Vikings Receive Mediocre ‘Grade’ for Sunday’s Loss at CIN

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) is pulled down by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson (55) in overtime of the NFL Week One game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. The Bengals won 27-24 on a last minute field goal in overtime. Minnesota Vikings At Cincinnati Bengals

The Minnesota Vikings stared in the face the NFL’s fifth-toughest 2021 schedule this offseason, preparing for Cincinnati Bengals as one of the “easier” games based on 2020 wins and losses.

Either the Vikings aren’t very good – or the Bengals grew up in a hurry, compiling a competent roster much faster than expected. The next several weeks will render a verdict on that either-or.

Cincinnati outdueled Minnesota in Week 1, 27-24, on a clutch game-winning field goal by rookie kicker Evan McPherson. Vikings tailback Dalvin Cook fumbled the football in overtime, setting the Bengals up nicely to capitalize on the error with a home victory to start 2021.

Several facets of the Vikings output were unsatisfactory on Sunday. The penalties were disgusting, totaling 12 accepted penalties on 17 flags. The defense was hot and cold — and more cold when it was most important. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was good down the stretch, situating the Vikings in position to a) tie the game for an overtime period b) get to a point on the field for a game-winning field goal in overtime.

But the phantom fumble by Cook – largely perceived as a down-by-contact play from announcers, pundits, and fans – ended the forecast of winning. Ergo, the Vikings are 0-1 with the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, and Cleveland Browns on tap.

For their efforts, CBS Sports graded Minnesota’s collective performance with a ‘C.’ The upstart Bengals were classified with an ‘A-‘ effort. Here’s what John Breech of CBS Sports said about his ‘C’ grade on the Vikings:

The Vikings weren’t the worst team in the NFL in Week 1, but they were definitely the most undisciplined. The Vikings had four penalties on their first possession and things only got uglier from their as they got flagged 12 times for 116 yards. To put that in perspective, there were only six teams ALL last season that totaled more than 116 penalty yards. The penalties kept killing drives, which made it a busy day for Jordan Berry, who punted eight times. The Vikings were also crushed by a controversial fumble call in overtime when Dalvin Cook turned the ball over. The Vikings outgained the Bengals (403-366), but they kept making mistakes and those mistakes kept piling up, which made it impossible for them to win. 

Truth be told – it was entirely the penalties and Cook’s fumble that did it. Minnesota could foster no rhythm on offense because the officials kept noticing the offensive line’s illegal mistakes. Time and time again, the Vikings were backed into 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long scenarios. There was a hellish sequence in the 2nd Quarter when seemingly every offensive snap was littered with a penalty. Football teams cannot – and will never – win games with penalties stifling momentum every step of the way. When the flags stopped – we call that mercy – boom, Cousins moved the ball in a fashion reminiscent of 2020. All the Vikings probably needed was an ordinary day at the office where a normal amount of penalties occurred. Seventeen of them was obscene.

And that’s why the Vikings lost. At the time the penalties were firing off like mortar fire, it felt laughable to presume the team would bounce back. All the penalties invoked twilight zone vibes. But when the second half rolled around, the Vikings settled in [for the most part] and scored points. That’s why, before the Cook so-called fumble, the Vikings could have theoretically lined up for a game-winning 56-yard field goal. They were in range for Greg Joseph, who proved the strength of his leg some 15 minutes of real-time before the fateful turnover.

Head coach Mike Zimmer’s squad will need a significantly better effort than a ‘C’ in Week 2. The Vikings travel to Glendale for a late-afternoon date with the Arizona Cardinals. And that’s the team that just demolished the Tennessee Titans behind five sacks from EDGE rusher Chandler Jones.

The Vikings weren’t alone for not-so-great Week 1 grades from CBS Sports. The Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and aforementioned Titans received a C-or-lower grade from Breech.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).