January 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, United States; Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones (11) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings free safety Anthony Harris (41) and cornerback Dylan Mabin (39) during the fourth quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Week 4 is consigned to the history books, amid more frustration and disappointment for the Minnesota Vikings. A team whose ability to look really good and then really bad in the same game is downright amazing. Despite being the only team in the NFC North with positive points difference, they sit with a 1-3 record. Only Lions 0-4 sit below them. It’s the Detroit team coming to Minneapolis to complete this three-game home stretch. With the Vikings in essential territory.
It was a narrow 14-7 loss for the Browns, but in truth, after the first drive that resulted in a Justin Jefferson touchdown, the Vikings never looked like a team that was going to win. The key to the game was slowing down the Browns’ running game, something the Vikings couldn’t do. The Browns rushed for 184 yards. Some good defensive stands and a horrible game from Baker Mayfield kept the game close. While the defense failed to generate a turnover, something a struggling offense desperately needed.
It started out so well. Kirk Cousins drove his team 75 yards down the field on the opening drive in 7 minutes and 34 seconds, landing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson to get the ball rolling. From that moment on, everything was a fight on the offensive.
The offense failed to establish the run, racking up a measly 65 yards of total rushing yards. Ten of them came on a play from wide receiver KJ Osborn. Another 17 occurred on the penultimate round, when the Vikings turned to their star running back to save the day even though he was clearly struggling with his injured ankle. Unlike last week, Alexander Mattison, who charged the ball ten times, compared to Dalvin Cook’s nine, was unable to continue, averaging just two yards per carry.
Browns put constant pressure on cousins
With this kit, it is a simple formula. If the running game doesn’t work, the offense doesn’t work. With the Vikings fast attack dead in its path, the Browns sent one of the best passing attack units in the league to hit Kirk Cousins. The offensive line could not cope. Cousins had little time to do anything and got nervous. We all know how that story ends. We have seen it too many times.
Even the double team plus CJ Ham’s help didn’t stop Myles Garrett yesterday. Where can you go from there? The offensive line that had shown signs of improvement fell very short in this test against an outstanding defense.
Christian Darrisaw saw the field for the first time playing some special teams. The Vikings need their first-round pick to be ready to go as soon as possible.
The end of the melting half
When something happens once, you can attribute it to bad luck. A second time and you have to ask questions. The repeated collapses at the end of the middle of this team should sound the alarm bells. Week after week, this team seems to fall apart at the end of the half. This week was very expensive. For everything else that happened, the final minutes of the first half decided this match.
At worst, we should have been squaring seven each at half. It could have been better. A stern-looking waiting call about Eric Kendricks canceled what would have been a momentous fourth stop. Still, once the Browns had their touchdown, chaos ensued. Starting with former Brown Sheldon Richardson calling for a timeout on the field when the Vikings had no timeouts left to use. Instead of kicking the extra point to level the game, the penalty put the ball on the one-yard line. Where the Browns successfully attempted a 2-point conversion to take the lead.
In an attempt to take the lead before halftime, the Vikings did not run the clock while in possession, including Ameer Abdullah who chose to run out of bounds for two yards at 2nd and 10. A five-yard penalty for an outing at false meant 3rd and 13th and time on the clock for Cleveland. A failed pass attempt to KJ Osborn gave the Browns their chance. Still, the Browns faced third and 20, at which point Kareem Hunt staggered on a 33-yard dash and went out of bounds. What should have been 7-7 became 11-7.
Justin Jefferson put it best in his post-game interview.
Justin Jefferson: “Every loss we’ve had so far has been to ourselves. We’ve been killing ourselves, shooting ourselves in the foot. This team is really good, but we have to play all four quarters.”
– Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) October 3, 2021
To the lions
The loss to Detroit is unfathomable. It just can’t happen. That’s the hole this equipment has been dug into. There aren’t many better teams to fight than the Lions, but don’t expect this to be a step backwards. Detroit should have beaten Baltimore, but by a very Viking finish to the game. They played tough against the 49ers and the Ravens, but we are comfortably beaten by their other divisional foes.
This is a game Minnesota is expected to win and win handsomely. That’s what it takes: a completely error-free performance to inspire some confidence. Do you remember how optimistic everything was after the Seattle win?
If they do, we may feel a little better, but it won’t solve all the problems this team has as we move towards the much tougher opposition ahead. This team needs to show that it can come out on the right side of close matches with good opposition. Time is running out fast.