The Minnesota Vikings have fallen to 0-1 for the second consecutive season after a heartbreaking loss on Sunday afternoon to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Vikings managed to get the game to overtime after Greg Joseph drilled a 53-yard kick in the waning seconds of regulation.
Unfortunately, they came up short in overtime after the Bengals were able to pounce on a controversial Davlin Cook fumble. After a gutsy fourth-and-short call that saw Joe Burrow check out of a quarterback sneak and float a pass to C.J. Uzomah, Cincinnati was able to end the game on a 33-yard field goal.
The Vikings started slow and couldn’t complete their comeback, so what should we make of this first game? Here are five numbers to consider after the devastating season-opening loss to the Bengals.
There was a lot of laundry on the field, and unfortunately for the Vikings, a majority of it was on them. The Vikings gave up 116 penalty yards on accepted flags. Sadly, that stat could have been even worse if the Bengals had elected to accept all of the penalties that the Vikings committed.
The afternoon started off rather inauspiciously with C.J. Ham committing a false start before the first snap of the game. This was only a sign of things to come as the Vikings committed a multitude of holds, false starts, and illegal formations, with Rahod Hill being the primary culprit.
It is clear that the offensive line wasn’t ready to deal with the noise after a season of empty stadiums, and they let the cacophony get the better of them. If this team wants to stand a chance this season, they need to focus on reducing these mental errors that give their opponents yardage.
It looked like Mike Zimmer had one goal for his defense this offseason: Stop the run by any means necessary. In the offseason, writers repeatedly explained how the additions of Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Peirce would make the Vikings a top-five running defense. Well, that might have been a tad optimistic in retrospect.
The Vikings allowed the tandem of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine to run for 149 yards while averaging 4.4 yards per carry. The Bengals were able to slowly churn the ball forward and wind down the clock when they got the lead.
To be fair, the Vikings were missing Anthony Barr in this game. But the fact that the Bengals were able to wear the defense out and get positive yards on almost every run should be cause for concern for Mike Zimmer. Mixon was able to pick his gaps and wear down both the clock and Minnesota’s front seven.
With the return of the NFL comes the return of some questionable calls by the officiating crew, both in New York and on the field. While you shouldn’t put yourself in a spot where the referees decide your fate, it can be a real pain when calls that seem obvious go against you.
Here were two examples:
The first of these calls came on a 34-yard connection between Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson that was initially ruled just short of the end zone. Based on the angle shown above, Zimmer decided to challenge a call that looked to be obvious. Unfortunately, the call on the field stood and the Vikings lost their second timeout of the half. Even though they punched the ball in on the next play via a Dalvin Cook one-yard run, the timeout they lost in the process may have hurt much more.
The Vikings started their final drive of regulation backed up at their own five with no timeouts and 1:48 on the clock. While they were able to drive down the field and convert a 53-yard field goal, it would have been interesting to see what the Vikings could have done with a timeout in hand.
The second call was on an overtime fumble that was called against Cook which ultimately cost the Vikings the game. It looks like Cook still had the ball in his hand from multiple angles when his backside hit the ground. Even while looking at the replays, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that the call would be overturned and the Vikings would be allowed to continue their position. Instead, New York decided to stick with the call on the field.
ESPN’s win predictor gave the Vikings a 79.6% chance to win the game before the call. But the Bengals had a 61.6% chance to win the game after it was upheld.
Vikings fans have been spoiled with having two superstar wideouts on the field at almost all times. Whether that was Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen or Thielen and Jefferson, Minnesota has been fortunate to have one of the best wide receiver tandems in the NFL for the last couple of years. What they have always lacked is a reliable third pass-catcher who could take advantage of the attention that is focused on the other two wideouts.
With Irv Smith Jr. out for the season because of a torn meniscus and Chris Herndon and Tyler Conklin not ready for a full workload, we saw a lot of K.J. Osborn today. And let me tell you, I liked what I saw.
I had previously written off Osborn as a failed special teams player. But he showed his prowess as a pass catcher in Week 1, finishing the game with 76 yards — the most notable being the conversion on third-and-24. Osborn’s 76 yards gave him the second-most receiving yards for a Vikings receiver not named Jefferson, Thielen, or Diggs since 2015. As the Vikings look to replace the productivity they lost with Irv, Osborn could be an option down the road for more targets.
It was easy for even the casual fan to see that the Vikings’ offensive line struggled today. Rashod Hill was getting beat by Trey Hendrickson on the outside on what felt like every other snap, and the interior offensive line allowed pressure up the middle on the rare occasion that he didn’t get beat.
Cousins averaged 2.1 seconds until his throw. This stat should tell you enough about the current state of the offensive line and how they provided their QB with virtually no help today. With both Hill and the interior offensive line struggling, it will be interesting to see when Zimmer feels comfortable starting rookies Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis.
If Darrisaw is unable to play next week, Hill has his work cut out for him. He will draw the assignment of blocking Chandler Jones, who got five sacks this week against Taylor Lewan, one of the better left tackles in the NFL.