On Sunday, the Vikings validated most of the concerns NFL analysts have debated about the team over the past two weeks.
The Vikings squandered a three-point lead with 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the usually strong defense gave up a touchdown to Detroit in the opening drive of overtime complete the 22-16 comeback victory.
The Vikings offense was held below 20 points for the third straight week and kicker Blair Walsh continues to be inconsistent. The offensive line allowed two more sacks and penalties ruined scoring opportunities.
"A three-game losing streak in baseball is a bad weekend and a shrug. In the NFL it can ruin a season,” Yahoo sports national writer Frank Schwab wrote.
"In the Minnesota Vikings’ case, a surprising three-game stretch has exposed a lot of issues. At 5-0 the Vikings were considered among the NFL’s best. Some considered them the No. 1 team in the NFL. In a 15-day stretch, the Vikings went from looking like Super Bowl contenders to a free fall."
Schwab noted the obvious: offense and special teams need work, but added to the growing list of concerns by critiquing the defense.
"No matter what else was going on, the Vikings could count on their defense. It covered up a lot of other flaws. It doesn’t seem like that’s the case anymore,” he wrote.
"On Sunday the Vikings didn’t give up a ton of yards but they were far from dominant. … Minnesota’s defense also couldn’t get a stop at the end of regulation after the offense took a lead. … The Vikings’ defense wasn’t the reason they lost on Sunday. But the defense needs to be the main reason Minnesota wins. The rest doesn’t look good enough to carry the team to too many victories."
The problem of starting with a 5-0 record, USA Today national football writer Tom Pelissero wrote, is that the rest of your games will be viewed through the lens of initial success.
"It happened to the Atlanta Falcons last season and it’s happening now to the Minnesota Vikings, whose 22-16 overtime loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday extended their skid to three, further tightening an NFC North race that was never going to turn into a rout,” Pelissero explained.
"The difference is those Falcons were an 8-8 team, which is exactly where they ended up. The Vikings are better than that, even if they made the sort of mistakes Sunday that can leave a team scraping to play .500 football."
NFL experts have praised Zimmer's squad for battling through adversity all season, but there are no consolation prizes in the NFL, Kevin Patra of NFL.com reminded football fans.
"A three-game losing streak is a three-game losing streak,” he wrote. "The Vikings had a win in their grasp that would have given them a cushion in the NFC North. Instead, they let it slip, sliding the division into chaos. With a trip to Washington on deck, Zimmer's squad needs to do more than battle, they need to win."
The losing streak has hit three games "only because the Vikings couldn't stop making critical mistakes,” CBS Sports writer Sean Wagner-McGough wrote mostly referencing the poor clock management.
Peter King on Monday Morning Quarterback took a much deeper dive into the clock management in the final minutes of the game. He wrote that his favorite scene of the weekend was in Minneapolis because Detroit coach Jim Caldwell’s mostly unnoticed victory to get two seconds added to the clock late in the fourth quarter, which made all the difference when the Lions kicked the game-tying field goal with two seconds left regulation.
He also questioned the Vikings’ clock management.
"It took the Vikings three plays to get in for the go-ahead touchdown, and the drive included a dubiously called Minnesota timeout with 27 seconds left,” King wrote, "which ended up aiding Detroit tremendously."
Walsh also got a shout-out as being “all kind of messed up right now.”
Another bad week for the Vikings and Green Bay suddenly leaves the NFC North looking not so good and the division title now up for grabs.
Will Brinson of CBS Sports wrote "Even when the Packers offense was struggling, they were 4-2 and in a position where Aaron Rodgers, the best quarterback in football, just needed to get better and they could make a run. A wild card looked like the worst-case scenario. The Vikings were the last undefeated team in football and a runaway favorite for the NFC North heading into their Week 6 bye. … Everything's flipped now.
"There's no sugar-coating it -- the Vikings are anemic on offense. When they don't play well defensively, they're not going to win games. The Redskins, Cardinals, Lions and Cowboys are on the docket next, so things aren't getting easier on either front.”
Thanks to the win over the Vikings, Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated agrees, the NFC North is in complete chaos. Minnesota has lost three straight to fall to 5–3, the Lions are now 5–4 and the Packers are 4–4 after a loss to the Colts.
"The division’s sudden competitiveness continues to signal a drastic, unwelcome reversal of course for the Vikings,” Burke added.
"The same problems materialized again [for the Vikings]" a non-existent run game and troublesome blocking. Worse yet, the Vikings’ defense could not come through when the offense did answer the bell. It surrendered a nearly 10-minute touchdown drive to end the first half, the game-tying field goal late and an 87-yard TD march in overtime.
"As a result, the Lions landed a roundhouse kick in the NFC North race.”