In Week 4, the Minnesota Vikings gave the Los Angeles Rams all they could handle. One month later, they surged late in the game but lost by one score to the New Orleans Saints. Two weeks ago, another fourth-quarter comeback wasn’t enough against the Chicago Bears. And on Sunday afternoon against the New England Patriots, the Vikings were once again in the game against a quality team, but came up short. It’s become a trend.
The Vikings have (mostly) taken care of the bad teams, beating the likes of the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. But any time they have matched up with a team that could compete for a championship, the Vikings have simply not had enough.
On Sunday, the Patriots opened up the game looking like they might run away from the Vikings in classic Tom Brady fashion. The future Hall of Famer picked them apart with quick throws, marching 81 yards on eight plays for a touchdown.
After a missed field goal and another stunted drive, the Patriots drove again into Viking territory, but this time Zimmer’s defense came up big. Anthony Harris knocked away a Brady pass at the goal line to keep the game within 10 points.
An excellent drive from quarterback Kirk Cousins put the Vikings within striking distance heading into the second half. He completed throws to Kyle Rudolph and Stefon Diggs for 24 and 23 yards, respectively, and then finished the drive with a perfect drop-in-the-bucket throw for a touchdown.
The Vikings defense came to play in the third quarter, solving the problems of the first half, especially on third down. One drive was derailed by holding penalties and then missed field goal by the Patriots kept the Vikings in the game.
Cousins responded by leading a field goal drive to knot the game at 10 a piece.
But the Vikings weren’t up to the task of holding Brady down at home.
The Patriots’ quarterback hit on two 20-plus yard throws to Josh Gordon, the second of which resulted in a touchdown to put the Pats up by seven.
In the spot they needed it most, there was no response from the Vikings offense, as has often been the case against winning teams this year.
Three plays, one QB sack, punt.
Holton Hill then committed a pass interference to give a free 20 yards to Gordon. Hill and Marcus Sherels were forced into action after Trae Waynes left the game with a concussion and Xavier Rhodes was battling a hamstring injury.
The Pats pushed forward for a key third down conversion and Brady found Gordon again inside the red zone on the following drive to set up a 2-yard touchdown run to go up by two scores with 10:54 remaining in the fourth quarter.
If the Vikings were going to get back in the game, they would have had to do it on the next drive. They converted a fourth down on a Latavius Murray run, but then Cousins surprisingly targeted Laquon Treadwell against top corner Stephon Gilmore on fourth down to turn the ball over.
Still the defense gave them another chance to hang around with an Eric Kendricks interception — a stunning miscue for Brady. But Cousins gave the ball back with an interception on a bomb to the end zone. And that was that.
Cousins finished with 201 yards on 44 attempts and tacked on another INT to officially wrap the game on the final drive.
The same trends that existed against the Rams, Saints and Bears games. The Vikings weren’t blown out by any means, but they got down fairly early in the game and were forced to fight their way back. Cousins not being able to complete a comeback is another familiar refrain. Despite getting close each time, there were key miscues or long stretches of offensive ineffectiveness that caused them to come up short.
After the Vikings’ win over the Packers, it was fair to think they had put themselves back in contention for being one of the top NFC teams. They may have a good chance of a playoff spot at the moment, but they do not have much of an argument as a true contender until they defeat one of the NFL’s best.
They will have another shot at that next week when the Vikings go on the road to match up with Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks.