Minnesota Vikings: Five things we learned in the loss to the Detroit Lions

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1. Vikings offense has to play better situational football.

Let’s state the obvious, the Vikings offense needs to limit the turnovers. They were -3 in the turnover differential and each turnover proved costly. The first two cost the Vikings 10 points, while Adam Thielen‘s fumble at the end of game sealed the victory for the Lions. Yet, we all know that winning the turnover differential is crucial and losing it usually ends badly.

What may have gone unnoticed concerning the turnovers was the thought process behind a couple of them.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Minnesota Vikings

The first fumble was on the Vikings’ first drive of the second half in a wildcat formation with McKinnon and Cook in the backfield. As the announcers mentioned, turning to the wildcat in that situation wasn’t necessary. With a 7-3 lead at the Detroit 49, there’s no need to get tricky. Not to mention, the wildcat doesn’t normally trick defenses.

Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but entrusting a couple running backs on an option play in Detroit’s zone is a head scratcher.

On Thielen’s fumble, it’s hard to criticize someone trying to make a play. But, in this situation, there wasn’t much else he could do after the catch. As a result, Thielen fumbled attempting to gain more yards rather than getting down to the ground right away.

In a two minute offense, receivers have to be aware of the situation and what’s best for the team, especially with no timeouts remaining. Even if Thielen were to gain another yard or two, it’d likely cost valuable seconds off the clock.

On top of these two plays, Stefon Diggs missed an opportunity to sustain a second quarter drive on a 3rd down play by not getting the ball upfield after the catch, seemingly not aware of where the first down mark was. Also, Case Keenum seemed to rush an audible or blocking assignment on a 3rd & goal play in the fourth quarter resulting in a sack. The offense would then turn the ball over on downs.

Essentially, the Vikings missed many opportunities and will have to play better situational football moving forward.

2. Kyle Rudolph needs to step up, especially with Cook out.

After catching 83 passes for 840 yards last season, Rudolph has been an after thought in the Vikings offense thus far. Against the Lions, he was targeted just four times resulting in two catches for 34 yards. In fact, his two catches didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter on consecutive plays.

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Last week, he was even less of a factor catching one ball for 4 yards. On the season, he just has 10 catches for 109 yards, far below last season’s pace. While Rudolph has been a Sam Bradford favorite, his lack of production is still surprising given the reliable pass catcher and red zone threat he is.

Of course, Rudolph’s involvement in the offense could be a result of game planning. Essentially, there’s a chance he’s being asked to help more with pass protection or run blocking. These are legitimate factors in a game, but the Vikings still need to use Rudolph’s pass catching abilities especially in the red zone.

Without Cook, production in the box score from Rudolph is going to be more important as the season goes on. Hopefully, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur finds ways to get his star tight end more involved in the offense. If Bradford returns soon, look for that to also boost Rudolph’s production in a big way as well.