Another game, another stressful ending for the Minnesota Vikings. This time they hung on to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football after nearly blowing a 29-point lead, which would have been the largest comeback in NFL history.
On a night where they dominated on offense and had a suffocating defense, it seemed like the Vikings had the game under wraps. But the end of the third quarter went haywire. After Kris Boyd entered the game for a sick Bashaud Breeland, he had a tackle for loss on a Steelers receiver. However, Boyd may have tackled him too hard. The referees seemed to think so, as Boyd was charged with an unnecessary taunting penalty, which put the Steelers deep in Vikings territory. Pittsburgh proceeded to score a few plays later.
Those were Pittsburgh’s first points of the day. After that, everything the Vikings had done for three quarters seemed to unravel quickly. Two Kirk Cousins interceptions helped fuel the Steelers’ comeback. Luckily for the Vikings, they could sneak away with a 36-28 win.
But one of the more important parts of this game wasn’t the win or the near choke. It was Boyd, who was the Steelers’ catalyst for their comeback. After Boyd committed the foolish penalty, Minnesota’s veteran defensive players were unhappy with him. Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks got into his face to let him know that shouldn’t have happened, and they also got him off of the field.
The Vikings’ third-year cornerback has been a fan favorite for a few years now, with his infamous reaction to guarding Allen Robinson to funny camp moments. However, he has always been low on the depth chart.
It should be noted that when fellow cornerback Cameron Dantzler found himself in Mike Zimmer’s dog house, Boyd was the one person listed higher and regarded as better among the coaching staff. Whether this was because of off-field problems with Dantzler is something we may never know. But Boyd began to receive more playing time, suggesting that he was on the rise.
However, this hasn’t been borne out in regular-season action. In the playing time that Boyd had received this season (around 90 defensive snaps), he has allowed 188 yards, two touchdowns, and a 139 passer rating, all combining for a 37.4 PFF grade.
Just based on Boyd’s evidence of play, it seems as if Dantzler’s brief demotion had to do with other issues than his level of play. Dantzler has played almost five times as many snaps as Boyd, slating in at 462, and he has allowed 221 yards, two touchdown passes, and a 77 passer rating. Dantzler also has an interception and a 69.8 PFF grade.
Sure, neither player is great, but simply based on statistics, Dantzler is vastly superior. But regardless of Dantzler’s problems, Boyd was allowed to prove himself to the Vikings’ coaching staff. The expectations for him weren’t to become the next Jaire Alexander. They were to take steps forward and be the reliable depth that the Vikings have desperately needed on the defensive side of the ball.
Instead, Boyd is wasting this opportunity by putting his team in precarious situations at such a fragile point of the season, where a single loss probably means that playoff hopes are close to done. Boyd could be seizing an opportunity to start opposite Patrick Peterson in an alternate universe. But he is wasting his chance by letting guys like Breeland hang around.