A tie is usually an unsatisfying result, but the Minnesota Vikings would have taken one on Sunday. It would have been a fitting end to the game. Their offense took a quarter to get going, they lost two replay reviews that they arguably should have won, and every member of the offensive line took a penalty. Despite all that, the Cincinnati Bengals were never able to run away with the game.
The Vikings needed to leave Cincy with a convincing win, and they lost 27-24 in overtime. Things will only get harder from here. The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks won big this weekend, and the Cleveland Browns hung with the Kansas City Chiefs. For those of you keeping score at home, those are Minnesota’s next three opponents. 0-4 is a real possibility now.
A loss is always the worst result, but a victory may have given the Vikings a false sense of success. Maybe it’s for the best that they didn’t sneak out of Cincinnati with a different result; they didn’t deserve to win that game.
There’s always a disconnect between how results are interpreted in the locker room and by observers out of it. Kirk Cousins talked about how painful it was to lose a game that shouldn’t have been close in the first place. Mike Zimmer acknowledged there’s a lot of work to do, but no coach is going to insult a team they just lost to by saying they are one of their weaker opponents on the schedule. Anyone can understand Michael Pierce’s sentiment that there’s another game right around the corner, but do they really want to play Arizona so soon? The Cardinals beat the Tennessee Titans so soundly, they may have rollover points.
If the Vikings had won, it would be too easy to dismiss Bashaud Breeland getting burned on a go route, the off-target passes to Justin Jefferson, and the fact that they had only one timeout for most of the fourth quarter. Minnesota could focus on their successful drive late in the game and Greg Joseph’s incredible kick, and they probably wouldn’t spend a lot of time discussing how much Zac Taylor’s decision to go for it deep in his own territory when the Bengals were up 21-7 in the second quarter helped them out.
Does a poor showing in Cincinnati mean they have no hope in Glendale next week? Of course not. Green Bay Packers fans seemed to think they had their Week 1 game in the bag because it was played in Jacksonville against a seemingly disorganized New Orleans Saints team. But, man, were they wrong. Results are hard to predict week to week, injuries and COVID results can turn a favorite into an underdog, any given Sunday, etc.
And yeah, if the Vikings had escaped from Cincinnati with a win, they’d be the only undefeated team in the NFC North. It would be the best way to capitalize on Green Bay’s collapse in Florida. But they had to come out and dominate this game from the opening kickoff – not try to salvage it by literally extending the game an extra 10 minutes and hoping for a positive result in overtime. Instead, their offense was like an old car that has sat out in the cold. It took a couple twists of the key to get started, and it didn’t run great once the engine turned over. They capitalized on Taylor going for it in the second quarter and sliced through the Bengals’ prevent defense on the final drive, but they needed a dominant performance wire to wire and were put in a position to have one.
This was hardly a hostile crowd given how much purple could be seen in the stands. Burrow took care of the ball, but he wasn’t sensational. The Bengals spent a lot of money on their defense, but they didn’t re-create the Monsters of the Midway. Everything was set up for the Vikings to have a good enough performance that they could plant a seed of doubt in the mind of cynical fans who believed that they couldn’t hang with Arizona, Seattle, and Cleveland.
They would have taken a tie once they started seeing the sand in the overtime hourglass fill up, and that means they didn’t do what they needed to do in Cincinnati.