position is among the most high-profile jobs in all of sports, not just the NFL.

Cousins himself has said so since he arrived in Minnesota in the spring of 2018, and has mentioned some variation of "that's just part of playing quarterback in this league" multiple times in that timespan.

There's no doubt the Vikings needed Cousins at Lambeau Field. But given how the game played out, it might not have made a difference who was at quarterback for the Vikings.

Why not see what you have in Kellen Mond?

— Keith Meyers

Lots of questions (and plenty of Twitter chatter on Mond) when the announcement was made that Mannion would start Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

Zimmer said that Mannion knows the playbook inside and out, so the decision to go with him wasn't a surprise, even if he did practice just once last week.

It's easy to see why Zimmer went with the veteran here: Mannion has actually played NFL games before and is among the smartest and most well-respected players on the entire roster. He's got a strong arm and isn't going to wow you with a ton of other factors, but he's a durable backup and is great in the classroom.

But I can see why fans were pining for Mond, whether it was on social media or otherwise.

Minnesota's playoff chances were slim to begin with entering the game, so why not throw the rookie out there and see what he's got?

He's mobile, is a bit of an unknown and maybe could have lit a fire under the team.

If it were another coaching staff or another team, perhaps that would make sense. But with a possible playoff spot still on the line, there was little way Zimmer was going to ask a rookie with zero NFL experience to go into Lambeau Field on a frigid night and try to beat Aaron Rodgers.

Sorry, but that just wasn't happening. And those kind of scenarios —where Mond does start and doesn't play well — are the types of games that hurt a player's confidence in the long run.

Mond sat on the sideline and surely tried to stay warm Sunday night. But that was not the time and place for him to make his first NFL start.

Yes, he got in for one series while Mannion was dealing with cramps in his hands, but the rookie went right back to the bench for Minnesota's final series.

But now that the Vikings are eliminated from the playoffs, what about Week 18 against Chicago?

Zimmer bristled at that notion after the game when asked if he wanted to see Mond play next week:

"Not particularly."

Why not?

Zimmer: "I see him every day."

Based on those comments, it's likely either going to be Cousins or Mannion against Chicago.