One Moment Ruined a Vikings’ Win at Denver

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The Minnesota Vikings could have hit cruise control per playoff odds on Sunday night, netting near 90% odds of reaching the postseason if they knocked off the Denver Broncos.

But the purple team did no such thing, losing a squeaker 21-20 and instead nominating themselves for 79% playoff odds after the loss as a result.

One Moment Ruined a Vikings’ Win at Denver

Minnesota’s season is still very much alive, and the franchise can somewhat easily make the playoffs if it takes care of business in winnable games versus the Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders, and perhaps Cincinnati Bengals in the next three weeks.

However, the five-game winning streak could have continued somewhat seamlessly at Denver if not for one brutal transaction — an Alexander Mattison fumble in the 3rd Quarter.

One Moment Ruined
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Here was the play, as the Vikings led 17-9.

And that gaffe changed everything about Sunday Night Football. Minnesota was at Denver’s 38-yardline, so a field goal or touchdown was the likely outcome of the drive. After Mattison’s fumble, though, Denver recovered, drove down the field, and kicked a field goal.

It was a six- or ten-point swing that hinged momentum and began the Broncos’ march toward victory.

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Ironically, Mattison is not a chronic fumbler and, surprisingly, has put the ball on the ground just four times in his career. Four fumbles on 647 career touches is actually astoundingly good, but his blunder on Sunday night was deadly.

When the play snapped, the Vikings had an 87.5% win probability, in the driver’s seat to chip off the Broncos and move to 7-4. However, after the Broncos gained possession, the tide turned, and while the Vikings still had chances to win, Mattison’s fumble was the catalyst Denver needed.

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Reporters asked head coach Kevin O’Connell about the fumble, and he replied, “Ball comes out. You know, it was a big play. Alex ran the ball really well tonight. So did Ty Chandler. I saw a nice balance of those guys out there. There’s no question it was a critical play but not one we couldn’t overcome.”

The Vikings turned the ball over thrice at Denver and forced no takeaways on defense or special teams. For this brand of Vikings, if Minnesota is absolutely hellbent on interceptions or fumbles, the defense must create turnovers to offset the offensive blunders. It did not on Sunday Night Football, and the Vikings lost.

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Turnovers ravaged Minnesota to start the season, but the problem was remedied, to an extent, recently. O’Connell will ask his players to do it again, with a date versus the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in Week 12.

The Vikings are 0-49 on the road in the last 40 years when losing the turnover battle by three or more.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.