Here’s Why the Vikings’ Season Died in 2023

Where Is the Snakebitten Vikings Voodoo?
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings’ 2023 campaign ended six days ago at the feet of the hungry Detroit Lions, an underwhelming year where Minnesota failed to reach the postseason. The club hasn’t joined the playoff tournament two years in a row since 2008-2009.

Minnesota’s offseason is now underway, and free agency kicks off in 58 days.

Here’s Why the Vikings’ Season Died in 2023

And to put a bow on 2023, this is the Vikings’ 2023 autopsy. Items are ranked in ascending order (No. 1 = most contributable cause of death).

4. Rushing Game Woes

Season Died
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota ranked 27th per rushing DVOA in a season where it told everybody it would improve the rushing output or at least balance the playcalling.

The Vikings’ ground game arguably regressed from 2022 to 2023, and truth be told, it wasn’t all that great in 2022. Alexander Mattison as an RB1 emphatically didn’t work, casting his status as the RB1 next season into serious doubt. Second-year tailback Ty Chandler emerged as a burst-happy alternative late in the season, and now Vikings management will study his long-term trajectory.

If Minnesota doesn’t trust Chandler for the long haul, it must sign a high-profile RB in free agency or spend a 2nd- or 3rd-Round draft pick on the next guy. Kevin O’Connell’s offense will never hit peak form without a productive running back or two. It just won’t. Everybody wants a running-back-by-committee, but the 2023 Vikings employed a running-back-by-committee that didn’t work.

3. Defensive Inconsistency

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This statistic doomed the Vikings in 2023:

Vikings Defense,
Per EPA/Play,
NFL Ranking,
2023:

First 3 Games = 26th
Middle 10 Games = 1st
Last 4 Games = 31st

When the defense was good, the offense was not; when the offense was good, the defense was not.

Defensive coordinator Brian Flores must spend the next eight months determining how to make the Weeks 4-14 efficiency a permanent trait.

2. Turnovers

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Minnesota ranked second-worst in the NFL per giveaways, only trailing the Cleveland Browns — a team that somehow reached the postseason. Ordinarily, the saying goes, “Turnover-heavy teams don’t play in January,” but the Browns will, and the Vikings won’t. Such is life.

Fumbles stunted any early-season offensive momentum. Then, the interceptions arrived, courtesy of Joshua Dobbs and Nick Mullens.

Turnovers sunk the enterprise and will follow suit in 2024 if the Vikings don’t find personnel to protect the football. The morbid good news? If Minnesota drafts a rookie quarterback, Mullens already showcased a turnover bonanza in the season’s final few games. Anything less than Mullens’ usual output will feel like a breath of fresh air. Bring on a rookie signal-caller if Cousins walks.

1. Kirk Cousins’ Injury

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No one could know for sure at the time, but the Vikings’ season ended on October 29th, 2023, at Lambeau Field. Kirk Cousins’ Achilles burst, and that was that.

Joshua Dobbs tricked fans into believing the offense wouldn’t skip a beat, but like most backup passers, he returned to earth soon after. Sans a Joe Flacco-like run or 2017 Nick Foles walking in the backdoor, the Vikings would never hit the postseason without Cousins. The same arrangement happened to the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals.

Most of the Vikings’ follies in 2023 were “their fault,” but the autopsy starts and stops with Cousins’ season-ending injury. It was doom that October afternoon, shortly after the Vikings gained a 24-3 lead over their most hated nemesis.

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.

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