Three Takeaways From the Vikings' Blowout Loss to the Colts

Will Ragatz

Any optimism about the 2020 Vikings that still existed after last week's season-opening loss to the Packers is now gone. Like, completely and utterly out the window.

The Vikings traveled to Indianapolis for their first road game of the year on Sunday and laid an absolute egg, falling 28-11 to the Colts in ugly fashion. They were significantly out-gained and out-possessed for the second straight week. Kirk Cousins had the worst statistical game of his NFL career, throwing three interceptions and holding a passer rating of 0.0 deep into the second half. And on defense, the Vikings continued to look pretty lifeless without Danielle Hunter.

It was almost an incomprehensibly woeful performance from a team that made it to the NFC divisional round last year. This loss drops the Vikings to 0-2 and makes it clear that this team is a lot closer to having a top-10 pick in the 2021 draft than it is to competing for a playoff spot.

Here are three takeaways from a forgettable afternoon for the Vikings.

1. The worst game of Kirk Cousins' career?

Prior to Sunday, Kirk Cousins' lowest passer rating in a single game in which he threw at least 10 passes was 31.1 on New Year's Eve in 2017, his final start with Washington.

Against the Colts? It was 15.9.

Cousins finished 11-for-26 for 113 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. He was sacked three times, including a second consecutive game with a sack in the end zone for a safety. Cousins' first interception was a deep ball forced into double coverage, intended for Adam Thielen. His second came on a Hail Mary attempt to close the half. His third of the day was slightly behind Bisi Johnson, bouncing off of his hands and into the arms of a Colts defender.

Vikings Left Searching For Answers After Second Straight Disheartening Loss

Cousins was under plenty of pressure, as it appears that the Vikings' offensive line is just as bad as it was last year—if not worse. His receivers also dropped some passes. But the bottom line is that he wasn't good enough. The Vikings are paying Cousins a lot of money to lead them to victories, and he hasn't yet done that this season.

2. Defensive woes continue

The Vikings aren't playing well on either side of the ball right now. Their offense was even worse on Sunday than it was in Week 1. And while the defense didn't give up 500-plus yards again, some of the same struggles were present.

Against Philip Rivers and a Colts offense that scored only 20 points against the Jaguars last week, the Vikings allowed 354 yards and 28 points, though that could have been a lot more if the Colts hadn't settled for four field goals. They surrendered 151 rushing yards, including a 100-yard game for rookie Jonathan Taylor. They gave up 111 receiving yards to backup tight end Mo Alie-Cox, who played basketball in college. And they allowed Rivers to complete 19 of 25 passes and move the ball without much resistance.

Right now, this doesn't look like a Mike Zimmer defense. The interior of the defensive line is a problem, just like we expected it might be after Michael Pierce opted out. Outside of one great play from Yannick Ngakoue, the edge rushers couldn't get much pressure. The young cornerbacks are still struggling.

Given the tough slate of offenses facing the Vikings in the coming weeks, this could get worse before it gets better.

3. Sloppy play reflects poorly on coaching

The Vikings weren't just bad on Sunday, they were sloppy. They committed six penalties, including several on third downs or in otherwise important moments. They missed some tackles for the second straight week. They didn't appear to have a great plan on either side of the ball, nor did they execute that plan well.

Vikings Open as 1.5-Point Home Underdogs Against Titans in Week 3

Yes, the circumstances of this season are unique, but that reflects poorly on Zimmer, Gary Kubiak and the rest of the Vikings' coaching staff. This team just doesn't look ready to play most of the time.

Unless a lot of things change quickly, the Vikings could be headed for a long season. Zimmer's career-worst record of 7-9 back in 2014 could easily be threatened over the coming months.

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Comments (4)
No. 1-2

The problem is that Spielman just misunderstood what this season should have been. It should have been about jettisoning big salaries, making Kirk earn an extension, getting younger, giving the young players a season to learn/improve, and the restocking the cupboard for a big push in 2021 and 2022. But Spielman didn't see it that way. His errors:

  1. Cousins. This is by far the biggest mistake, especially with the way Rick handled the extension (low salary this year, but nose bleed salaries in 2021 & 2022 -- especially 2022). I have no idea what Spielman/others see in Cousins that makes them want to pay him like an elite QB, but he clearly is not elite. I supported the decision to sign Cousins originally because his stats were too good to let him sign with the Jets. But, as we have now learned, Kirk's stats are very misleading. He is not a winner and has many fatal flaws that cap his ceiling. Teams with good defensive coordinators and decent defensive players know how to beat us -- and they are showing that. And, Kirk cannot adjust, he just continues failing in the same way over and over and over to and DCs that know the formula. But Spielman extended him when it seemed like the far better play would have been to let Kirk play out his last year. Now we are stuck with either riding out 2 more years of super-overpaid Kirk (and probably sucking) or bailing on him before next season and taking a big dead cap hit ($10M+, I think). If it were me, unless Kirk completely turns things around this season (not counting on that), I would dump him and just take my lumps. If I were the Wilfs, that would probably be reason enough for me to fire Spielman.

  2. Offensive Line. While this should have been a rebuilding year, we unfortunately are not doing anything to rebuild the OL. Sure, Bradbury and O'Neill are getting another year of experience, but otherwise who else do they have to build on that is playing right now? Reiff: he will most likely get a better deal somewhere else. Elflein: let's hope that experiment is over. Dozier: he is just not starter quality. So, instead of rolling with Cleveland or Collins or Samia (maybe we will roll with him), the coaches original plan was just to trot out garbage and let it sit for a year (with only O'Neill and Bradbury getting experience/improving). Since he OL has been poor for a long time, at some point you have to blame the GM. And this oversight is even more baffling when you consider the Kirk's fatal flaw is interior pass pressure. He goes from being above average to garbage. And despite this, we trot out guys over and over who make it more likely that our investment in Kirk becomes garbage. It just makes no sense.

  3. Thinking Zimmer would change stripes. The horrible plan to rebuild and win now also failed because Spielman created a situation where Zimmer had to do something he has never done. Take a bunch of rookies/young players and mold them quickly into starters. I am not sure why, but Zimmer rarely gives adequate playing time to rookies or younger players. It is as if he thinks they can become better mostly through practices. In a free agency era where you lose players after 4 years, you can't be grooming them for 2, letting them learn for 1 and then having them look good... just in time for free agency.

  4. Overpaying in-house talent. The Barr and Rudolph contracts are ridiculous. We should have just let both walk, but instead we saddled the team with huge contracts for players who don't deserve that much $. I can understand a little the Barr deal since Zimmer does use him a lot. But we are paying Rudolph significant money and then choose not to involve him in the offense much. Why pay for a guy you aren't going to use? You could also apply this to Barr since we are paying for an elite pass rushing LB but don't use him that way often.

I could go on, but unless they pull some rabbits out out of the hat very quickly, I just don't see why Spielman should have a job next year. He has mismanaged the team, despite making pretty good draft picks overall (and trades).

I think we can and likely will improve after the rookies and younger players on defense learn how to play. I see enough in our CBs that they have potential to be much better, just need some experience. Not sure the same is true on our DL, but having Hunter and Pierce next year could help a lot.

Anyway, fearing the worst, hoping for the best. Skol.


Tank for Trevor!