Chiefs 26, Vikings 23: Three Takeaways From a Last-Second Loss
The Vikings winning streak is over.
Behind a last-second Harrison Butker field goal, the Chiefs beat the Vikings 26-23 in a back-and-forth game at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
1. Cousins regressed in a big spot
On the first weekend of November, Cousins was unable to continue his torrid October pace. He simply didn't look nearly as sharp as he had over the previous four games. Some of the issues that plagued him during the losses to the Packers and Bears – inaccuracy, primarily – popped up once again at Arrowhead. Cousins missed a number of easy throws to open receivers, including on screen passes and other checkdowns. He also missed a few deep throws. In the end, he finished 19 of 38 (50 percent) for 220 yards and three touchdowns.
There were also a couple instances of Cousins settling for short throws with an open receiver downfield, which was a major issue in September. On a third and 14 in the third quarter, Cousins had Stefon Diggs wide open downfield but elected to take the short throw to Laquon Treadwell (which was inaccurate). Diggs was visibly upset after the play.
Cousins had a few positive moments, including a laser of a throw to Kyle Rudolph for a late go-ahead touchdown. This loss also doesn't fall entirely on him. Still, he didn't do enough to get it done.
2. The Vikings really miss Adam Thielen
Thielen was active for the game, indicating he had tested out his hamstring and it was good enough for him to play. However, after seeing a few snaps in the first quarter, Thielen came out of the game and never returned. He likely aggravated the injury during the first quarter.
The bottom line is that the Vikings' offense needs Thielen. It may not have seemed that way last week against Washington, but that was against one of the worst teams in the NFL. Against a quality team like the Chiefs, Thielen's absence was extremely noticeable.
With no Thielen to worry about, the Chiefs focused heavily on not allowing Diggs to go off. Cousins could've given him more opportunities, but Diggs finishing with one catch for four yards on only four targets was partially due to the Chiefs' defensive game plan. With Diggs not a factor, the Vikings were forced to target guys like Laquon Treadwell, CJ Ham and Irv Smith Jr.
The possession that lost the Vikings the game came when they got the ball back with 2:30 left in a tie game. Those are the moments when Thielen shines. Instead, the Vikings went three and out. Does this game end differently with a healthy Thielen? Who knows. Does his presence make a huge difference for this offense? Absolutely.
3. Vikings secondary struggles against speedy Chiefs
As predicted, the Vikings had a difficult time containing the Chiefs' speed on offense. Tyreek Hill, one of the fastest players in the league, burnt Trae Waynes for a 40-yard touchdown to open the scoring. Later in the game, Hill used a double-move to easily get rid of Waynes and would've had a second touchdown if the ball wasn't underthrown. He also "Mossed" Waynes in the fourth quarter for an incredible 41-yard catch.
The Vikings' corners just didn't have much of answer for Hill. Sammy Watkins also seemed to get open whenever he wanted to against Xavier Rhodes and Mike Hughes. That unit needs to improve.
The most notable example of the Chiefs' speed came in the third quarter. Trailing 16-10, Kansas City handed the ball to running back Damien Williams, who burst up the middle, made Anthony Harris miss, and was gone for a 91-yard touchdown run. It was a surprising lapse from the usually sound Vikings run defense.
There were other reasons for the Vikings losing. Special teams miscues included a missed Dan Bailey extra point and a shanked punt from Britton Colquitt that led to the game-winning field goal. The offensive line had a few poorly-timed penalties. That said, the two biggest factors were the poor play of Cousins and the Vikings' secondary.
The Vikings fall to 6-3 ahead of a Sunday Night Football matchup in Dallas next weekend.