All good things must come to an end.
The Cinderella run that had the Vikings win five straight games, despite losing Justin Jefferson until further notice, despite losing Kirk Cousins for the season, is over.
The Broncos take the mantle of the feel-good NFL story, as they extend their improbable win streak to four games.
Even though the Vikings still sit at the sixth spot in the playoff race, this loss hurts. With a win, you go into next week against Chicago with a bit more confidence. However, after losing this game in the fashion that they did, next week’s pre-bye week game holds even more weight.
As for this game, some players of this game saw their stocks rise despite the loss. However, plenty of players in this game saw their stocks fall.
Stock down: Josh Dobbs
Josh Dobbs had played at an exceptionally high level since donning the purple and gold, But he had to come back down to Earth eventually.
This is not to say that he didn’t make plays to keep Minnesota in position to win the game.
But he took away just as much as he gave to the offense on Sunday night. He went 20-of-32 for 221 yards and a great play to give Josh Oliver his second touchdown of the season. He also threw an interception that set up the Broncos deep in Minnesota territory.
He gave us a sensational touchdown on the ground. He also started the game with a back-breaking fumble on the opening possession.
It’s fine. He’s human. A sobering reminder that this is still a quarterback who played for three teams in the past five months was necessary.
Just really wish the reminder came at the end of a win.
Stock down: Alexander Mattison
Alexander Mattison ran hard for this Vikings team and ran well for most of the night. He had, by far, his best day running the football, going for 81 yards on 18 carries.
But his fumble near the end of the third quarter can’t happen. The Broncos were grasping at straws, figuring out how to stop the Vikings’ balanced attack.
Mattison gave them the answer on a silver platter.
Combine that mistake with another explosive performance from Ty Chandler, and a discussion about who the feature back is in this offense may need to commence.
Chandler does not have Mattison’s prowess in pass protection (that was clear on the interception). But, he has shown more ability running the football than Mattison has. Better patience, better explosion and more chances at explosive plays in the run game.
Chandler saw more meaningful snaps this game, and if he continues to execute like he has, it will be difficult to keep him off the field.
And to keep Mattison on it.
Stock up: Justin Jefferson
On the final drive, Dobbs looked to Hockenson twice on out-breaking routes to help move the offense into better situations.
That’s usually Jefferson.
In the moments when a play needs to be made, the third- and fourth and longs, someone has to step up and move the sticks for the offense.
That’s usually Jefferson.
So far, Dobbs has not had the luxury of having the easy button that is Jefferson, but that may not be the case for much longer.
Jefferson may try to make a push to come back as soon as next Monday against the Chicago Bears. And after not being able to get it done in an ugly game like this, it will be hard to tell the All-Pro not to suit up.
Stock up: Run defense
This one will be short and sweet.
The Broncos could not rely on their run game. Javonte Williams was their best rusher and could only muster 37 yards on 11 carries.
Denver abandoned the run early and put the ball in the hands of Wilson. But, that was due, in part, to the defense’s success against the run early in the game.
Stock down: Time Management
Kevin O’Connell and the Vikings offense were given one final chance to drive the ball into field goal range for kicker Greg Joseph to kick a game-clinching field goal.
They had a minute and three seconds to get the ball to roughly the 35-yard line, that’s sixty yards.
What happened next was a cacophony of sour notes that embodied Minnesota’s struggles.
The Vikings used up two of their timeouts and 22 precious seconds to convert one first down.
After three straight incompletions, including a third-down intentional grounding penalty, the Vikings faced an impossible fourth-and-25 that sailed over the head of K.J. Osborn.
It was terrible to watch, but it was a fitting end to an overall ugly day for the Minnesota offense.
Stock down: Turnovers
This was the first game in a while that had the same feel as the first three weeks of the season.
Minnesota lost the turnover battle a damning three-to-nothing. Teams that have three or more turnovers without a takeaway are 12-156-1 since 2018.
After a game without turnovers against New Orleans last week, the hope was that another game like this would not be an issue.
Yet, here we are.
Looking at yet another game where if the Vikings just held on to the football, they probably wind up winning the game going away.
Instead, there are only the loud whispers inside every Minnesota fan’s head of what could have been.
The Real Forno Show