The Vikings made history on Sunday, and not in a good way. In their season-opening 43-34 loss to the Packers, the Vikings' offense possessed the ball for just 18 minutes and 44 seconds. That's the lowest number in franchise history, dating back to 1977 when time of possession first started being officially recorded.
The 43 points and 522 yards conceded by the Vikings' defense are notable stats from the loss, but that 18:44 mark stands out above the rest. It's almost hard to believe that the Vikings had the ball for just 31.2 percent of the 60-minute contest.
Somehow, it was even worse than that in the first half, with the Vikings having just around seven minutes T.O.P. to the Packers' 23.
"I think that was telling as far as the yards we gave up, the points we gave up, not getting off on third down," Harrison Smith said after the game. "We kept allowing them to drain us and that’s what happens when you do that. You’re not going to win a lot of games that way."
The Vikings' defense offered precious little resistance to Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and the rest of the Packers' offense. They allowed six of 11 third downs to be converted, and there were a couple more where Rodgers drew the Vikings offsides and picked up the first down that way.
More importantly, the Vikings struggled on early downs and couldn't force the Packers into difficult situations on third down.
"Not only third down, which we were not good on, but first and second down, giving up first downs on those downs and not getting into the third-and-mediums, the third-and-longs when you have the advantage is kind of how we lived," Smith said. "We would bow up down in the red zone which is a good thing, but you’re not going to win a lot of games where that’s all you’re doing. You’ve got to get them stopped on first and second down, get into third-and-mediums, third-and-longs and win those downs."
The Vikings also didn't help out their defense enough. The offense gave up a safety, went three-and-out, and threw a pick in the first half. Those are all quick drives that got the ball back to the Packers and put the defense back onto the field.
With the defense spending so much time on the field in the first half, it's natural to assume there was some fatigue that played a role later in the game. Offensively, the Vikings struggled to establish a rhythm in the first half because they ran so few plays.
It turned into a vicious cycle and was a major reason why the Vikings fell behind and were unable to ever mount a serious comeback threat.
“Yeah that’s a team thing," Anthony Barr said about the time of possession woes. "Defensively we have to get off the field on third downs, and offensively we have to get first downs. So it’s a collective effort. Wasn’t there today. But like I said, I feel confident that we’ll regroup and we’ll be better from this. I think it was a good, humbling learning experience for everybody and going forward we can hopefully be better.”
Kirk Cousins, who struggled early on but got going in the second half, said it's on the offense to extend drives in order to keep possession and give their defense some rest.
"We don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves for not being on the field more."
It ended up being a perfect storm that led to the 18:44 number. The offense couldn't sustain drives early on, the defense couldn't get off of the field and got progressively more fatigued, and the lack of a crowd meant there was no energy for the Vikings to feed off of.
Now it's time for this team to go back to the drawing board, watch this film, and find a way to possess the ball for a lot longer than 19 minutes next Sunday in Indianapolis.
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