Kirk Cousins loses the ball against the Bears

How the Minnesota Vikings Went from a Super Bowl Team to Elimination

  • Chicago Bears
  • Dalvin Cook
  • Danielle Hunter
  • Elimination
  • Justin Jefferson
  • Kirk Cousins
  • Mike Zimmer
  • minnesota
  • Minnesota Vikings
  • playoffs
  • Rick Spielman
  • Super Bowl
  • Vikings
By James Larsen December 22, 2020 1 Comment
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The Minnesota Vikings haven’t officially been eliminated from the playoffs, but the writing is on the wall. What went wrong?

Picture this: It’s March 15th, 2018, and the Minnesota Vikings just signed Kirk Cousins to a massive $84 million, fully guaranteed, three-year contract. This confirmed everyone’s suspicions: the Vikings were making a move to hopefully secure a Super Bowl run soon.

Fast forward three years, and Minnesota has only seen one postseason birth. Worse, they are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons. Massive moves made by the front office failed to pay off. Not only that, but those same moves have now put the Vikings in a sticky financial situation.

Considering the sheer amount of talented players Minnesota has seen over the last few years, it just doesn’t make sense. Let’s take a look at some of the issues the organization failed to correct, and why they have ultimately held them back.

The Offensive Line Has Been Consistently Poor

The offensive line has been one of Minnesota’s biggest struggles throughout the last few years. Going back to the days of Sam Bradford, the O-line has consistently been underwhelming. While Kirk Cousins has proven to be more mobile than Bradford was, he simply cannot escape the troubles a bad offensive line presents.

On Sunday, the Vikings lost to the Bears 33-27, dropping to 6-8 on the season. Cousins was harassed all day long, as Chicago continued to produce pressure and create havoc in the backfield. Just take a look at this stat line:

On almost half of Cousins dropbacks, he had pressure immediately in his face. For obvious reasons, teams cannot expect to win if they deal with issues like these. It’s amazing that Minnesota even put up 27 points, considering how disheveled the offense looked at times. Chicago sacked Cousins three times, and racked up 12 quarterback hits in a dominant defensive performance.

One of the most disappointing aspects is that the offensive line experienced next to no improvement over several years. The line continues to struggle despite numerous investments, through free agency and the draft. It’s an issue that continues to plague the Vikings year after year, and 2020 was no exception.

The Defense Simply Could Not Recover

The Minnesota Vikings’ defense took an enormous hit this season. They lost Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Trae Waynes, Anthony Barr, and other defensive standouts. This completely shook things up for Mike Zimmer, and it showed throughout the year.

Some of the young players did make an impact. Rookies Cameron Dantzler and DJ Wonnum made their presence known, and fit well alongside veterans such as Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith. However, the missing pieces from last season proved to be too much for this young defense to overcome.

On Sunday, the Bears’ offense had a field day. David Montgomery ran for 146 yards and two scores, as the run defense was nonexistent.

Mitchell Tribusky, whom Chicago benched earlier in the season, looked like Aaron Rodgers, and sometimes even Patrick Mahomes. He was 11/14 with 144 yards and a TD off of play action, as Minnesota couldn’t come up with any answers defensively.

The golden days of the Vikings defense are over, at least for now. They were a top five defense for a few years, but now aren’t in the top five in one single category. Moving forward, this has to be addressed by Mike Zimmer, Rick Spielman, and everyone else in the front office.

Coaching/Play Calling Has Lost Games

Another area of concern for the Minnesota Vikings is coaching. This season has not gone well for Mike Zimmer, or any of the Vikings’ coaches for that matter. Throughout the year, questionable play calling has come back to haunt them. The decision to go for it on 4th down against Seattle ended up losing them that game. The decisions last week against Tampa Bay to continue to kick field goals cost them multiple scoring opportunities, as Dan Bailey was 0/4 on the day.

This week, Zimmer stuck to his guns running the football. While it worked to some extent (Cook gained 159 yards on the ground), the Vikings simply ran the ball too much. The Bears have the best front seven in the league, while their secondary was suffering. Minnesota should have utilized Adam Thielen and Irv Smith more, but they did not.

Defensively, Zimmer hasn’t been able to get his squad together. While there have been some bright spots, it’s been relatively disastrous. Granted, he lost a lot of defensive pieces, but there are no excuses for giving up 27.7 points a game. There is a lot of potential talent, but it’s going to waste as the defense is not on the same page.

Is There A Solution?

There are multiple ways the Minnesota Vikings could approach this problem Firstly, Minnesota could keep doing what they’re doing, and try to improve their offensive line. With this strategy, there could be potential for success.

However, Minnesota may just be better off if they clean house. Mike Zimmer has proven his ability to coach. But, if he left, it might allow for a younger and possibly brighter mind to take over the entire team.

The frustrating thing for Minnesota is that the pieces are there. They have two phenomenal receivers, a fantastic running back, and a quarterback who can be efficient with the right weapons and a solid offensive line. Considering that the Vikings will most likely miss the playoffs again this season, it may be best to bring in some new coaches and players who can right the ship.

The return of Michael Pierce, Anthony Barr, and Danielle Hunter should benefit the defense next year. The recipe for success is available for the Minnesota Vikings, but only time will tell if it will utilized in the correct way. This year, it certainly wasn’t.

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December 22, 2020

A solid offensive line? As George Costanza would say, "Really?' You could also question the coaching concerning Xavier Rhodes, who went from terrible to terrific once he left the 'Queens, or why you insult Mackensie Alexander, who went to Cincinnati for minimal money? Or how Anthony Barr is worth even close to $15M, when his play has been less than overwhelming....This is a team with significant holes.

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