The Minnesota Vikings dropped their third straight game this season, losing at home 28-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers. It was one of those games that always felt just out of hand, with the Chargers taking the lead early and holding it for most of the game.
Even when the Vikings took the lead after Kirk Cousins hit an in-stride Justin Jefferson for a 52-yard touchdown, there was always the feeling that the lead was fleeting at best. The Chargers reclaimed their lead through an improbable 30-yard touchdown to Joshua Palmer after the ball bounced out of Akayleb Evans’ hands, off his helmet, and into Palmer’s gloves. He held on for the 30-yard touchdown.
The Vikings turned it over on downs at the two-yard line. However, Minnesota’s defense gave the offense an opportunity after they stuffed Joshua Kelley on a fourth-and-one run attempt on their own 24. However, the game ended with an interception in the end zone after the ball glanced off of T.J. Hockenson’s hands.
Here are five numbers to break down Minnesota’s loss to the Chargers.
The Chargers’ top three receivers went for a combined 402 yards on Minnesota’s defense. With Austin Ekeler out another week, everyone expected the Chargers to air the ball out with Justin Herbert. The level of success that LA’s top wide receivers had was far beyond what anyone would have expected.
Keenan Allen stole the show with 215 yards on 18 grabs. He also threw for a 49-yard touchdown to bolster his resume, looking off a safety to hit Mike Williams for the score. Williams left the game in the third quarter with what looked to be a severe injury, but he got 121 yards on seven catches with a touchdown.
Palmer had struggled in the first two weeks. Still, he managed to have an impact with four catches for 66 yards, including a touchdown that went off Evans’ hands and helmet.
Last week against the Eagles, Minnesota’s inability to stop the run led to the loss. But it was more of the same this week, just with the pass. Minnesota’s inability to sack Herbert and allow him to extend plays and hit his receivers downfield led to the loss.
The Vikings wasted 29 seconds between plays between Hockenson’s fourth-down conversion to the eventual game-ending interception. After the conversion on fourth down, Kevin O’Connell had trouble communicating with Cousins through the headset. After the game, O’Connell said he would have had him clock the ball.
The offense came into the drive with no timeouts. The Vikings used two to get the ball back on the Chargers’ previous drive and lost one on an unsuccessful challenge. Therefore, they would have had to spike the ball to stop the clock. It also would have allowed them to call a play with less crowd noise.
Instead, the offense walked to the ball and looked discombobulated on the game’s final play. If they conserved more time by spiking the ball, they could have called another play or been on the same page.
Since 2002, only 1 of the 99 teams that have started 0-3 have made the playoffs. We often hear about how teams who go 0-2 have only a 10% chance of making it to the playoffs and how it is an insurmountable hole for most teams to dig themselves out of. While 0-2 seems bleak, 0-3 is much worse. The 2018 Houston Texans are the only team since 2002 that has made it out of that precarious position.
However, this week, O’Connell offered a kernel of optimism in his post-game conference. He highlighted that the last team he was part of that lost three on the road, the 2021 Los Angeles Rams, ended up winning the Super Bowl. While the season isn’t over, the Vikings can’t afford any more slip-ups if they want to become the second team to make it to the playoffs after starting 0-3.
Minnesota lost its third one-score game this season. Last year, the Vikings dubbed themselves situational masters due to their ability to win one-score games. But the team hasn’t delivered in the game’s most crucial moments this season.
Last year, it felt like whenever the game was on the line, either side of the ball would elevate their game and make a play when the Vikings needed it the most. But the exact opposite happened this year. The offense and defense have shrunk when the lights are brightest.
Rookie Jordan Addison gained a much more prominent role in the offense with six receptions, all of which came in the second half. Addison flashed his potential in the first two games with a few big plays that excited Vikings fans about his pairing with Jefferson. However, Addison was unable to supplant K.J. Osborn as the WR2.
In the second half of this week’s game, Addison looked like one of the offense’s focal points as Cousins confidently threw him the ball. Although he didn’t have the long touchdown like he had in both of the prior weeks, Addison’s Week 3 performance showcased his ability to ply his trade in short and intermediate routes.
Addison is far from the finished product. He had a drop in the end zone on the final drive on a play where he drew a hands-to-the-face penalty. Still, it’s clear that Addison is carving out a more prominent role in the offense.