Vikings Got Wasted in Detroit

After playing a couple of home games in a row, the Minnesota Vikings traveled to Ford Field on Sunday, and they may have preferred defensive coordinator Ed Donatell not to get back on the plane. Despite putting up 23 points and inching toward yet another comeback, a pair of Vikings got wasted on Sunday.

You can say what you’d like about the amount of cap space taken up by Kirk Cousins. Indeed, his monstrous contract limits general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah when bringing in additional help. He is, however, a legitimate starter in a league that barely has 15 of them, and he’s been solid for the Vikings each of the past two seasons.

Although Cousins hasn’t had the same success from a statistical perspective that he did last year, he’s kept a 10-3 Minnesota club in virtually every game and has found ways to work in a more progressive offense. Sunday’s contest against the Lions may have been his best effort yet.

Going 31-for-41 with 425 yards through the air and a pair of touchdowns, he posted a strong 124.5 quarterback rating. Unlike Dalvin Cook’s lone attempted pass that resulted in a fumble, Cousins didn’t make any egregious decisions and was great at protecting the football. He had the passing game humming even while head coach Kevin O’Connell curiously continued to try and establish the run.

The Vikings Big Problem in DET Was Quite Simple
Dec 11, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports.

Of course, with Cousins posting strong numbers, there had to be beneficiaries in the passing game. Welcome to the stage, Justin Jefferson. With a career-best 223 yards on 11 receptions, the uber-talented wideout put himself back atop the NFL receiving yards lead. It was a masterful performance that saw him continue to burn by former teammate Mike Hughes with regularity.

Although Jefferson didn’t find the end zone, he was able to open the field for teammates T.J. Hockenson and Adam Thielen. Both were targeted eight times, and they averaged roughly 70 yards apiece. Thielen found the end zone on a nice 23-yard play that saw him deploy some shifty footwork to reach paydirt.

Therein lies the Vikings conundrum. All of that was wasted.

Jefferson noted after the game that it was certainly a great effort for him, but the ultimate goal is a tally in the win column. By posting the gaudy offensive numbers, one would think the defense was well-positioned to limit Detroit’s offense. Unfortunately, as much as the Lions are poor on the defensive side, they can attack similarly to Minnesota when possessing the ball. Ed Donatell’s defense was hapless when controlling Jared Goff through the air, and he turned it into 330 yards and three scores of his own.

Lions quarterback Jared Goff. © Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK.

For the bulk of this season, Minnesota’s mantra has been to bend but don’t break on defense. That has worked when the field is shortened, and coverage is tighter near the red zone. The Vikings gave up multiple chunk plays, however, and consistently found themselves chasing the opposition.

It’s beyond disappointing to see such a prolific output from Jefferson and Cousins go to waste. With one less day of preparation before a tilt with the Colts, it has to get fixed.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.