BALTIMORE — On Sunday the Vikings produced a 50-yard touchdown pass, a 66-yard run, a successful fake punt, a kickoff return for a touchdown, 6.1 yards per offensive play, two interceptions of a former NFL MVP, two fourth-down conversions, and zero turnovers or missed kicks.

That's an ideal formula for victory.

If everyone shows up.

Harrison Smith didn't show up.

Neither did the Vikings' midgame offense.

Smith's unwillingness to get vaccinated and the offense's inability to function without a script or a sense of panic led to the Vikings losing 34-31 in overtime to the Baltimore Ravens.

The game would have been wildly entertaining if you weren't a Vikings fan experiencing a familiar sense of dread as another game slipped away.

The Vikings are 3-5. They are 10-15 since they won a playoff game in New Orleans. They are in danger of falling out of contention in what has always felt like a make-or-break season for coach Mike Zimmer, General Manager Rick Spielman and quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Those three should be sticking pins in a Smith-shaped Voodoo doll today. He was as responsible for this loss as any of the players on the field.

The star safety tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday morning, making him ineligible to play. He became the fourth starter missing from a Vikings defense that played well early and with impressive effort throughout but eventually was worn down by Lamar Jackson's legs, and the Vikings offense's inability to control the ball.

Smith will not be eligible to return in time for the Vikings' game next Sunday against the Chargers in Los Angeles. Smith wasn't even allowed to travel home with the team from Baltimore on Sunday night.

The Vikings should have made him walk.

In a just world, they should be allowed to cut him and save his salary.

"Harry's a big part of our D," linebacker Eric Kendricks said. "A leader."

That's half right.

Another famous Vikings anti-vaxxer, Cousins, took his tendencies for the 2021 season and expanded upon them, like a comedian executing over-the-top satire.

The Vikings offense has been good on scripted first drives and on desperate, late-game drives, and rarely in between. Sunday, they scored touchdowns on their first two drives, then did not score another offensive touchdown until 1:03 remained in the fourth quarter.

The Vikings' only touchdown in the ensuing 42 minutes came on Kene Nwangwu's kickoff return for a touchdown. The Vikings proved they could shred a Ravens defense that gave up 41 points to Cincinnati in its last game, then took most of the game off.

"We find ourselves where we are," Cousins said.

That sounds as deep as the hole the Vikings have dug.

Emblematic moments to remember:

  • Rookie safety Camryn Bynum intercepted Jackson late in the first half, giving the Vikings the ball at the Ravens 16. Cousins threw two incompletions he later said he regretted. The Vikings settled for a field goal and left 1:25 on the clock. The Ravens drove for a touchdown. Cousins called it "an 11-point swing."
  • The Ravens tied it at 24-24 early in the fourth quarter. Three plays later, the Vikings faced third-and-18. Cousins threw a pass to tight end Tyler Conklin for 5 yards.
  • Cousins hit Thielen for a touchdown with 1:03 remaining. Kicking the extra point was the obvious, safe move, but the Vikings defense was exhausted and the offense had just driven 75 yards in 10 plays. With Smith, Danielle Hunter, Patrick Peterson and Michael Pierce out and the Ravens offense rolling, going for two might have meant a decisive victory instead of a predictable slog toward defeat.

Despite the result, the Vikings' eligible players competed with remarkable intensity, as if their season and jobs were on the line.

Had Smith played, he might have made that one interception or tackle that turns a game, that wins a game, that might have proved the difference between making the playoffs and not.

Betraying the team that's paying you millions: It's a "personal choice."