Good, bad and ugly from Vikings 30-20 loss vs. Lions

Well folks, we’ve finally reached the end of the season. With the loss today against the Detroit Lions, the Minnesota Vikings have missed the playoffs and their season is officially over.

Even if the Vikings had won today, they didn’t get the help they needed to make the playoffs, as both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints won their games, eliminating the Vikings once again for good measure.

It’s been a frustrating season to say the least, but the fact that Minnesota even had a chance at the playoffs in the final game of the season, given all they’ve had to go through this season, is a remarkable feat in and of itself. It’s important to remember that as we reflect upon the season that was and look ahead towards the season that will be.

But before we get into our off-season coverage, let’s take a minute to look back on the final game of the season against Detroit. Despite the loss, there were a number of good things for the Vikings to take into the offseason, as well as a number of issues they’re going to have to correct for 2024.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the good, bad and ugly from the Vikings 30-20 loss to the Lions.

The good: RB Ty Chandler

Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made about the Minnesota Vikings and their lack of a run game. It’s a point that I myself have harped on again and again in these columns. Aside from the obvious turnover issues, it’s been the biggest factor holding the Vikings offense back this season.

But help could be coming in the form of Ty Chandler. Chandler wasn’t inserted into the lineup until late in the season, but he’s been making the most of his opportunity since.

That was no different on Sunday against the Lions. Through three quarters – before the run was essentially abandoned in an effort to go win the game – Chandler was running the ball at a clip of seven yards per carry.

He has shown all season that he’s clearly the most explosive back in the Vikings stable of rushers, and I would not be surprised if head coach Kevin O’Connell and the front office decide in the offseason that he did enough to enter 2024 as the primary starter.

That said, I don’t think the Vikings are going to bail on Alexander Mattison or Cam Akers just yet. The trio of running backs each provide something different to the team, and if all three are healthy and playing up to their potential, they can be a potent combination for opposing defenses to try and reckon with.

Chandler has impressed in each game he’s been given an opportunity to showcase his talents, and he should get a chance to do that more often in 2024.

The bad: First half penalties

David Rodriguez Munoz / USA TODAY NETWORK
David Rodriguez Munoz / USA TODAY NETWORK

It seemed like anything that could go wrong for the Vikings did in the first half. It was truly a comedy of errors, with the Vikings getting just about every penalty on offense that you can. They were guilty of false starts, let the play clock run out for delay of games, got holding penalties, had an illegal formation, and an intentional grounding penalty. All in the first half.

These penalties weren’t anything the Lions forced the Vikings to do, they were truly just a multitude of unforced errors, and they cost the Vikings dearly in the first half. Minnesota only scored a pair of field goals in the first half against Detroit, and it could have been so much more. They weren’t playing poorly when they weren’t shooting themselves in the foot.

Without all of those penalties killing drives and putting the offense behind the proverbial eight ball, the game may have had a completely different feel – and outcome. Unforced errors were a problem for Minnesota all season, and it’s the biggest thing coach O’Connell is going to have to sort out.

Mistakes like that ultimately reflect upon the coaching staff and their ability to get the team prepared to play on any given game day. Minnesota wasn’t prepared to play today. They moved the ball decently well when they got into a rhythm, but getting into one was exceedingly difficult with their inability to get out of their own way.

Between the untimely penalties and the bevy of turnovers Minnesota had this year, there’s a lot of work to be done in the offseason on that front.

The good: Defense

David Rodriguez Munoz / USA TODAY NETWORK
David Rodriguez Munoz / USA TODAY NETWORK

Defense has been the backbone for the Vikings all season, but it faltered in a big way last week. The Green Bay Packers were able to do really anything they wanted against the Vikings in the Sunday night game last week, and that disappointment is what led to the Vikings being in the unenviable spot of needing to win and get help to secure a playoff spot. It was an uncharacteristic performance at about the worst time imaginable.

On the bright side, the Vikings defense returned to form Sunday against the Detroit Lions, for the most part. As they have for the majority of the season, the Vikings’ defense was able to mostly keep the Lions out of the end zone and keep the team within striking distance while the offense struggled to find its footing. Danielle Hunter and crew were a force to be reckoned with early, disrupting plays and notching tackles for loss.

On the downside, it wasn’t enough – as has been the case for a good portion of the season. The struggles on offense have consistently been too much for the team to overcome, and eventually the defense simply can’t hold on any longer.

That was the case on Sunday, too, as Minnesota ultimately fell 30-20. There are a lot of questions about the defense heading into next season that are going to need to be answered.

The biggest questions are whether or not defensive coordinator Brian Flores is going to be back in Minnesota, or whether he’s done enough with dramatically improving this squad to get another shot at a head coaching gig.

They also need to address the Danielle Hunter situation. Hunter has been phenomenal this season, and has earned every bit of the contract he’s going to get in the offseason. But is that price going to be too rich for the Vikings to pay?

The Bad: Third down offense

David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports
David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough to win consistently in the NFL. It’s nearly impossible to do it when you can’t get your offense to stay on the field. Unless you’re one of the most explosive offenses in the history of the NFL, you’re going to need to be good on all three downs in a series more often than not.

And that has been a failing of the Minnesota Vikings all season long. When the team hasn’t been turning the ball over to end a drive, they’ve simply been sputtering out all too often, and it was a problem again against the Lions.

The Vikings have been one of the worst teams in the league with regards to their third down conversion rate all season, and that was certainly the case on Sunday. Minnesota only converted on two of the 13 third down attempts against Detroit – a truly abysmal percentage. You’re not going to beat anyone if you can’t keep your offense on the field.

A lot of the Vikings’ struggles on third down have come down to the quarterback carousel they’ve had to deal with since Kirk Cousins went down with the Achilles injury.

Whether it was Josh Dobbs, Nick Mullens, or Jaren Hall, no one could get the Vikings’ offense in gear and firing on all cylinders remotely the same way that Cousins did. Mullens probably came the closest, but his propensity to throw the ball up for anyone crushed the team and contributed to the third down woes down the stretch.

Will third down efficiency change in 2024? Probably, but it’s going to depend a lot on who the quarterback is for the Vikings, and how much they can improve along the offensive line. The interior of the offensive line needs a major overhaul, and even if Cousins comes back, how healthy is he going to be to start the season, and what is the plan beyond 2024?

The ugly: The offense

Nic Antaya/Getty Images
Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The third down offense was bad, but it’s unfair to pin everything on them. At the end of the day, the defense did everything they could – once again – to keep the Vikings in the game, and the offense simply refused to help them out and hold up their end of the bargain.

It’s been a recurring theme of the season, and it’s the primary reason the Vikings are sitting at home with their season over instead of preparing for a road playoff game (or even a home one – don’t forget they had a chance to win the NFC North until the first Detroit game).

Mullens and the Vikings offense had a golden opportunity in the first half to completely change the vibe of the game. The defense was balling out after struggling mightily the previous week against Green Bay. The Lions scored 13 points in the first quarter, but the defense fortified and kept them scoreless in the second quarter.

That was the chance for Minnesota to get back into the game and seize the momentum going into halftime – where they would get the ball to start the third quarter.

Instead of capitalizing on the opportunity and making the most of it, the offense kept shooting itself in the foot and could only come away with a pair of field goals.

The second half wasn’t much better. They got a couple of big plays from Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison, but for the most part appeared to be stuck in neutral for the majority of the half – and, for that matter, the game.

Obviously, a lot of the Vikings issues on offense come down to the fact they’re missing their starting quarterback. Nearly every offense struggles when it loses its quarterback. That said, Cousins coming back next season isn’t going to fix the issues the offense has, but will rather simply mask them.

O’Connell and crew need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to address some of the underlying issues to really make this team into a contender.

The Real Forno Show

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Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire