What a game.
The Vikings blew a two-score lead at halftime and went down 21-13, rallied to take the lead, and still wound up falling 27-26 to the Seahawks on a game-winning touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to DK Metcalf. They battled, but the Vikings fell short in their first primetime game of the year and are now 1-4 on the season.
This game had everything: momentum shifts, big plays, head-scratching moments, huge coaching decisions, injuries, inclement weather, and much more. But in the end, it's an all-too-familiar feeling for the Vikings and their fans, another entertaining game that doesn't feel all that fun after a heartbreaking loss.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. They had it within their grasp
The Vikings were so close. After taking a 26-21 lead, they got a big play on defense when Eric Wilson intercepted Russell Wilson and gave the Vikings the ball back with less than six minutes to play. They continued to run the football, getting down to the Seahawks' 11 yard-line. They just needed to make a play and get the ball into the end zone.
On second down, a holding penalty on Brian O'Neill moved the Vikings back. Mike Boone made up most of that lost yardage with a 12-yard run, setting up third and four. Adam Thielen then took an end-around and nearly picked up the first down, but wound up a yard short. That set up a high-stakes decision for Mike Zimmer: kick the field goal and go up 8, or go for it on 4th and inches and put the dagger into the Seahawks' heart.
Zimmer decided to go for it. After the game, he said that he was trying to win it, and that the Vikings "came here to win." Hindsight is 20/20, but it's hard to criticize that approach and mentality. If Zimmer had chosen to kick the field goal and the Seahawks came back to tie it and win in overtime, there would be criticism. It just didn't work out.
Alexander Mattison was fantastic all night filling in for Dalvin Cook, who left the game with a groin injury, racking up 136 yards from scrimmage on 23 touches. But he'll be disappointed in himself for not doing more on his final carry of the game. He tried to squeeze through the blocks of O'Neill and C.J. Ham instead of bouncing it to the outside for what would've potentially been an easy touchdown.
Even though Mattison came up short, the Seahawks still needed to drive 94 yards in less than two minutes. Luckily, they have the MVP frontrunner on their team. Wilson found Metcalf for 39 yards on 4th and 10 when Vikings rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler misjudged the ball and allowed Metcalf to catch it. The Vikings got the Seahawks to fourth down again later in the drive, but Wilson was able to find Metcalf for the game-winner.
They just needed to make one final play, and it didn't happen.
2. The offensive strategy worked
Coming into this game, the Vikings knew what they wanted to do on offense: run the ball, control the time of possession, and keep the ball out of Wilson's hands as much as possible.
That plan worked to perfection on Sunday night. First with Cook and then with Mattison, the Vikings dominated in the running game, going over 200 yards in that department and recording 449 yards of total offense. The Vikings also played surprisingly good defense, sacking Wilson four times in the first half and pitching a shutout through the first 35 minutes of the game. As a result, they had nearly 40 minutes of possession and ran 83 plays to the Seahawks' 52.
Then disaster struck. The game came undone in the third quarter due to a couple Vikings turnovers that allowed the Seahawks to score 21 points in less than two minutes of game time. Look at this stretch of five plays from scrimmage following the Seahawks' first touchdown:
- 3rd and 17: Cousins stripped while attempting to throw, Seahawks recover
- Wilson two-yard pass
- Wilson 13-yard TD pass to Metcalf
- Cousins intercepted by K.J. Wright while trying to float a pass to Justin Jefferson
- Chris Carson 29-yard touchdown run
All of a sudden, a 13-0 lead was a 21-13 deficit. Cousins and the Vikings bounced back and were able to retake the lead, but couldn't hold onto it in the final seconds.
If that chaotic stretch doesn't happen, the Vikings probably win the game. Their offensive strategy worked, and they'll continue to lean on the running game going forward even if Cook has to miss time with the groin injury.
3. This is a very talented 1-4 team
What makes this loss so brutal for the Vikings is how well they played on both sides of the ball for the vast majority of the game. I just touched on how good the offense was, but the defense was excellent too. Holding Wilson and the Seahawks scoreless in the first half was incredibly impressive.
After an ugly two-game start to the season, the Vikings have arguably looked like a playoff-caliber team over the past three weeks. Their offense is clicking with the running game leading the way and Cousins playing at a high level. Adam Thielen had two more touchdowns on Sunday night, Irv Smith Jr. had a career-high 64 receiving yards, and both backs were great. They didn't even need much from the rookie sensation Jefferson, who was held to three catches for 23 yards.
Defensively, Zimmer called a phenomenal game and the players did their jobs. Eric Wilson had an interception, a sack, and a forced fumble. Rookie corners Dantzler and Jeff Gladney were solid, as was Mike Hughes. A defense that's missing Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr played about as well as could've been expected against one of the league's best offenses.
In the end, it didn't matter. It goes in the books as their fourth loss in five games, and deals another blow to the Vikings' already-slim playoff hopes.
Even though there are no moral victories in the NFL, this game showed that the Vikings can play with anyone when they're executing well. That's of little comfort right now, but it does suggest that there's a chance they could go on a run when the schedule opens up later in the season. It probably won't be enough to make the postseason, but this team is far too talented for there to be any further talk of tanking for a higher draft pick.
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