As of Sunday morning, the Vikings’ playoff chances seemed to be improving.
They were hosting a disappointing 2-7 Cowboys team lacking star quarterback Dak Prescott, and the New Orleans Saints - one of the teams the Vikings are chasing for a playoff spot - was starting backup quarterback Taysom Hill against the Falcons.
Then Hill lit up the Falcons, the Saints won, and the Vikings blew a four-point lead to the Cowboys to lose, 31-28, in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings are 4-6. They have road games remaining at Tampa Bay and New Orleans. They may need to win out to have a shot at the playoffs.
Their position players were spectacular. Kirk Cousins was nearly perfect. Adam Thielen caught two touchdown passes, one with just one hand. Justin Jefferson continued to impress. Dalvin Cook was productive in the run and passing games despite taking a devastating hit in the second quarter.
But reserve cornerback Chris Jones seemingly decided not to tackle Cowboys running back Tony Pollard on a long touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, and that play might be emblematic of the Vikings’ season - too injured, too shallow, too far in the hole to be able to afford any mistakes.
Next week, the Vikings play Carolina in what is now a must-win game. Their skill position players can’t perform any better. They’re going to need a better performance from their defense to stay alive.