The Vikings offense showed flashes and put points on the board Sunday afternoon but came up short on a pair of late-game possessions.
Minnesota held a 23-20 lead with 11 minutes to go in the game but went three-and-out on two straight drives to allow a Kansas City comeback. The Vikings lost a heartbreaker when the Chiefs kicked a last-second field goal to go up 26-23.
"You have a great opportunity to make it yours and to go do something," Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "So that was certainly one of the disappointments, to not do more on those final two drives when we had the football in the fourth quarter."
The Vikings had ups and downs all game, with eight of their drives ending in punts.
Cousins was asked if he could pinpoint the problem after four straight games of the offense clicking on all cylinders.
"You never know what the next game is going to bring, and this is a great example. There is no narrative you can put together. You just have these 16 separate events, and they're all different," Cousins said. "What worked one week might not work the next week, and you have to re-invent yourself. There was some of that today.
"They did a good job," he added. "[Chiefs Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo] and their players did a good job against us, taking away some things that we tried to do and just weren't always there."
Minnesota struggled to get its run game going along with, hand-in-hand, the play-action game.
"I think some of their coverages did a good job taking away some of our bigger shots, but you go back and see that we missed a couple in the flat where there were good plays, good completions, but the throw was high," Cousins said of the latter. "One where I went to the back in the flat, and [Irv Smith, Jr. is] a good option across the field, but just kind of got to my back quickly. And there were some that we hit. We hit a play-action to Irv, so we had a few, but we probably didn't have as many as we have in past weeks."
Although the Chiefs this season had struggled to defend the run, they stifled the Vikings on the ground.
Running back Dalvin Cook totaled 71 rushing yards on 21 carries, logging just his fourth game this season under the 100-yard mark. His longest run of the day moved the chains 12 yards.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said that Kansas City did a "good job of mixing up its fronts," but Cook placed much of the blame on himself and his teammates.
"We knew they were going to come and stop the run," Cook said. "They just loaded the box. That was it."
He said earlier: "We had what we wanted and just didn't take advantage. We're a good close-out team, and today we didn't close the game out. That's what it came down to."
The Vikings were without wide receiver Adam Thielen for most of the game.
Thielen, who missed the Vikings week 7 matchup with a hamstring injury suffered at Detroit, started at Kansas City but after only a few plays returned to the sideline with that same injury.
It hurt to be without a starting receiver, but Cousins emphasized that it's no excuse.
"Not ideal, but you look at their sideline, and they're missing people. You understand at this point in the season, you have to respond when you face adversity, and we're probably healthier than many teams," Cousins said. "You have to find a way to still get the job done."
A number of players did step up in Thielen's absence in effort to make that happen.
Laquon Treadwell, who initially was released by the Vikings but re-signed with the team on Sept. 24, led Minnesota with 58 yards on three catches. Two of his grabs for 26 and 13 yards, respectively, came on crucial third-downs in the first quarter and extended a drive that ended with a touchdown by rookie receiver Bisi Johnson.
"All week, we've been taking reps and getting ready for anything," Treadwell said. "Any guy can go down at any position, so everyone prepares for that. This league is all about the next man up. I'd rather see my brother out there competing and making plays like he always does, [but] when my number was called, I just had to make a play."
Stefon Diggs, who had just one catch for four yards, tipped his hat to Treadwell and Johnson.
"Treadwell has been around for a while; Bisi is a young guy, but I told you guys (the media) a while ago that he approaches the game like he's been in the league for a while," Diggs said. "His approach is nothing but professional, and he comes in and does his job.
"When guys are out, it's cliché to say, but the 'next man up' mindset is real, and the guys have to come in and play well," Diggs added. "We expect them to play well at all times."
Running back Ameer Abdullah and tight end Kyle Rudolph also showed up, scoring touchdowns in the third and fourth quarter that allowed the Vikings to have a chance.
Abdullah acknowledged disappointment after the loss but in the same breath stressed the importance of turning the page quickly.
"We'll go back and watch the film," Abdullah said. "We're not going to live in a 'coulda-shoulda life,' you know? Because we've got to execute in those moments, and I know next week we will."
Although the Vikings experienced highs and lows offensively, they did find success with screen passes throughout the game.
Cousins connected with Cook late in the game for a 22-yard gain that moved the Vikings inside the Chiefs 10, and Rudolph scored three plays later to give Minnesota a 3-point lead. Fullback C.J. Ham gained 32 yards on screen pass earlier in the game, but the drive ultimately ended in a punt.
Diggs said the screens impacted the game at crucial times.
"Our tight ends, our fullback, C.J. Ham getting going – he was an old running back, so he's still got it – and just kind of keeping that tempo," he said. "It was something we worked on during the week, and it's good to see that coming to fruition."
Cousins, who also connected with Smith, called the screen game "effective."
"Screens often put you in the poorhouse or put you in the penthouse. It just kind of depends, and you don't know when you call it," Cousins said. "We had a few that were big-time, we had one called back on a penalty, that killed the drive, and then we had one on the last drive of the game … and we didn't hit it.
View game action images as the Vikings took on the Chiefs at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
"You kind of live by it, and then you have to accept the consequences when it doesn't hit," Cousins continued. "Again, credit the Chiefs for, while they gave up a couple, they stopped a couple, as well. Really just that one at the end they stopped, and it certainly put us in a tough spot, backed up to convert that third down."
The Vikings loss after four consecutive wins moves them to 6-3 on the season. They will study the film and get back to work this week before going back on the road for a Sunday Night Football contest at Dallas nest weekend.
Diggs said it's imperative to take the defeat "in stride" and not lose focus moving forward.
"In this game, there's going to be peaks and valleys, but one thing we did take away from the game is that we've got a lot of guys with some heart," Diggs said. "We don't give up; we're going to fight."
Added Cook: "It's the NFL. Teams are good. You've just gotta fight back the next week. The type of locker room we've got, the type of guys we've got, the type of leaders we've got, we've just got to go regroup, learn from the film and go get better."