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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Boatload of errors cost Vikings against Saints

By Matthew Coller

Minneapolis, MN. – If you were putting together a “keys to the game” graphic for Minnesota Vikings against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football, it would have advised that they take advantage of a bad Saints secondary, get some key stops and turnovers against Drew Brees and run the ball effectively. They did all those things, but the Vikings made so many game-changing blunders that they had no chance to come away with a prove-it type of win at US Bank Stadium.

The Vikings opened the game by allowing an impressive drive to the Saints, which saw the New Orleans offense travel 81 yards for a touchdown. But Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota offense responded quickly with a magical 91-yard response. Adam Thielen Moss’d star corner Marshon Lattimore and Stefon Diggs made two terrific grabs, one of which was a touchdown on fourth-and-goal.

Both teams exchanged punches again in short order with a Vikings touchdown (and missed extra point) and Saints field goal. At 13-10, with the Vikings in front, the much-anticipated contest appeared to be shaping up as expected. A Sunday Night Shootout in front of a crowd that was ready to drive Brees crazy all night.

Then the Vikings caught a break. An overthrown ball by Brees right into the hands of Harrison Smith set Minnesota up to take a double-digit lead into the half.

Instead the Vikings committed back-to-back mistakes that would turn out to not only shape the game but become the trend in the second half.

With 3:03 left in the second quarter, Cousins began dicing up the Saints’ defense again, hitting on two third-and-long conversions, one to Kyle Rudolph and the other to Aldrick Robinson. On first-and-10 from the New Orleans 18, the flung a quick pass to Thielen on a play the Vikings have used with great success throughout this season.

After four yards, the Vikings’ star receiver was drilled by a Saints linebacker, sending the ball tumbling into Lattimore’s hands. He returned it to the Minnesota 33, which might have made it possible for the Vikings to hold the Saints to a field goal, but Laquon Treadwell inexplicably took a 15-yard penalty, setting up an easy touchdown for New Orleans.

With 0:30 in the half and two timeouts, the Vikings could have taken a stab at getting some of those points back. Mike Zimmer elected to run the clock out, which drew boos from the home crowd.

Still the Vikings were very much in the game, down just four with the ball coming back to them in the second half. After moving the ball to midfield, Zimmer elected to be aggressive on fourth down again, but Cousins stunningly targeted Treadwell, who had the ball knocked loose by Lattimore.

Yale Sports Analytics chimed in about the decision to throw Treadwell’s way rather than using a QB sneak.

— Yale Sports Analytics (@YaleSportsGroup) October 29, 2018

Still the Vikings’ defense held strong and allowed only a field goal to Brees and Co., putting the Saints up by a touchdown.

At that point, as bad as the fumble and failed fourth down were, the Vikings sat only down a touchdown. Until an apparent miscommunication between Cousins and Diggs put an end to any chance the Vikings had to put themselves in the conversation for the NFC’s best team.

Cousins flipped the ball underneath in Diggs’ direction, but the receiver appeared to sit down in the zone rather than continuing his route and PJ Williams walked it into the end zone.

The Vikings couldn’t respond quickly, allowing a sack on third-and-four. New Orleans took advantage, running the clock down and setting up a field goal to go ahead by 17 points.

Under the too-little-too-late category, Cousins led a touchdown drive, capped by a wide-open toss to Thielen.

The stat line for the Vikings doesn’t tell the story of the entire game, but what it does tell us is that they should have been right there. It should have been the shootout fans dreamed about all week. It should have been a game in which the Vikings proved they could handle the prize fighters of the NFC.

Instead it wasn’t even a particularly close game.

The frustrating thing about Sunday night’s matchup for Vikings fans isn’t so much that they were robbed of a classic, but that it’s getting harder to believe this version can play a clean game and beat a top team when it matters. Teams like Arizona and New York didn’t take advantages of plays like a strip-sack touchdown or backward-pass fumble. The Saints did.

And the Vikings have plenty of teams on their upcoming schedule like Green Bay, Seattle, Chicago and New England who also aren’t likely to let them off the hook.

The question now becomes: Is it fixable?

The post Boatload of errors cost Vikings against Saints appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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