The Minnesota Vikings defense had no answer for David Montgomery, and the Chicago Bears were able to easily move the ball down the field all game long in their 33-27 win. This loss definitely stings, as it virtually knocks Minnesota out of the playoff chase. But while we learned that the Vikings aren’t playoff material, the offensive line is really struggling and they need to use a lot of draft capital on defense, Dan Bailey made his kicks, and the offense hummed at times.
Here are four things we learned from the Vikings’ eighth loss of the 2020 season:
This isn’t a playoff-caliber team
While the Vikings are still mathematically alive for the 2020 playoffs, there’s no doubt that after watching this game, that this team isn’t playoff-worthy. They cannot stop the run on defense, cover receivers or generate any sort of pass rush. On offense, they can’t hold up in pass protection and lack creativity from a play-calling standpoint. There are just too many issues on both sides of the ball that hinder this team and will result in them ending the season at .500 or worse.
The Vikings are also very injury-depleted and without Danielle Hunter or Eric Kendricks in the lineup, this defense is easily one of the worst in the NFL. It was fun for Minnesota and their fans that they were in the playoff hunt for so long, but now they don’t have to worry about playing in January because it isn’t going to happen. If it still miraculously does, this team isn’t going to make any sort of noise and would basically be a bye for the team that would be lucky enough to draw them.
Dan Bailey has overcome his case of the yips
This game was extremely frustrating for Vikings fans to watch. The defense couldn’t slow down Montgomery or get any sort of pressure on Mitch Trubisky. The offense was hindered by some questionable playcalling, and the offensive line struggled to keep Cousins upright all game long. While those were some of the negatives, the positive is that Bailey has appeared to overcome his case of the yips.
He was on the money against the Bears. He hit both of his field-goal attempts and all of his extra points. He was 5-for-5 on the day and a far cry from the pitiful performance he had a week ago. While seeing Bailey trot onto the field for any meaningful kick in the last two games will surely fill some Vikings’ fans with dread and anxiety, there’s no doubt he will remain Minnesota’s kicker for the remainder of this season. What happens after that remains to be seen, but it was nice seeing him overcome his struggles and put forth a solid effort after that meltdown in Tampa Bay.
The Vikings offensive line is offensive
The Vikings’ offensive line has been up and down all season but in recent weeks has been a major problem. They simply don’t have the strength or talent to hold up in pass protection. They played well in the first contest against Chicago but struggled mightily in the rematch. They gave up three sacks to the Bears, and Cousins was under duress all game long. They did fairly well opening up holes for Cook against Chicago, but when it mattered the most and the game was on the line, they couldn’t pick up one single yard.
This unit is especially weak at the guard positions. Dakota Dozier has struggled mightily, and the team should see what Brett Jones can do in his place. Ezra Cleveland hasn’t been great on the right side, and maybe it is worth trying him at left tackle for these final two games to see how he handles playing what should be his position of the future. No matter how they shuffle it up, this line is going to be an issue for the final two games and will be in store for a major revamping as the team begins preparing for the 2021 season.
The Vikings could be drafting lots of defense in April
After watching how poorly the Vikings defense performed against the Bears in Week 15, there’s no question the team will use the majority of its draft picks to upgrade this side of the ball. They will get some help in the form of returning players. Michael Pierce decided to opt-out due to COVID, and he’ll be back as a major upgrade over Shamar Stephen. Danielle Hunter will also return from his injury and give the team an elite pass rusher. Anthony Barr will also be back, and make the kind of plays that Troy Dye and Todd Davis just can’t. While that is something to look forward to, the rest of the help should come from the 2021 NFL Draft.
The team needs another pass rusher opposite Hunter. They also need a penetrating defensive tackle to pair with Pierce, and they could also use a talented young safety to replace Anthony Harris. The Vikings could also look to add another cornerback or two, ultimately using about five of their draft choices to improve this unit. Obviously, there are some positions on offense that could supersede these issues, mainly guard. But Mike Zimmer prides himself on the play of his defense, and he just can’t do what he wants to this year with the personnel he has on the field right now.