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Zulgad: The Vikings are a complete mess and Stefon Diggs saw it coming

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Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, right, is pressured by dIndianapolis Colts’ Denico Autry (96) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Stefon Diggs’ desire to get out of Minnesota after last season made him appear to be another in a long line of malcontent wide receivers who have made life more difficult than it needs to be for their NFL employer. What didn’t occur to most was that Diggs might have had a point about why he wanted to be traded and was happy (yes, happy) to go to Buffalo.
But the first two weeks of the Vikings’ season have proven that Diggs might have been the most prescient person to ever wear purple. Diggs, in fact, might have been more right than even he knew. This was confirmed again during the Vikings’ 28-11 loss to the Colts in Indianapolis as a not-very-good Minnesota roster displayed a willingness to be completely apathetic about the sport its members are handsomely paid to play. (Diggs, by the way, caught eight passes for 153 yards and a touchdown in the Bills’ 31-28 victory in Miami.)
The Vikings’ 43-34 loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 1 was disturbing on both sides of the ball. Sunday’s performance against the Colts was horrific and left one wondering if this franchise would be better off joining the Tank for Trevor Lawrence Race and not worry about the final 14 games.
Sunday’s game was filled with everything Diggs seemed to see coming and more. Ineptitude in its highest form. Against the Packers, the Vikings defense, playing without standout Danielle Hunter at left end but still using 11 men who are paid to play in the NFL, showed it could both not get pressure on Rodgers on the front end and give up huge passing yards on the back. The Colts watched film of that game and seemed to say, “Yeah, but the Vikings also can’t stop the run.” They were right.
Indianapolis lost running back Marlon Mack in its Week 1 loss to Jacksonville — let that sink in, the Colts lost to what is considered by many to be the worst team in the NFL — but turned to second-round pick Jonathan Taylor. Taylor, who played college football at Wisconsin, rushed for 101 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown.
The Vikings also spent a second consecutive game missing tackles, taking penalties and making an NFL fossil, Philip Rivers, look like he still belongs playing quarterback in the league. Rivers looked awful last December in a loss to the Vikings while playing for the Chargers. He completed 19 of 25 passes for 214 yards with a touchdown and an interception and had a 97.8 passer rating on Sunday.
Cameron Dantzler, the Vikings’ third-round pick, played the most snaps of any cornerback on the team in Week 1. He missed Sunday’s game because of a rib injury, leaving the door open for first-round pick Jeff Gladney to play far more than the nine snaps he got against the Packers. There was some confusion as to why Glandey played so few snaps last week. He helped answer that question with his performance on Sunday.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer seemed certain before the season that his defense would be fine. He’s never been more wrong and one has to wonder if it would be a wise move to keep Hunter out for the long term, given he has a neck injury and it’s highly unlikely one man can save this unit.
But enough about Zimmer’s defense. The real contempt should be directed at the position group from which Diggs wanted to get away from so badly. Kirk Cousins and the offense is a complete mess and there’s no excuse for it. For the second consecutive week, the Vikings got points off their opening drive. This time it was a 13-play, 75-yard drive that stalled at the Colts 3-yard line and ended with a Dan Bailey field goal that gave the Vikings a 3-0 lead.
Once Cousins was finished running what Kubiak had scripted he looked lost.
The offense did exactly what it did against the Packers, until Cousins started piling up meaningless points in garbage time. Cousins completed 11 of 26 passes for 113 yards with three interceptions, three sacks and had a 15.9 passer rating. With Diggs gone, Cousins appears to only look for wide receiver Adam Thielen when it matters. Cousins’ threw a pick in the second quarter, trying to find Thielen deep in double coverage on third down.
Cousins also was sacked for a second consecutive game in the end zone for a safety. Unlike a week ago when Cousins was sacked on a corner blitz, he saw the pressure coming and still couldn’t do a thing about it. His QBR at halftime was 6.4. That’s on a scale of 0 to 100! Cousins was signed to a two-year, $66 million extension in the offseason and his contract is worth $96 million over three years.
That means Cousins should do far more than his best Christian Ponder impersonation.
Dalvin Cook, the Vikings’ now highly paid running back, two targets in the passing game. Cook got paid by the Vikings in part because he’s a threat as a receiver. Yet, he has been targeted four times in two games. Justin Jefferson, the Vikings’ first pick in the opening round, caught three passes for 44 yards on three targets but none of his catches came when it mattered. Thielen, meanwhile, has been targeted 16 times in two games.
Is it possible the Vikings really miss Kevin Stefanski’s play calling this much, when it was Kubiak’s offense that the Vikings ran last season? A year ago, the Vikings were trailing Denver 20-0 at halftime of a home game and got booed off the field. Diggs saw what was happening and basically brought an end to it. He showed passion on the sideline and caught a 54-yard touchown pass from Cousins in the fourth quarter to give the Vikings the lead in what became a 27-23 victory.
On Sunday, the Vikings could have used some of Diggs’ passion, not to mention talent, but it was nowhere to be found. The Vikings scored a meaningless late touchdown to make the score closer than it should have been but it meant nothing. It was an embarrassing day for the Vikings in what has been an embarrassing opening two weeks. It was exactly the type of performance Diggs didn’t want to be part of and saw coming.
Maybe the Vikings should have listened to his concerns.