The Vikings were blown out 41-17 in their Week 17 game in Green Bay. A win would’ve eliminated the Packers from playoff contention, the Vikings would still be the second seed in the NFC, and even the top spot would be possible. However, the loss destroyed those thoughts, and the purple team is the third seed unless the 49ers lose to the Cardinals in Week 18, which is unlikely. On Sunday, we learned some things about the 2022 Vikings.
The offense couldn’t move the ball or punch it in from just one yard out, the defense couldn’t stop anything, and the special teams allowed a return touchdown and missed two kicks. Kevin O’Connell’s Vikings normally don’t look this bad, and the head coach deserves his share of the blame. The team looked unprepared and lacked effort.
Having only ten players on the field on defense for more than ten seconds without calling a timeout is a huge head-scratcher. Penalties were a big problem, too. At the end of the game, the stats show only six penalties for 35 yards, but the penalties killed multiple drives.
The turnovers are even more proof of the sloppy play. Three interceptions, one after a T.J. Hockenson drop, and a fumble were worrisome events, even in a bad game like that. The players also struggled with their footing. Lambeau’s grass was in bad shape, but the Vikings players have to blame themselves for not putting on the right cleats.
Coaching Struggles and Takeaways from Loss at GB
The Vikings’ offense was unable to string drives together. On six consecutive drives, the Vikings gave the ball away without even having to punt. That stretch started in the first quarter and ended in the fourth. Having three interceptions, a fumble, and two field goal misses on consecutive drives is unacceptable and the head coach, an offensive guy with play-calling duties, has to find ways to have an effective offense.
He deserves some criticism, but it should not be forgotten that O’Connell is a first-year head coach and the skipper of one of the most successful seasons in recent Vikings history.
Offensive Line Falling Apart
The Vikings’ offensive line is, like always, a huge problem for the purple team. Garrett Bradbury was already hurt and is dealing with a back injury. His backup, Austin Schlottmann, did a solid job for a backup, but he fractured his fibula early in the game against the Packers. The third center is veteran guard Chris Reed who struggled at his new spot. Knowing the right snap counts and snapping the ball were two of the biggest issues of the offense.
Right tackle Brian O’Neill was the second offensive lineman that left the game with an injury. He suffered a calf injury in the pursuit of Darnell Savage, who picked off Kirk Cousins. His replacement was Oli Udoh, who is a better tackle than guard, but he is not a comparable replacement for O’Neill.
The two injured players are likely out for the season, and the Vikings desperately need Bradbury back to have a chance in the postseason.
No Second Fiddle
Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander was in coverage of Justin Jefferson. He, and some safety help, did an incredible job at shutting down the best wideout in the league. Jefferson finished the game with just one catch for 15 yards.
The big problem was that no other receiver emerged as a reliable option in the passing game before the game was virtually over. Tight end T.J. Hockenson had multiple drops, and receiver Adam Thielen couldn’t get open. K.J. Osborn had some nice plays and finished the game with 59 yards.
The Vikings have to acquire a second wide receiver that can take some attention off of Jefferson. It’s unacceptable that the full defensive focus is on Jefferson, and no other player can get open in single coverage.
Another problem was the struggling running game. Kirk Cousins led the team in rushing yards until late in the fourth quarter. Dalvin Cook had 27 rushing yards on nine carries. A running attack can also take pressure off the passing game, but the Vikings didn’t do that.
Packers May Be Scary
The Packers started into the season with a 4-8 record and now pulled off four straight wins. Most people counted them out after their horrendous start. Green Bay’s defense is coming together, a unit many expected to play at an elite level this season. They have excellent cornerbacks, rookie linebacker Quay Walker is improving fast, and Kenny Clark is a menace.
In addition to having strong individual players, the scheme works better and better, and the team plays with outstanding energy. On offense, the offensive line is, like usual, extremely good and helps the dominant running game of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t look like his prime self, but he can get hot in any given game. What sounded impossible just a month ago is now confirmed. The Packers are a scary team in the NFC and could pull off an upset. Their round-one opponents are most likely the 49ers, their old nemesis.
A Rookie Emerges
Rookie Jalen Nailor didn’t see a lot of work in his rookie season. After the game was basically over, the Vikings inserted Nailor into the lineup, and he made the best out of his opportunity. Nailor finished the game with three catches for 89 yards and a 47-yard touchdown.
The rookie may be in a position to receive some playing time in the postseason, as he’s clearly the best deep threat other than Justin Jefferson.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt