Defenses dominate as the Vikings fall 14-7 to the Browns in Week 4
Minnesota's offense started the game with a 14-play, 75 yard drive capped off with a 12 yard touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson. It's defense then held strong as they were able to stall the Browns' first drive with a huge Everson Griffen 4th down sack, thus taking over on downs. US Bank Stadium was rockin'! Unfortunately, the Vikings first drive of the game ended up being the offense's only points of the day. They had plenty of opportunities to score thanks to their stellar defensive play keeping the score close.
The Minnesota Vikings are 1-3 and the narrative so far has been that the offense has been playing well only to be let down by the defense. I am not sure that has exactly been the case. Here are 2 points that I thought would be nice to share after the conclusion of Week 4:
21 other teams have allowed more points to be scored than the Vikings defense
19 other teams have scored more points than the Vikings offense
Everyone on the offense needs to start playing better. That includes the running game and the passing game. The goal in the NFL is to win games and in order to win games you need to score more points than your defense allows. The Browns defense has one of the best run defenses in the NFL and it showed on Sunday. They held the Vikings running game to 20 carries for only 55 yards. They basically challenged the Vikings passing game to beat them and it worked. The Vikings had 10 drives after their opening drive and they resulted in the following:
6 drives ended in punts after gaining 5 yards or less
2 turnovers on downs
The end of the game drive
The league has transformed into such an offensive-driven league that the top QBs can find ways to lead their teams to points. The Vikings don't exactly have the best leader at the QB position, even though they are paying him like a top-2 QB in terms of cap-hit this season. One example of a giant missed opportunity to take the lead was during the Vikings first drive of the second half. It was 3rd & 3 and the Vikings were losing 11-7. The Browns defense had an enormous blown coverage leaving WR KJ Osborn wide open, streaking downfield from the slot position. Cousins panicked due the rush and decided to try to tuck the ball and run laterally, eventually getting sacked. Here are the screen shots from this play:
All Cousins had to do was throw the ball in the vicinity of Osborn and it would have resulted in 63 yard touchdown and a 14-11 lead to start the second half. Not even a single defender was facing Osborn's direction as seen in the image above. This would have been an enormous game changer and possibly would have changed the momentum of the game. With the Vikings defense playing well and Baker Mayfield having a poor showing, the Browns would have had to continue relying on RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The outcome may have still resulted in a Browns win, but it would have put pressure on the Browns offense to step up and make some extra plays against the Vikings stout defense.
Like I said in my previous posts, after we started 0-2, I predicted we would beat Seattle, lose to the Browns, and then beat the Lions and Panthers in order to get to 3-3 with 11 games remaining. Our next 2 games (home vs the Lions and on the road vs the Panthers) realistically become must wins in order to stay afloat in the division and for a future playoff spot. These are both 100% winnable games that the Vikings NEED to capitalize on. Currently, the NFC North standings look like this:
I believe the division will finish with the Packers leading the way and fighting for a first round bye, the Bears and Vikings spending the season floating around .500 and in the Wild Card race towards the end of the season, and the Lions will continue to be a bottom feeder in the entire NFL. If the Vikings offense and defense can start clicking and playing well at the same time, this team can beat any team in the NFL. Hopefully they can come together and turn this slow start into another magical season like we saw in 2017, but if they don't and they continue to lose winnable games, we are going to see a lot of changes going into next season. No matter how this season goes, I don't believe this team needs to go through a full rebuild. This Vikings team does have a lot of talent, but changes in leadership and a few key tweaks could have this team on another level. Go Vikings!!!