Except for a burst late in the second quarter and early in the third quarter, the Vikings were overmatched Sunday in New England — with all of their predictable old faults on display.
The offensive line didn’t give Kirk Cousins enough time on several critical plays, and even when he did have enough time to throw he often had happy feet because he was used to being under siege. The result was a ton of check-down throws and a passing game that looked too much like it did in 2016. The underneath throw on fourth-and-11 in the fourth quarter was just the worst of the bunch.
The defense couldn’t compensate for the offensive woes and had problems of its own with receivers running wide open too often.
And Dan Bailey missed yet another field goal, part of an ongoing kicking problem that has spanned too many kickers to mention.
Their flaws are visible to the average fan, so they were certainly available for Bill Belichick to pick apart.
• By the way: Daniel Carlson, the rookie kicker the Vikings got rid of after he missed three field goals in Green Bay, is now 9-for-10 on field goal attempts since joining the Raiders after making a 50-yarder in Sunday’s loss to Kansas City.
• By the way, Part II: The only correct name for the game Adam Thielen played after his first-half touchdown celebration is “hot box” — just as the Vikings played “Duck, duck gray duck” last year in Chicago.
• The Vikings entered their game, of course, playing with some unexpected house money after all three other NFC North teams lost their noon games.
The Lions falling to the Rams was expected. The Bears losing at the Giants — even with their backup quarterback — was a surprise. And the Packers, even with how badly they’ve struggled, losing at home to the Cardinals was a shock.
Green Bay’s record is now 4-7-1, and its playoff hopes are pretty much extinguished. Fans didn’t even seem all that mad. Maybe they’re just used to it? “Great loss by the Packers! I love that we’re moving up in the only thing that counts — next year’s draft!!” one comment on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website read.
That was a couple of hours before the Packers announced they had fired longtime head coach Mike McCarthy. Maybe that will be a spark for the rest of the season?
Vikings fans might actually be rooting for a Packers win in a couple of weeks when the Bears and Packers meet in Chicago. For the Vikings to have any shot at winning the division, they need to be within a half-game (remember, the Vikings have a pesky tie, too) of the Bears leading up to the Week 17 rematch between the teams at U.S. Bank Stadium.
• In terms of general excellence among the higher-profile teams in town, the Lynx is at the top of the list. But the Gophers volleyball program is not far behind and has the same uncanny ability as the Lynx to instill the utmost confidence even in pressure situations.
That is an unfamiliar feeling with many of the local teams. But you expect the Lynx to win. They don’t always do it, but they deliver enough that you expect it. Same goes for the Gophers volleyball team.
• I won’t profess to have studied this as much as others, but it seems clear that the committee in charge of picking the four semifinalists in college football got it right.
Alabama and Clemson were obvious. Notre Dame is undefeated, making the Irish’s lack of a conference title game less important. The choice for a fourth was between Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma. Georgia lost twice. Ohio State only lost once but stumbled in wins. Oklahoma had the best résumé of the three. And so that was the pick.
• The day after Christmas in Detroit might not be the most desirable spot for Gophers fans to show their appreciation for the bowl eligibility gained by beating Wisconsin, but that’s the reality of the Quick Lane Bowl.
It should be a fascinating game, at least, against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets run the triple option and get almost all of their offense on the ground.