Vikings Tie Own NFL Record

The Deadliest Aspect
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings somehow play the exact same game every week. Whether they are the superior team or a massive underdog, they find a way to make the game interesting, and it always comes down to the final play. It is not something that arrived with the new regime in 2022, as they had the same problem with Mike Zimmer at the helm.

Vikings Tie Own NFL Record

Vikings Tie Own NFL Record
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports.

It truly is an unsolved mystery why that issue exists, but the Vikings just can’t find a way to lose or win big. The last time a Vikings team won by three or more scores was in the 2019 season, over four years ago, in a victory over the Los Angeles Chargers when Philip Rivers did a poor job taking care of the ball. Defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo scored a touchdown after a fumble recovery, and the game ended 39-10.

Since that December day in 2019, 31 teams have managed to win a game by at least three scores. The one outlier, you guessed it, is the Vikings. In the year 2023, fans of the purple team would take a two-score game, but those are also rare as they rank 30th with only six two-score games in the last four seasons. Everything the Vikings do is play close games.

due for a big game
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) does a Lambeau Leap with Vikings fans Craig Lindsay, Nick Johnson, and Chris Gangl against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, October 29, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Vikings won the game, 24-10. © Tork Mason / USA TODAY NETWORK.

In 2023, the Vikings have already played 14 contests that have been decided by eight or fewer points. The only different game was the road trip to Lambeau Field when Kevin O’Connell’s operation managed to convincingly beat Green Bay 24-10, but nobody cared because Kirk Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon, ending his season and probably Minnesota’s.

Fourteen one-possession games is an NFL record, tied with the 2015 Baltimore Ravens, the 1994 New York Giants, and, well, the 2021 Vikings. In Zimmer’s final year before his contract was terminated, his team also failed to put opponents away but could play close games against any foe. With two games to go, there is a decent chance this year’s group will set the new all-time best (or worst) number.

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In those three years, from 2021 to 2023, the Vikings lead the league by a wide margin in one-score games with 39 (23-16). No other team has more than 32. Last year, it was a big deal when they won all 11 of their close games. They are 6-8 in those in 2023.

The reasons for the frequency of nailbiters are obvious. For one, the Vikings have had some poor defenses in those years, always allowing opponents to climb back into the game, regardless of how big the lead was. However, the offense has mostly been decent, especially the passing attack, helping to erase big deficits, including the largest comeback in NFL history roughly a year ago.

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In addition, the running offense has been a disaster, hurting the Vikes to defend big leads by going on long drives to drain the clock. Whenever just one phase, either offense or defense, is clicking, the Vikings struggle to win or lose big.

At some point, Minnesota will win a game by a considerable margin, but in the remaining two games without starting quarterback Cousins and some other key players, it seems unlikely to happen in the 2023 campaign. One takeaway remains for already scarred fans of the purple team: Don’t touch the dial, regardless of the lead or deficit.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt