Pick your adjective because the Minnesota Vikings’ performance wasn’t good enough.
In a game that could have served as an opportunity to get right, the Vikings fell to the Los Angeles Chargers, 28-24.
The Vikings had opportunities to win the game late, but Kirk Cousins’ pass was deflected and intercepted on first-and-goal at the 6-yard line.
The loss pushes the Vikings to 0-3 on the season, placing them at a significant disadvantage to make the postseason at the end of the year.
Here are the good, bad, and ugly from the Vikings’ loss to the Chargers.
Good: Justin Jefferson
If there was any positive from the Vikings’ performance, it was Justin Jefferson.
Jefferson led the Vikings in receiving, hauling seven catches in for 149 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. On one of the Vikings’ final drives, Jefferson also helped the Vikings go down to the goal line after he caught a screen pass for eight yards.
Jefferson has long established himself as one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but he’s currently on pace to break the league record and eclipse the 2,000-yard mark.
Whether he’ll do it remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Jefferson deserves to be the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history.
Bad: Vikings fumble again
Is anyone surprised? Because you really shouldn’t be.
On the Vikings’ first drive, T.J. Hockenson was stripped by Alohi Gilman, stopping the offense in its tracks at the Chargers 26-yard line. There’s an argument that Hockenson should’ve been ruled down, but there’s no point in blaming the referees.
At the risk of sounding like a cliche coach, ball security is job security, and the Vikings haven’t been practicing much ball security.
If Hockenson hadn’t fumbled there, the Vikings probably get points. If it’s a touchdown, the Vikings likely win, but a field goal changes their approach late in the game.
The Vikings didn’t lose because of this fumble, but it certainly didn’t help their chances.
Ugly: Pass coverage
Heading into the season, the Vikings had a lot of questions about their secondary.
Outside of free agent signing Byron Murphy, there wasn’t much experience from the rest of their cornerback room. The Vikings hoped someone would step up on the backend and fill in the gaps, but no one has done that.
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams had all the answers, putting up video game numbers as a duo. Allen finished with 215 receiving yards, while Williams also crossed the century mark (121 yards) before leaving the game with an injury.
Here’s the thing: the Vikings chose to enter the season with this combination. They made the bed, and now, they have to lay it in.
Normally, a team could throw assets at the problem, but established cornerbacks are not sitting on the free agency market waiting to be signed. Time’s run out on a solution, and the Vikings are likely left with the group they have.
Good: Camryn Bynum
Give credit where credit is due: Camryn Bynum is for real.
Bynum seemingly uses sonar to find the ball and has a high-level tackling ability to pair with it. Today, Bynum finished with seven tackles, including a tackle for loss.
The Vikings still have plenty of questions across the defensive backfield, but Bynum appears to be an answer to some of those. He’s been the Vikings’ best defensive back this season and deserves to be playing most, if not all, of the defensive snaps.
Bad: Kirk Cousins' pocket awareness
The Vikings’ offensive line has struggled this season, but Kirk Cousins deserves some blame for the sacks and pressures allowed.
Cousins appears content sitting in the pocket and waiting for players to get open. However, that leaves Cousins incredibly vulnerable to pass rush, especially from elite pass rushers like Joey Bosa.
At 35 years old, Cousins is what he is at this point. There isn’t much Kevin O’Connell and the staff can do to fix these issues, but if he can’t figure out how to throw with anticipation and throw the ball away when required, this will continue to be an issue.
At some point, Cousins needs to help the offensive line out. If there isn’t time to throw the ball, either check it down or throw it away. Taking a sack and constantly getting hit can’t happen. And if it will, the Vikings offense will continue to struggle.
It’s time for something to change before Cousins gets hurt.
Ugly: Pass rush
Justin Herbert absolutely torched Brian Flores’ defense, finishing with 405 passing yards and three touchdowns on 40 completions.
There’s not always a lot a defense can do when the opposing quarterback is nearly an alien on the field, but getting pressure on him consistently is likely a good start. Unfortunately, the Vikings didn’t have many answers on how to get pressure.
When Flores sent multiple players, Herbert quickly dumped it off and let his wide receivers make plays. When he tried to send four, Herbert sat in the pocket and found players down the field. That’s life sometimes, but it also signifies a potential personnel issue for the Vikings.
Outside of Danielle Hunter, the Vikings don’t have many ways to create individual pass rush. Marcus Davenport was expected to help solve this issue, but he’s been hurt all season. The Vikings attempted to solve the issue with undrafted rookie Andre Carter, but it’s clear he’s not ready for NFL action yet.
The Vikings’ struggles in the secondary, combined with their invisible pass rush, aren’t a winning recipe. There has to be a change somewhere, and it has to happen now — not two weeks from now, not at midseason, but right now.
Bad: Red zone execution
NFL teams are defined by how successful they are in the red zone.
If you score touchdowns, you’re probably one of the better football teams. If you constantly settle for field goals, good luck being anything more than mediocre.
What if you get down to goal-to-go twice in the fourth quarter and fail to come away with any points?
The Vikings had two chances to take the lead in the fourth quarter but were stopped on fourth down on the first down and threw an interception on the second one.
Of course, this is the difference in the result. If they score on either one of those, there’s a chance they win the game. However, failing both times was the hypothetical dagger in the heart of the Vikings.
The Vikings were fortunate last year, winning a boatload of one-score games throughout the season.
While the Vikings were bound to experience some regression in this sense, starting the season with three one-score losses is not the kind of regression they probably expected.
While some of this is related to luck, the Vikings have made a calamity of errors that have set up this reality.
Football is a game with a small margin of error. If a team avoids making mistakes, they have a good chance of winning the game. However, if they continue to turn the ball over, take sacks, or fail to score in the red zone, they’ll lose. Sometimes, it’s really that simple.
While the season isn’t over for the Vikings, no team has started 0-3 and made the playoffs since the Houston Texans in 2018.
There has to be soul-searching across the Vikings because next week’s game against the Carolina Panthers has become a must-win. Heck, the Vikings probably need to win their next two or three games.
At the risk of sounding redundant, time’s running out. There is no more time for mistakes, unforced errors, or finding new ways to lose. There needs to be wins, or this season is over.
The Real Forno Show