MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings lost one of their top defensive players in the second quarter on Monday night when linebacker Eric Kendricks left the 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers because of a quadriceps injury.
Kendricks was injured on a play in which Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed an 18-yard pass to Davante Adams over the middle. Safety Harrison Smith forced an Adams fumble and Kendricks recovered it and returned it 1 yard. Kendricks, who also recovered a fumble by Packers running back Aaron Jones on Green Bay’s first possession of the game, did not return to the game.
Kendricks only said, “we’ll see,” when asked about his status. It’s unlikely he will play on Sunday against the Bears with that game no longer impacting the Vikings’ playoff position.
The loss of the middle linebacker for the playoffs would be a major blow for the Vikings. Kendricks entered Monday leading the Vikings in tackles with 110. He had half-a-sack, 4.5 tackles for losses, 12 passes defensed and two fumble recoveries in 14 games.
Kentrell Brothers, a fourth-year player from Missouri who is mainly used on special teams, replaced Kendricks. The Vikings then used Anthony Barr and Eric Wilson in the nickel package.
That was before the Vikings got more bad news with 6 minutes, 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter when Barr hobbled off the field. One play later, Jones took a handoff from Rodgers out of shotgun and went 56 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that gave the Packers a 13-point lead. Barr said he left the game because of cramping issues.
The Vikings already are without linebacker Ben Gedeon, who went on injured reserve this month after suffering his second concussion of the season. Gedeon had been starting for the Vikings in their base defense but was replaced by Wilson.
WHERE WAS THIELEN?
After missing five of six games because of a hamstring injury, Adam Thielen caught three passes for 27 yards in the Vikings’ victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 15. The standout wide receiver was even less of a factor on Monday night as he was targeted four times and caught no passes.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins attempted to hit Thielen deep down the right side on a third-and-5 play from the Vikings 27-yard line in the first quarter. Packers cornerback Kevin King was draped on Thielen, who failed to come up with a pass he normally catches.
“Every game is its own entity,” Cousins said of the fact Thielen has only three catches since returning. “Last week we just didn’t throw it that much, only 25 attempts, 19 completions. So you’re not going to have a lot. This week, we had the third down ball. We just didn’t connect on it. And when you don’t convert third downs you just don’t have a lot of opportunities for anybody to catch the ball. And then late in the game it’s tough because they’re playing loaded zones. It’s hard to get anybody the ball.”
NO CHANCE FOR FIFTH SEED
The Vikings could have clinched the fifth seed in the NFC with a victory on Monday night and another win Sunday against Chicago. But the loss to the Packers means the Vikings are locked into the sixth seed and could end up playing at the Packers, Saints or Seahawks depending on what happens Sunday.
DIGGS JUST MISSES COUSINS
The Vikings held a 10-6 lead in the second quarter and were facing a third-and-4 from the Packers 42 when Cousins, working out of the shotgun, handed off to running back Mike Boone. Boone pitched the ball to Stefon Diggs and the wide receiver rolled right before lofting a pass down the right sideline for Cousins.
The quarterback made a diving attempt to catch the ball but it fell incomplete. The Vikings then went for it on fourth down and Cousins threw another incompletion on a pass intended for Thielen.
“I wasn’t warmed up enough,” Diggs said of his pass. “No, it was a great play call, he was wide open. I should have made a better pass instead of leading him so much. Also, I should have set my feet instead of throwing the ball on the run.”
Said Cousins: “I thought it was a great call. I was wide open. It’s just a tough deal. Just missed it by a few inches.”
Sums up Cousins career on Monday Night Football pic.twitter.com/eNZszKfcir
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) December 24, 2019
BOONE’S BIG NIGHT A BUST
Boone was expected to play a major role in Monday’s game with Dalvin Cook sitting out because of a shoulder injury and backup Alexander Mattison out because of an ankle issue. Boone had three carries for 8 yards in the first quarter and seven for 20 yards in the second. That was pretty much the extent of Boone’s workload as he had only one carry for no yards in the second half.
Ameer Abdullah had only one carry for 14 yards in the second quarter, but saw that increase to three carries for 13 yards in the second half. Abdullah also became a big part of the passing game, catching a team-leading six passes for 31 yards in the final two quarters.
“I still have a lot of faith in the backs that played tonight,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “We didn’t move the ball as effective as we wanted to, and so that’s why the time of possession was what it was. So we’ll be all right.”
The Packers had the ball for 37:32; the Vikings had it for 22:28.