1. Long drives are nice, but they need to end with touchdowns, not field goals
After running a whopping 85 plays Sunday, the Vikings’ offense held the ball for more than 37 minutes. Give them credit for being able to sustain drives — especially after facing seven third downs in the first quarter — but know they’re likely kicking themselves for not turning more long drives into touchdowns. Kai Forbath had kicked three field goals by the second minute of the third quarter, when the Vikings still trailed 15-13. If a couple of those drives had turned into seven points, the Vikings could have pulled away even earlier.
2. Run defense has a hiccup
The Vikings’ run defense came into the game ranked third in the league, showing a marked improvement from Mike Zimmer’s first three seasons. On Sunday, the Vikings showed some cracks. Former Vikings running backs coach Kirby Wilson, now the running game coordinator in Cleveland, dialed up a scheme that accounted for 115 yards on 22 attempts, including Isaiah Crowell’s early 26-yard touchdown run where the Browns put combo blocks on Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson. It was a one-game lapse, but the Vikings will need to make sure it’s only a one-game lapse.
3. Shurmur mixes personnel to great effect
The Vikings came out with a heavy dose of two tight-end sets early. David Morgan or Blake Bell joined Kyle Rudolph on the field for five of the team’s first eight offensive plays. Morgan got 36 snaps, Bell got 12 and fullback C.J. Ham got 17, as the Vikings used power run sets against the Browns’ stout defensive front. But three receivers played at least 31 snaps, as offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur found moments to spread out his former team. Diversity has been one of Shurmur’s strengths, and he used it well Sunday.