12 Snap Reactions after Lions-Vikings

Justin Jefferson Eyeing
Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

From a suggestion by a reader, we continue our “snap reactions” weekly piece detailing thoughts and analysis after a Minnesota Vikings game.

This will be off-the-cuff, a wee bit “random,” and hopefully insightful.

The Vikings fell to 10-3 atop the NFC North after losing to the upstart Detroit Lions on Sunday, 34-23, at Ford Field.

Kevin O'Connell Has Earned a Bad Game, But It Needs to Stick
Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

1 – The Vikings Ed Donatell-led defense is atrocious if it is not forcing turnovers. The special sauce all season amid the infamous “bend but don’t break” defense is the wherewithal to create a turnover or two. If the 2022 Vikings do not find takeaways, they will lose. Write that down. The defense is too porous to thrive sans turnovers.

2 – Kirk Cousins looked absolutely outstanding and sharp all game, but the team’s defense squandered the afternoon — a common theme from the 2021 season, not 2022. From start to finish, Cousins was crisp, on target, and at the peak of his powers. But no one will remember his performance because the scoreboard spelled out a loss.

3 – The onside kick at the end of the game was flummoxing, silly, and shouldn’t be repeated. While the Vikings defense wasn’t playing well — at all — on Sunday, it has a modus operandi of stiffening when it matters the most. Plus, onside kicks flat-out never work anymore.

4 – As it turns out, Harrison Smith really, really matters.

5 – The officiating crew mind-bogglingly stopping Justin Jefferson’s reception and touchdown was inexcusable. The Vikings may not have ultimately won the game, but what on earth were those striped men doing?

Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) catches the ball in front of Detroit Lions cornerback Mike Hughes. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

6 – Overall, the Detroit Lions are now good, have probably turned the tide of being “the Lions” in the last five seasons, and shouldn’t be mocked any longer. They’re the real deal, at least in terms of a respectable football team.

7 – No matter what iteration of the Vikings is on the field — the Kevin O’Connell, Mike Zimmer, etc., version — if the team cannot run the football, a loss is generally afoot. Dalvin Cook rushed for 23 yards on 15 carries. Such a statline will habitually be bad news for the Vikings.

8 – Speaking of Cook, his fumble during the trick-play pass attempt in the redzone wound up as the game’s turning point. The Vikings needed a score there, didn’t get it, and here VikingsTerritory is telling you about the loss. The play was poorly executed, chiefly because the Lions defensive line sniffed out the run. That transaction cost Minnesota the game.

9 – The Vikings didn’t have any sacks. That’s embarrassing for a team that employs Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith.

10 – Still, Minnesota remains 10-3, with a “magic number” of one. The Vikings should wrap up the division on Saturday. If they do not, folks will really panic because of a loss to the lowly Indianapolis Colts.

11 – After this loss, the San Francisco 49ers are just one game back of the Vikings for the No. 2 seed, so the time for expendable losses is probably kaput. Losses from here on out can result in Minnesota falling to the No. 3 seed if the 49ers continue their blistering play.

12 – The Vikings can erase the sour taste of this loss with back-to-back home wins against the Colts and Giants — and then see how the chips fall against Green Bay and Chicago. The loss doesn’t have to be doomsday.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. 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).