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5 things that stood out in the Vikings' meltdown in Cincinnati

Minnesota dropped to 7-7 with a painful overtime loss to the Bengals.
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Jake Browning finding Tee Higgins for a game-tying touchdown with 39 seconds to play stole the show Saturday in Cincinnati, but there were a bunch of moments that stood out earlier in the game that won't get talked about as much. 

All of them represent a domino as Minnesota collapsed in a 27-24 loss to the Bengals. Let's dive into five of those standout moments... 

1. Jake Browning misses Charlie Jones on deep ball

The Bengals missed plenty of opportunities but one of the killer misses was in the first quarter when Browning, on 3rd-and-15, overshot Charlie Jones on a deep ball that had it been put on target would've been a walk-in touchdown for the rookie receiver. 

2. Dax Hill dropped pick-six

Just a few plays after Browning misfired on the deep ball to Jones, Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens threw a pass over the middle that safety Dax Hill should've intercepted and returned for a touchdown. 

The next play, after a false start, the Vikings converted a 3rd-and-14 for a first down and wound up chewing 7 minutes, 38 seconds off the clock on a 14-play drive that ended with Mullens being intercepted at the goal line. 

If Browning does't miss Jones and Hill doesn't drop the interception, the Bengals might've had a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter. Instead, they were held to three points until finally scoring a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter. 

3. Meltdown on 3rd-and-21

Ja'Marr Chase, Akayleb Evans

Dec 16, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) catches a pass against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) in the first half at Paycor Stadium.

Leading 17-10 with under 11 minutes to play and the Bengals facing 3rd-and-21 after an intentional grounding penalty on Browning, the Vikings melted down on defense as Browning found Ja'Marr Chase over the middle of the field for a 24-yard gain and a first down. 

Five plays later the Bengals tied the game on a 4th-and-goal touchdown plunge by Joe Mixon. 

4. Ty Chandler unseating Alexander Mattison?

Chandler racked up 46 total yards and a touchdown on the opening drive of the game and he finished the day with 23 carries for 132 yards and two receptions for 21 yards. Chandler's biggest run of the game was a 30-yard burst to the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter to set up a 1-yard touchdown pass from Mullens to Addison for a 24-17 lead. 

Mattison, who missed the game with an ankle injury but might be healthy enough to play next week against the Lions, has topped 80 rushing yards just three times this season while also battling ball security issues. 

5. QB sneak failures in overtime

Minnesota had every chance to win the game. After forcing the Bengals to punt on the opening possession of overtime, the Vikings moved the ball to the Cincinnati 42-yard line where they faced 3rd-and-1. The first QB sneak by Mullens came up inches short, and the second attempt was stuffed for no gain and a turnover on downs that would prove fatal. 

"I thought we had a good look at it on third down. Officials spotted it otherwise. We gotta be able to get a little bit more than that in that moment, in an inches-type situation," head coach Kevin O'Connell said afterward. 

On both QB sneaks, better known nowadays as the "tush push," Mullens had the diminutive wide receiver Brandon Powell, listed at 5-foot-8 and 181 pounds, pushing Mullens from behind. 

Why not use a bigger body, like 250-pound C.J. Ham or 260-pound Josh Oliver to move Mullens forward? Hindsight is 20:20, but that could be one O'Connell wishes he could have back. 

O'Connell did explain afterward that he used Powell as the pusher in an effort to keep the Bengals from using a "goal line-type of defense."