The Vikings Somehow Found a Way
Entering the game, the Minnesota Vikings were under pressure after failing to capitalize off the two winnable contests in the first couple of weeks of the season. Once again, self-inflicted wounds cost the Vikings the game, for the third straight week. The team was in a position to win and the Los Angeles Chargers gave them chances to win but they couldn’t pull it off.
The Vikings Somehow Found a Way
Falling to 0-3 is highly disappointing, especially because the team was good enough to come away with a victory in all three games but somehow lost all three. The game scripts were similar. Offensively, Kevin O’Connell’s unit is balancing between looking awful and looking explosive. The group led by Kirk Cousins is too inconsistent and completely fails to take advantage of momentum-swinging plays from the defense. Three-and-outs and turnovers at comically bad times have been a big problem.
It is way too easy to blame a single player or unit. The offensive line couldn’t protect Cousins who had already entered the game and the season as the most-hit QB in football. He was running for his life all day, maneuvered inside but also out of the pocket a few times, and made plays with a defender in his face. New arrival Dalton Risner could be an option. However, the passer was hesitating a couple of times.
When he was making plays, his receivers didn’t always capitalize. K.J. Osborn was jogging into the endzone to catch an easy touchdown but the pass was slightly too high and Cousins and Osborn couldn’t connect. T.J. Hockenson fumbled on the first drive of the offense and also deflected the game-sealing interception. On that play, there was a problem with getting the play in and the offense took too long to get set. Head coach O’Connell certainly deserves some blame in that department.
Also singled out could be cornerback Akayleb Evans who dropped an interception — granted, it was not an easy catch — into the hands of Chargers wideout Joshua Palmer, putting the Vikes down four points. It was a third down and if Evans just bats the pass down, they have to attempt a long field goal or punt the football down three points.
But Evans wasn’t the only player who struggled in coverage as Keenan Allen ran circles around the whole group and was open all day, setting a Vikings negative record for the most catches made in a single game against the purple team.
The rushing attack was a surprisingly well-functioning operation in Week 3 but they couldn’t get the remaining three yards in the fourth quarter to put the ball into the endzone on a couple of attempts, followed by two incomplete passes and a turnover on downs at the goal line.
Defensively, the group led by Brian Flores played well at times but also struggled, especially when they couldn’t get a pass rush going. In the third straight game without free-agent addition Marcus Davenport, the backups struggled to consistently get close to Justin Herbert. The elite quarterback also wiggled out of some sacks and made plays that were frustrating to watch.
Too many players failed to make plays and too many bounces didn’t go right. The Vikings could’ve won the game with a little more luck but they could also have lost by more than four points with a little less luck in some plays.
At the end of the day, the 2023 Vikings find ways to lose, unlike the 2022 Vikings who found ways to win the games. The margin for error is gone after starting the season 0-3 and the organization must make the decision if they want to stick with the competitive rebuild or enter a rebuild phase, at least for the remainder of the season.
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