Vikings

INSTANT REACTION: Vikings Lose Heartbreaker on Last-Second Field Goal

Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff (USA Today Sports)

The Vikings lost 26-23 on a last-second field goal against the Chiefs. Sam Ekstrom gives his initial thoughts.

BIG PICTURE: The Vikings needed to prove they could beat a winning team on the road. Kirk Cousins needed to prove himself in a tough environment. Despite holding a lead in the fourth quarter, Minnesota failed to execute down the stretch and saw their NFC North title hopes take a hit with a devastating loss to the Matt Moore-led Kansas City Chiefs. Harrison Butker hit from 54 yards to tie the game, then from 44 yards to win the game after the Vikings went three and out.

THE OFFENSE: The Vikings were moving the ball in the second half, but their final two drives resulted in untimely three and outs that gave the Chiefs the ball back twice. Cousins finished 19 of 38 for 220 yards and three touchdowns but left some plays on the field.

Prior to the sputtering finish, Cousins rose to some of the game’s biggest moments. He led the Vikings back from three deficits. Down 7-0, he engineered a game-tying touchdown drive. Down 10-7, he led a two-minute drill to tie the game at half. And down 20-16 in the fourth quarter, he led an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a third-down touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph.

Cousins was sloppy in the first half, going 9 of 21 in windy conditions. Not only did he struggle throwing downfield with notable overthrows to Laquon Treadwell and Stefon Diggs, but his short passing was off too. He missed a wide open Adam Thielen on the game’s second play and struggled to hit pass-catchers in the flat. All that said, Cousins completed two key third downs on Minnesota’s opening touchdown drive, including a third-and-goal strike to Bisi Johnson, who beat a Chiefs linebacker in coverage.

Treadwell set a career high in yards in the first half with 58, helping compensate for the loss of a key target. Thielen only managed to record a handful of plays before aggravating his right hamstring injury, but Treadwell made catches of 19, 13 and 26 yards to aid both of Minnesota’s scoring drives. The 26-yard reception was the longest of Treadwell’s career.

Minnesota came out in the second half more successfully in the short passing game, scheming up a 16-yard touchdown to Ameer Abdullah on a wheel route and later dumped it off to C.J. Ham for 32 yards. The Vikings also had successful screen plays to Dalvin Cook and Irv Smith Jr., but the latter was nullified by a penalty.

But the Vikings went backwards on their final two drives when they absolutely needed first downs.

THE DEFENSE: Given a reprieve by not having to face Patrick Mahomes, the Vikings still had plenty to worry about with the Chiefs offensive weapons, who delivered some explosive plays that kept the pressure on and led to the Vikings’ demise.

Tyreek Hill got over the top on Trae Waynes for an early touchdown to give the Chiefs a 7-0 lead — the fourth time in five road games the Vikings have spotted their opponents an early touchdown. Hill later caught a 30-yard bomb late in the third quarter to set up a field goal and a 41-yard highlight reel grab over Waynes to put the Chiefs in striking distance late for a game-tying field goal. He finished with 140 yards.

Perhaps the biggest blow came midway through the third quarter with the Chiefs backed up inside their own 10-yard line. Trailing 16-10, Damien Williams broke away for a 91-yard touchdown when Anthony Harris fell down before making a tackle attempt. It was the longest run allowed by the Vikings defense since Mike Zimmer arrived. That acted as a turning point when the Vikings appeared to have Kansas City right where they wanted.

Moore was accurate, calm in the face of pressure and connected on his downfield opportunities. Everything Kansas City needed him to be. His two biggest throws of the game came on the game-winning field goal drive after facing 2nd and 24. He hit Travis Kelce to set up 3rd and short, then connected to Hill against a blitz that set up the winning kick.

OFFICIATING CONTROVERSY OF THE WEEK: Pass interference reviews were center stage once again. Three were reviewed with two going against the Vikings. First, Zimmer challenged a potential pick play involving Sammy Watkins, but the non-call was upheld. On the Vikings field goal drive before the half, an offensive pass interference against Treadwell was overturned to give the Vikings a first down, but an uncalled defensive pass interference against Kyle Rudolph was upheld, denying the Vikings a chance from the 1-yard line.

One of the most penalized teams in the NFL, Minnesota played penalty free in the first half, but they had two devastating penalties in the third quarter that wiped away first downs: a holding call on Garrett Bradbury and illegal hands to the face against Josh Kline.

A Chiefs first down was also wiped away in the fourth quarter due to a holding call, leading to an eventual punt.

X-FACTOR: On a day when the Vikings’ special teams units were extremely good — even forcing a turnover on the second-half kickoff — two blunders affected the outcome. Dan Bailey’s missed extra point after Minnesota took a 16-10 lead changed the complexion of the fourth quarter. Down by just three instead of four, Kansas City was able to tie the game with a long field goal instead of going for an impossible 4th and 27. Then Britton Colquitt, who’d been brilliant on the day with a 47-yard punt average, shanked a 27-yard punt to avoid the returner Hill, giving Kansas City a short field.