The Vikings scored 27 points Sunday and gained more than 400 yards on an average of 6.2 yards per play. That they still lost 33-27 to the Bears should feel far more like a function of a leaky, injury-ravaged defense than anything the offense did or didn't do.
And yet the story of the game — and really, the story of the season — was told in a small sample size on offense, not defense. Defense and special teams sabotaged plenty of plans this year on the way to a 6-8 record and all but mathematical playoff elimination. But the offense, with relatively good health, abundant star power and even more resources poured into it than the defense, undercut the Vikings when it mattered most.
Time after time.
The Vikings are fifth in the NFL in yards per game (387.1), yet they can't get one when it matters most.
They couldn't do it on an Alexander Mattison 4th-and-1 run that would have sealed a win in Seattle earlier this season in a game that instead pivoted to an excruciating loss.
They couldn't get one Sunday against the Bears — neither on a momentum-turning second-quarter run by Dalvin Cook that gave the Bears free points the Vikings chased all day, nor on their last realistic chance to change the outcome while trailing by 3 and facing a 4th-and-1 at the outset of their late drive.
The first 4th-and-1 whiff was defined by stubborn predictability: running Dalvin Cook into the teeth of the Bears' defense, where he found no cutback lanes and was stuffed. The second was likely informed by the first: The Bears were all over a 4th-and-1 pass, forcing Kirk Cousins to scramble backwards before lofting a desperation floater that fell harmlessly to the ground.
The failed two-minute drill called to mind similar misses in close losses to Tennessee and Dallas. There were successes, too, but like the rest of the 2020 Vikings they were overshadowed by the failures.
When you have a quarterback who holds the ball too long and an offensive line that can still be overpowered, it makes you vulnerable when the game matters most.
The Vikings learned that the hard way over and over again, and now they won't have the chance to learn it again in a meaningful way until 2021.
Here are four other things I'm thinking about this morning:
*The nicest thing I can say about the Gophers football season is that it's over. College football in a pandemic — the free labor taking on a lot of the risk so a school and athletic program can salvage some of the money — feels particularly distasteful.
Because of the strangeness of it all, I'm inclined to give the 3-4 Gophers somewhat of a free pass to 2021 — which head coach P.J. Fleck should gladly accept since if we are judging the season solely on the merits of what we saw on the field, it was a considerable regression and disappointment.
At least they had the good sense to decline any bowl invitation. Players don't need to spend Christmas eating alone in a hotel. And nobody needs to see another Gophers game this year.
*Unless there is some three-dimensional chess move coming — the Wolves' gambit, as it were — I don't understand why a team that needs defensive-minded players would cut Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a training camp signee who looked to be a solid rotation player as a combo forward throughout much of the preseason.
There have been hints that it has to do with roster flexibility and whispers that the spot might be kept warm for P.J. Tucker in the fallout from a potential James Harden for Ben Simmons trade between Philadelphia and Houston.
If that's the case, I get it. Tucker provides defense AND shooting. Hollis-Jefferson's offensive game, at least from deep, is lacking. Until — if — that happens, the Wolves will be a lesser team in Hollis-Jefferson's absence.
*Are you ready to stay up late to watch the Wild? The NHL finally announced its start plan and divisions. The Wild is lumped with a bunch of teams out West, meaning the vast majority of the 28 road games in their 56-game division-only schedule will be late night affairs. I count 16 against teams in the Pacific time zone, four in the Mountain (Colorado) and four in either the Mountain or Pacific (Arizona switches in March).
*I watched "Elf" for the first time ever this weekend. Yes, spare me the chiding for making it this deep into my life without seeing what many consider a Top 5 Christmas movie. There were plenty of laughs, but the thing I really can't stop thinking about is how the little brother of Buddy (Will Ferrell) wears a Wayne Chrebet Jets jersey for an extended scene.
If you are so inclined, please turn the comments into a discussion of other random/obscure sports jerseys spotted in movies. That would be a lot more fun than a dissection of the Vikings' fourth down offense.