5 Plays: Why the Vikings Lost to the Patriots

On a day where the rest of the NFC North (and NFC for that matter) faltered, the Vikings could have kept a stranglehold on a playoff spot and climbed within a half-game of the division-leading Bears. Instead, they played pedestrian football and fell to the Patriots in December, something almost everybody seems to do. Where did the game get away from them?

  1. 1st Quarter, 6:20 – Kirk Cousins sacked by Adam Butler

Score: 7-0 NE

Field Position: 2nd and 9 at NE 22

Result of Drive: Dan Bailey Missed FG

Synopsis: After the Patriots went up 7-0, the Vikings were in the Patriots red zone. Kirk Cousins dropped back and was sacked for a loss of eight to stall the drive.

Because of This Play: The Vikings were unable to tie the game, or cut into the Patriots lead. Dalvin Cook rattled off a 32-yard run a few plays prior to gain momentum back for the Vikings. When Cousins took this sack, it stopped the drive and made the field goal a lot less manageable for the rollercoaster that is Dan Bailey, who predictably missed, and the Vikings came away empty handed.

 

  1. 3rd Quarter, 12:54 – Cousins barely misses Thielen deep

Score: 10-7 NE

Field Position: 3rd and 5 at MIN 22

Result of Drive: Punt

Synopsis: On the Vikings first drive of the second half, they had a third-and-manageable. Cousins dropped back and found Thielen deep down the middle of the field. Thielen layed out and corralled the ball briefly before his contact with the ground forced an incompletion.

Because of This Play: The Vikings were unable to gain momentum. The 2018 Minnesota Vikings have not done two things all season. The first is put games away when they’re winning. The second is re-gain the lead when they fall behind. They have responded well to tie games up, but when there’s a chance to take a lead and put added pressure on the opponent, they fail to do so. This was the first of a few drives that the Vikings could have taken the momentum away from New England and put some pressure on the Patriots offense. Instead, they settled for a punt when Thielen, who we are used to making improbable catches, didn’t come down with this one.

 

  1. 3rd Quarter, 2:28 – Aldrick Robinson fails to catch TD on questionable call

Score: 10-7 NE

Field Position: 3rd and 9 at NE 21

Result of Drive: Dan Bailey FG

Synopsis: With another chance to take the lead, the Vikings again found themselves in New England territory thanks to a Dalvin Cook run (18 yards this time). Cousins lofted a ball to the endzone for Aldrick Robinson, whose arm was tied up by the defender, but the pass fell incomplete.

Because of This Play: The Vikings, again, were unable to take the lead when they had the chance. This play, and the one prior on Thielen could have been called for pass interference, with this one being more of an offense. I’m not here to bag on the refs and complain we didn’t get calls, but if you consider the 20-yard pass interference that the Patriots got on Holton Hill (which had less contact) to kickstart their final touchdown drive, this one should have been called.

 

  1. 4th Quarter, 15:00 – Cousins sacked by Trey Flowers

Score: 17-10 NE

Field Position: 3rd and 5 at NE

Result of Drive: Punt

Synopsis: On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a crucial third-down (and manageable, similar to the missed conversion to Thielen). The Pats sent pressure, got through the line, and Trey Flowers took down Cousins for a loss of ten.

Because of This Play: The Vikings would not get the ball back until they were down by two touchdowns, as they provedi ncapable of scoring in key moments. Ultimately this play sealed their fate, but with a sliver of hope, this game was fully lost when…

 

  1. 4th Quarter, 6:10 – Cousins hits Treadwell for four yards… on 4th and 11

Score: 24-10 NE

Field Position: 4th and 11 at NE 48

Result of Drive: Turnover on downs

Synopsis: On a drive where points were imperative, the Vikings were near midfield. On 4thand 11, Cousins threw a quick slant to Treadwell who was immediately tackled for a turnover on downs.

Because of This Play: The Vikings ultimately ran out of time when they got the ball back for the final few times. This play was a microcosm of the entire game. A conservative decision that had no hope of winning you the game when you needed a big play. It made no sense. It’s like the Vikings were looking to lose, but not by too much, taking no risks on the road against New England, when that’s the only way you’re going to get it done. Throughout the day, the Vikings refused to push the ball down the field, and Cousins finished with an uninspiring 32/44 for 201 yards.

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