Vikings out-Charger the Chargers, lose 28-24 to fall to 0-3

In a game that could have been theirs half a dozen different ways, the Vikings couldn't collect on a win against the Chargers.

Normally, when a team makes the mistakes that the Los Angeles Chargers made Sunday, that team gets a big fat L slapped on its ledger. Unless, of course, that team happens to be playing the Minnesota Vikings.

Regression has come for Minnesota, and it's come swinging a sledgehammer. One year after the Vikings posted one of the luckiest regular seasons in NFL history, winning 13 games with a total minus-3 point differential and going an astounding 11-0 in one-possession games, the scales are in the midst of rebalancing.

Minnesota lost to the Chargers 28-24 Sunday in a pingpong game that neither team truly deserved to win. But the Vikings made the last mistake — a double-tipped interception in the end zone with only seconds remaining — and that was enough to wrest the "Chargering" title away from the team that originated the term.

Consider: The Chargers gifted the Vikings with opportunity after opportunity, none more precious and valuable than the one delivered with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. On their own 24, facing a fourth-and-1, leading by four points, Brandon Staley and the Chargers opted to go for it — and were immediately stuffed.

Against any other team, that would have been fatal. Against the Vikings, it was only a setup to more hilarity. The Vikings took seven plays and about 100 of the 110 or so seconds remaining on the clock to go just 18 yards ... and then Cousins and the sideline mismanaged their way into a rushed sling into the end zone that ended up in the hands of the Chargers' Kenneth Murphy. Game over.

The strange thing is, Cousins turned in another strong game on paper (or onscreen, whatever). He finished with 32 completions on 50 attempts for 367 yards and three touchdowns against one interception. Alexander Mattison rushed for 93 yards, Justin Jefferson had 149 yards receiving, including a 52-yard touchdown that gave the Vikings the lead ... for a bit.

The problem for Minnesota is that it's gathering up yards between the 20s, and falling short when the spotlight is brightest. The Vikings' opening drive ended on the Charger 26 when T.J. Hockenson had a ball ripped right out of his hands. The Vikings' penultimate drive ended on the Charger 2 — yes, 2 — when Minnesota couldn't punch the ball in and turned it over on downs. And then there was that slow, deliberate approach to the line with a running clock inside 20 seconds ... not exactly the urgency you want to see in that situation.

The statistical trends for the Vikings are grim indeed. Since 1990, only four teams that started 0-3 have made the playoffs. Two of those did so by winning their division, the most recent being the 2018 Houston Texans. And the Vikings aren't playing in the AFC South. Minnesota has a tough road ahead, and it seems hellbent on making its own journey even harder.