Don’t Get It Twisted. There’s 1 Main Reason for the Vikings’ Loss at DEN.

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The Josh Dobbs fairytale is over. The Vikings can actually lose games, even without Justin Jefferson. Kevin O’Connell’s team falls to 6-5 in the standings, something fans of the purple team surely would’ve gladly accepted when they were 1-4 just six weeks ago. The group is still in a fantastic spot to reach the playoffs, having a comfortable lead in the wild card race, although the chances to win the NFC North took a sizeable hit.

Don’t Get It Twisted. There’s 1 Main Reason for the Vikings’ Loss at DEN.

Get It Twisted, There's 1 Main Reason for the Loss
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Reasons for the first defeat in quite a while were quickly found. People on social media, wildly, are always overreacting to losses. Of course, the defense made some mistakes on the final drive after playing an exceptional game for 57 minutes. They just fell apart, reminding folks of the 2021 Mike Zimmer unit that had historically bad numbers in the final two minutes of either half.

The final offensive drive also left a lot to be desired. Dobbs showed some limitations in the dropback passing game, and he badly missed Jefferson on the receiving end of his passes. Some blame is put on O’Connell for punt decisions and short-yardage play calls.

While all those things played a role, they were not the main cause of the eventual loss. That was once again the turnover problem. Throughout the season, the organization has been haunted by losing the football, through the air or on the ground. Ball security is a point of emphasis for any team, but the Vikes apparently haven’t gotten that memo.

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That there is a direct correlation between winning the turnover battle and the game becomes obvious after looking at the numbers. The Vikings are 3-0 when they generate more takeaways than the opponent, 2-0 when the turnover ratio is tied, and 1-5 when they lose the turnover battle. In those five losses, the Vikes had a turnover ratio of -11.

Against the Broncos, the Vikings committed three turnovers while not creating one on defense, although they forced a fumble in the fourth quarter before the ball rolled out of bounds and Denver kept possession.

Once again, on the first drive, the Vikings fumbled. This time, it was Dobbs on an interesting trick play. He fumbled and got hit hard on the head by Kareem Jackson, a player with a history of crossing a line. The NFL suspended him for four games without pay.

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However, the tackle was not correlated to the fumble, as Dobbs lost it because a different defender stripped the ball. Although the play should’ve been overturned via a flag, the Vikings must control what they can control, and Dobbs should’ve made sure to hold on to the football. He also dropped the ball twice, receiving the snap from center Garrett Bradbury. They still lack familiarity after only three games, but they should surely put some extra work in on getting the snap exchange right.

The second turnover was a frustrating one and changed the game. Minnesota was up by eight points on the scoreboard and marched into field goal range on a fantastic drive before running back Alexander Mattison coughed up the ball. It completely changed the momentum of the game. Instead of going up by at least 11 points, it was suddenly a five-point game. Mattison has no history of committing fumbles, as it was just the fourth one of his career and the second in 2023.

On the next drive, still having a five-point lead as the defense held the Broncos out of the endzone, Dobbs dropped back to pass, Ty Chandler missed the blitz pickup, Dobbs got hit during the throw, and the ball floated into the hands of a defender, resulting in the third turnover, again in great field position.

Year 1 of the O'Connell Era
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It is not sustainable to win games like this, and it gets even harder on the road. Coming away with a victory when losing the turnover battle by at least three on the road is almost miracle territory. Teams with those parameters are 76-1,466-6.

Despite making it a point of emphasis every week, the Vikings can’t eliminate their fatal flaw. Their -20 ratio ranks them 30th in the NFL. Head coach Kevin O’Connell claimed he would start to bench players who continue to lose the ball, and from now on, he should seriously consider it for repeat offenders.

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