1. Fast starts fizzle quickly
Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak is 2-for-2 in scoring drives to open games this season. After that, well … let’s just say things haven’t looked so good. The other nine first-half possessions this year: three three-and-outs, three interceptions, two safeties and a field goal. The Vikings started Sunday’s 28-11 loss at Indianapolis by going 13 plays and 75 yards en route to a 21-yard Dan Bailey field goal. Granted, the drive likely would have ended with Kirk Cousins’ incompletion to Irv Smith Jr. on third-and-10 from the Colts 42. But a roughing penalty by Denico Autry helped them. It still was the Vikings’ best drive that wasn’t in garbage time. Adam Thielen had an 18-yard reception and Dalvin Cook had a 16-yard carry — his longest of the day.
2. Rough day for Irv Smith Jr.
The anticipated breakout season for second-year tight end Irv Smith Jr. has broken down. A week after catching one ball for 11 yards, Smith caught one of four balls thrown to him, for just 3 yards. He also was called for two drive-killing penalties, one in each half. He caught a 19-yard pass on third-and-9 from the Vikings 21 but was called for offensive pass interference. The Vikings couldn’t recover from third-and-19 and punted. In the second half, he killed any momentum the Vikings were mustering on first down from the Indy 40. A 15-yard penalty for an illegal crackback pushed the Vikings back into their territory. They kept going backward until failing to convert on third-and-27. The Colts took the ball and scored for a 25-3 lead. The Vikings had six penalties for 45 yards.
3. Xavier Rhodes shows flashes of old
Yes, Rhodes had a terrible 2019 season for the Vikings. But it wasn’t as bad as what we’ve seen from the Vikings’ young corners through two games. Sunday, Rhodes faced his old team for the first time. He was targeted only once in two-plus quarters before leaving the game because of cramps. What happened on that target? Rhodes read Cousins’ eyes as Thielen crossed the field on a deep route near the right sideline on second-and-7 from the Vikings 5. When Cousins launched, Rhodes undercut the route and swatted the ball away. One play later, the Vikings became just the fourth team since 1940 to give up safeties in three consecutive regular-season games. They’re also the fifth team since 2010 to give up safeties in back-to-back games in one season.
4. Defense barely touches Rivers
It took 32½ minutes of clock time for a player in purple to lay a finger on Colts quarterback Philip Rivers. The Vikings were trailing 15-3 when Yannick Ngakoue got his first sack as a Viking early in the third quarter. That was only the second time Rivers had been pressured up to that point. Rivers had thrown a red-zone interception from a clean pocket in the second quarter. He probably forced the throw too much considering how well the Colts were running the ball. But Harrison Smith did make a great play on the ball, punching it ball away from tight end Mo Alie-Cox and into the hands of Eric Wilson. Holton Hill also was credited with a sack. Rivers has been sacked only two times this year. He was sacked 34 times last year with the Chargers.
5. Bad time for a really bad punt
The Vikings offense and defense are a mess. But let’s not overlook a couple of punting blunders. The Vikings were ahead 3-0 when the defense ended a 16-play drive with Wilson’s red-zone interception. But Indy got the ball back at its 35 because of Britton Colquitt’s 36-yard shank and an 11-yard return. This team can’t afford 25-yard net punts from its own 10. Also, in the fourth quarter, rookie special teamer Dan Chisena made two mistakes covering a punt. He drew an illegal-touching penalty by going out of bounds and returning. He also stopped the 50-yard punt at the 7 when he could have let the ball go inside the 5. Colquitt had to re-punt. His 43-yarder was returned 16 yards to the 35. The 28-yard difference in field position let to a TD and a 25-3 lead.