Loss to the Chiefs Perfectly Sums up Vikings Season

Players Who Have Improved
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Week 5 is in the books, and it was more of the same from the Minnesota Vikings.

The recent loss to the Chiefs perfectly sums up the Vikings season. What could be a good team can’t get out of its own way with fumbles, dropped catches, game management gaffes, and a general failure to deliver in the most important moments. The Vikings went toe-to-toe with the reigning Super Bowl champions — no shame in that — and usually, such a performance might garner some optimism.

Loss to the Chiefs Perfectly Sums up Vikings Season

It’s difficult to be optimistic of a team sitting with a 1-4 record that keeps on repeating the same mistakes. With all the talk in recent weeks of the Vikings fumble epidemic, a fumble on the very first play of the game was as comical as it was ominous. It felt terminal to the Vikings hopes on the day, even though there was a whole game still to play.

Although the Vikings did manage to hang in and give the Chiefs a game, there was always a nagging expectation Minnesota would do something else to its own detriment. So it proved, as Vikings pass catchers dropped the ball seven times, including what looked like a walk-in touchdown for Alexander Mattison.

Chiefs Perfectly Sums
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They weren’t all easy catches, and Kirk Cousins’ radar seems to be slightly off this season, but sometimes you need players to come down with the difficult catches. On the other side of the ball, the defense has as much trouble hanging onto it when a possible interception presents itself. One significant difference between this Vikings team and last season is the defense is struggling to take the ball away.

The 2022 Vikings defense forced 25 takeaways (15 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles), whereas through five games in 2023, the Vikings have just three takeaways (one interception and two forced fumbles). Combined with the giveaways (four interceptions and eight fumbles), the Vikings have a turnover differential of -9 — the worst in the league.

Another footballing sin the Vikings regularly commit is horrific game management, which this week saw Minnesota burn out all their timeouts with over nine minutes of the game left. When the Vikings received the ball, trailing by one score and with 67 seconds left in the game, their options were limited. Still, in the minimal time available, Cousins only threw five passes, all inbounds and failing to stop the clock, and then was sacked on the game’s final play. Wherever you want to point the finger of blame for the drive going wrong — including some iffy officiating — it just wasn’t good enough.

Where Do the Vikings Go from Here?

I’m back asking a question I put forward two weeks ago. Where do the Vikings go from here? My expectation back then was that the Vikings would beat the Panthers and lose to the Chiefs, leaving the season still alive, but only just a little. Despite those two things happening, I’m less optimistic about the Vikings chances than I expected to be. Mistakes happening for a couple of games can be put down to bad luck. The same mistakes happening for five games have to be put down as indicative of who a team is.

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Add a Justin Jefferson hamstring injury into the mix, and it becomes difficult to see how this season can go downhill any quicker. The Vikings sole win came against the only team in the league to lose every game through five weeks. Next up is a trip to Chicago to take on a familiar foe in Minnesota’s first division game of the season. The Bears also sit at 1-4, but after playing well last only to contrive to throw the game away. The Justin Fields-led Bears team orchestrated a comprehensive win over Washington this week and will be feeling better about life than the Vikings.

Having all six division games left on the schedule and the NFC conference’s general dearth of great teams does leave the door ajar for Minnesota. There is just one problem. The Vikings have backed themselves into a corner where they can’t afford any mistakes, and this team has failed to show it can get through a drive without a calamitous error, never mind a whole game. Nothing this team has done thus far suggests it will win nine of the next 12 games — which will be needed for an unlikely playoff charge.

When does the Focus Shift To Next Season?

Kevin O’Connell is not about to give up on the season. He will rally his troops and take them to the Windy City, looking for victory over the Bears. If they manage to get their second win, the season will still be alive — even if it is on life support. It’s then back home for the daunting task of the San Francisco 49ers after that, followed by a road trip to Green Bay. It’s hard to see how this Vikings team can stop the San Francisco juggernaut. If they can win the other two games, the season just about stays alive, with a much friendlier-looking second half to the schedule.

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Divisional road games aren’t the greatest place to be trying to save your season. If the Vikings lose two of the next three games, it’s time to start shifting focus to next season. The trade deadline arrives two days after the Packers game at Lambeau Field. If the Vikings are sitting with a record of 2-6 or worse, it’s time to start shopping any players who aren’t in the team’s long-term plans.