Where the Vikings Win and Lose the Game vs. Chargers

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) reacts with wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) after scoring his first career touchdown pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins (not pictured) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Week 3 meeting between the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Chargers has become an early season desperation after both teams started the season with two defeats. It’s difficult to mount a playoff challenge from a 0-2 start, but far from impossible.

Where the Vikings Win and Lose the Game vs. Chargers

The NFC North looks wide open and not particularly strong, and the move to a 17-game season and seven playoff spots has made the chance to recover from a bad start more likely. 

Recovering from a 0-3 start, on the other hand, becomes a mountain to climb. Since 2002, only one team has recovered from such a start: the 2018 Texans. Neither the Vikings nor the Chargers want to dig themselves into that particular hole, so how does the purple team find that elusive win?

There are some key areas where the Vikings win and lose the game Vs. Chargers. Let’s examine those areas and how Minnesota can succeed in those key battles.

Both Teams’ Run Game

Vikings Win and Lose
Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) during warmups against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings have become a passing offense, but as was a point of emphasis by Kevin O’Connell during the offseason, the team must also be able to run the ball to provide a balanced offense. That hasn’t happened in the first two games. Minnesota’s total of 69 rushing yards from the first two games is frankly embarrassing, especially for a team that made signings and talked about wanting to run the ball more with more efficiency in the build-up to the start of the season. 

The Vikings traded with the LA Rams for out-of-favor RB Cam Akers this week, hoping to boost their run game. They also signed free agent guard Dalton Risner to boost the offensive line. How involved they will be this week remains to be seen. Whoever is playing, everything has to be better, from the play calling, the blocking, and the backs showing the ability to make people miss. Thus far, the Vikings run game has been dead in the water; something has to change.

On the flip side, the Vikings were gashed for 259 rushing yards by the Eagles last week.

It was painful to watch and left concerns about whether other teams would look at that and try to repeat it. The Chargers have one of the best backs in the league in Austin Ekeler. The good news for the Vikings is he’s struggling with an ankle injury. He has been a non-participant in practice after missing last week’s game against Tennessee and has been ruled out against Minnesota.

Ekeler led the way with 117 of the Chargers 233 rushing yards, with Joshua Kelley (91) backing him up. Without Ekeler and with Kelley in the lead role in Week 2, the Chargers managed just 61 yards on the ground. The Chargers will presumably lean heavily on Kelley.

More Jordan Addison

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) runs for a touchdown after a catch against the Philadelphia Eagles during the third quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings aren’t going to win this game on the ground. They need the run game to be competent enough that it doesn’t lose them the game. The Miami Dolphins torched the Chargers for 466 passing yards in Week 1, with Tyreek Hill amassing a staggering 215 receiving yards on his own. Justin Jefferson must be eyeing up a big day out of his own — again. The Vikings must win it through the air on Sunday, which will mean a lot of Jefferson but also needs to entail more Jordan Addison.

Vikings fans have had a small taste of Addison over the opening two games and are hungry for more. Silky route running and the ability to make the big play down the field were exactly what Minnesota was looking for, and Addison has delivered. The rookie has seven catches from 11 targets for 133 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games. With K.J. Osborn having drop issues, the calls for Addison to become the Vikings WR2 are deafening. Who is WR2 or WR3 on the depth chart doesn’t matter. The Vikings just need to look in Addison’s direction more from now on.

Vikings Must Stop Shooting Themselves in the Foot

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Todd Bowles hug after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

For all the talk of things that need to improve, none of that matters if the Vikings don’t stop turning the ball over with self-inflicted mistakes. Minnesota has lost six fumbles throughout the first two games — it could have been seven but for a penalty flag nullifying one — which is not a recipe for any team to win games. The fumbles aren’t coming from one place, either. A fumble epidemic has hit the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and even special teams.

The Vikings have done some good things in the opening two games, but shooting yourself in the foot as often as the Vikings have so far this season is impossible to overcome. If Minnesota is going to get their first win on the board, it starts with looking after the football and playing a clean game. The mistakes can not continue.