The Vikings’ Spin Doctors will spend the coming days attempting to look on the bright side of a season-opening 27-24 loss Sunday in Cincinnati. They will point to a second-half rally that forced overtime; the 53-yard field goal from Greg Joseph that tied the score as the fourth quarter ended; and the two sacks from nose tackle Michael Pierce in his Vikings debut.
They will do whatever they can to convince you it wasn’t bad as it looked and that it’s far too early to panic. If you don’t listen to the spin, they will look to commence proceedings to kick you out of their club because you aren’t buying what they are selling.
What they won’t tell you is deep down they know you are right. There is no room for positive spin in a season in which the Vikings have no excuses and the general manager, coach and quarterback are all on the hot seat. The Vikings’ performance on Sunday was inexcusable and their first-half performance was atrocious.
The Vikings entered the game as road favorites and then proceeded to perform as if they never spent a day practicing before Sunday. Fullback C.J. Ham committed a false start penalty before Kirk Cousins had taken his first snap of the season. It went downhill from there.
The Vikings’ first series featured three false start penalties, including two on Ham, and a hold on new right guard Oli Udoh. That began an opening half in which the Vikings were called for 10 accepted penalties, including eight against the offense. There were 13 penalty flags thrown against the Vikings but three were declined by Cincinnati. Two of those were against the offense.
The Vikings’ offense ended up taking 11 of the 12 accepted penalties against the team and seven were against an offensive line that has a few different names but the same problems as a year ago. It actually is worse considering career backup Rashod Hill, starting at left tackle in place of injured first-round pick Christian Darrisaw, isn’t as a good as last year’s starter, Riley Reiff. There also is the issue that 2019 first-round center Garrett Bradbury continues to get pushed around by opposing defensive tackles.
Cousins was sacked three times in a game in which he completed 36-of-49 passes for 351 yards with two touchdowns (both to Adam Thielen), no interceptions and a 106.8 passer rating. These stats, of course, will cause Cousins’ defenders to ask, “What else is Kirk supposed to do? It’s not his fault.”
Giving Cousins a pass is nonsense. While Fox analyst Daryl Johnston pointed out that the Vikings wide receivers weren’t getting open, what he failed to mention was Cousins wasn’t throwing his receivers open. There were early misfires to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. When you have the second-highest salary cap hit among NFL quarterbacks, there is no room for excuses, only room for excellence. The ball can’t be held in the pocket for any amount of time as indecision turns into incompletions.
Dalvin Cook rushed for 61 yards on 20 carries, a 3.1-yard average, and a touchdown with a long run of 17 yards. He also committed a fumble in overtime that led to the Bengals’ winning score. It appeared that Cook lost the ball after he was down but replay upheld the ruling on the field.
Zimmer’s revamped defense gave up 149 yards rushing, including 127 and a touchdown to running back Joe Mixon.
Time to get Surly: There are no excuses for the Vikings’ performance.
— SKOR North (@SKORNorth) September 12, 2021
It’s at this point the Spin Doctors will cut in and point to the fact the Vikings’ first-team offense got almost no work together in the preseason, that the replay officials in New York upheld the wrong call and that it was a hot day in Cincinnati and the defense got tired.
Every one of these points is an excuse that should be ignored. This was a poor performance by a team that is expected to rebound from a disappointing 7-9 finish in 2020. A year ago, the Vikings opened with a 43-34 loss against the Packers en route to a 1-5 start that helped bury their playoff hopes.
The Vikings will try to avoid an 0-2 start against the Cardinals next Sunday in Arizona. That’s the same Cardinals team that got four touchdown passes from Kyler Murray and five sacks from linebacker Chandler Jones in a 38-13 victory on Sunday in Tennessee. So how are the Vikings going to stop Jones? And Murray presents more problems than Joe Burrow did in his first game back from the ligament tears he suffered in his knee last season.
All of this negativity is too much for the Spin Doctors. “What about the Packers?,” they will say, pointing to Green Bay’s 38-3 loss to New Orleans. The realists, however, will see the Vikings’ loss as a missed opportunity. The Saints are much better than the Bengals and the Vikings blew a chance to get a win that could have built early momentum.
They did it with a loss that created many questions about a team that was supposed to look much different and instead looked undisciplined, unprepared and disorganized. There’s no putting a positive spin on that.