The Vikings continued to struggle offensively, mustering just seven points in a 21-7 loss to Seattle. Daniel House analyzes the game and explains why there's plenty of blame to go around.
There’s so much blame to go around when it comes to the 2018 Minnesota Vikings. Major offensive problems and small defensive inconsistences have added up all season. Not to mention, seismic special teams issues have plagued the team’s ability to play complementary football.
If it’s possible, rock bottom was reached on Monday night as Minnesota lost 21-7 in Seattle.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was missing open wide receivers, the offensive line struggled and the play-calling was predictable. The game flowed in the Vikings’ direction on numerous occasions, but they simply couldn’t muster any offense. In the fourth quarter, Minnesota trailed 6-0 when a 48-yard pass pushed them deep into Seahawks’ territory. The Vikings had 1st-and-goal at the Seattle four-yard-line, but mustered just three yards via two rushing plays. On fourth down, Cousins missed a wide-open Adam Thielen in the end zone. He instead forced a throw to tight end Kyle Rudolph, who was tightly covered. When the Vikings get into third down situations, it's a tough hill for them to climb. They were just 2-for-10 in those situations during Monday's loss.
It was just a glimpse of the offensive woes.
The Vikings were unable to convert nine short yardage situations on third or fourth down. This was the result of Cousins either missing a receiver, being pressured, or offensive coordinator John DeFilippo dialing up a predictable play. When the Vikings tried to run inside, the offensive line couldn’t get any push or missed a block. Minnesota also faced a 3rd-and-2 situation and ran a passing play out of a shotgun look with no legitimate running option available. The play-calling has been an issue, but the execution has been off, too. Cousins’ connection with receivers seems off and his reads are slow.
Film review will shed a light upon how many receivers Kirk Cousins missed, but there was certainly a few. The offensive line surrendered pressure throughout the entire night, too. Right guard Mike Remmers was getting tossed around and struggled mightily as a run blocker and pass protector. When Cousins was pressured, he struggled to feel the pocket. He nearly committed a turnover as he tried to complete a backwards pass to Latavius Murray. Murray didn’t pick up pass rusher Frank Clark, but redirected behind the play. Cousins tried to underhand toss a pass to Murray and the running back luckily brought it in. There were many moments where Cousins didn’t feel pressure or protect the ball. In the fourth quarter, he was strip sacked and cornerback Justin Coleman scooped up the fumble for a touchdown. On a key third down throw, Cousins also released the ball late to Adam Thielen. Thielen was near the sticks and had separation out of the break, but the pass was delivered poorly.
Between inconsistent play-calling, Cousins’ pocket presence and the leaky offensive line, the offense is facing a variety of issues. The Vikings also haven’t deployted many creative route concepts past the sticks to take advantage of pure route runners like Thielen and Stefon Diggs. When Minnesota took chances up the field and gave the duo an opportunity to make plays, they delivered. They pushed the ball downfield earlier in the year, but the offense has suddenly become very basic and many routes have been short of the sticks. When the concepts have been executed well, Cousins has either missed the throw or taken a sack.
It’s been a theme over the recent stretch of games. The Vikings haven’t beaten a team with a winning record this season and are 1-6-1 when opponents score more than 17 points. During those eight games, the offense has averaged just 17 points per game. The inability for the offense to muster points against quality opponents is a problem the Vikings haven’t overcome.
Minnesota’s defense has been inconsistent, but they kept the team within striking distance in this game. Russell Wilson completed just 10 of his 20 passes for 72 yards and an interception. The backend managed to cover the Seahawks receiving core well, but running backs rushed for 214 yards (5.1 yards per carry average). Minnesota’s edge contain was inconsistent and it was particularly noticeable from the cornerbacks. Holton Hill lost leverage several times and was caught too far inside. This led running back Chris Carson to bump runs outside and pick up additional yardage.
For the most part, the Vikings kept the Seahawks’ receiving core in check. With veteran wide receiver Doug Baldwin inactive, the task was a little easier. Rookie cornerback Holton Hill also stepped up in a large role as Trae Waynes missed the game with a concussion. He had several notable plays in coverage and showed flashes as a tackler. He was out of position in edge contain on a few occasions, but is showing impressive coverage ability as a young defensive back. He has been tasked with playing off-coverage and can break on the ball so well. Safety Anthony Harris also had a strong game in the box and prevented several big plays with his deep half coverage skills.
The defense managed to stand strong until the end, despite Seattle nearly doubling time of possession in the first half. There were moments where fatigue was setting in as players stood with hands on their hips. Until a 40-yard scamper by Russell Wilson and several chunk running plays, the defense was managing pretty well. They made timely plays, including a pivotal interception with Seattle driving before halftime. Pressure by Danielle Hunter led to an ill-advised Russell Wilson throw. Eric Kendricks intercepted the pass, which brought the Vikings into half facing a 3-0 deficit. Seattle led 6-0 for a large portion of the game, but the offense simply couldn’t get anything going.
With things flowing in the direction of Minnesota all night, this was a game they easily had a chance to win. Even with a loss against an NFC Wild Card team, the Vikings’ playoff odds remain strong. Considering the current state of affairs, things will need to change considerably or the appearance will be short-lived.