The rollercoaster ride for the 2021 Vikings season continued Sunday, as they fell 14-7 to the Browns in ugly fashion.
In a game in which the team’s defense played well, Kirk Cousins and the offense lacked any sort of rhythm after their first series of the day. Cousins had a flawless drive that ended with a touchdown to Justin Jefferson to start the game, but the offense fell nothing short of lackluster for the remaining 50 minutes and change.
Even though there were a few bright spots, it’s easy to look at this game and think it could be the dagger to the Vikings season. Whether or not that’s the case, here’s three key takeaways from Sunday’s loss.
Inconsistency continues throughout the Cousins era
Look, I’ve been an advocate for Cousins since his arrival in 2018 and this game doesn’t change that. However, it’s interesting to look at the inconsistencies this team has had since he signed his massive deal a few years back.
Whenever the offense is on a hot streak it seems as if the defense has struggled. Cousins was looked at as the missing piece after the blowout loss in the NFC Championship game, and that hasn’t really been fair since the defense has never been the same.
Today the defense carried over their strong second half performance against Seattle, but the offense struggled. Complete games have been hard to come by in the Cousins era and that’s never going to be a recipe for success in the NFL.
If this team wants to have any hopes at turning the season around and even sniffing the playoffs, they’re going to have to figure out how to play well on both sides of the ball. Flip flopping back and forth every couple weeks hasn’t worked in the last three years and that’s not going to change in 2021.
Cameron Dantzler impressed after Breeland’s exit
Sending out a Tweet after the Vikings’ win against Seattle put Dantzler in the doghouse, but he was given an opportunity to prove his value against Cleveland.
He took that opportunity and ran with it, totaling five tackles and a pass breakup in today’s affair.
The numbers don’t jump off the screen, but watching Dantzler play certainly did with how poor the cornerbacks have played up to this point.
Dantzler had a few plays where he showed off how sticky he can be in coverage against one of the leagues’ better route runners in Odell Beckham Jr.
The coverage was entertaining to watch, mainly because sticky coverage has been hard to come by for the Vikings this year. Where he was the most effective was in run support, where he played downhill and made several nice tackles in space.
This secondary has needed a boost since Week 1 and Dantzler provided that on Sunday. The social media stuff last week wasn’t the best look, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t get more opportunities moving forward.
The Vikings future at wide receiver keeps getting brighter
It’s not easy to find optimism on the offensive side of the ball after only putting up seven points, but there’s still a bright spot on that side of the ball. The depth at wide receiver looked so thin just a few months ago, but the rising stardom of Justin Jefferson and the emergence of KJ Osborn has helped the outlook of the position.
Jefferson was really the only spark the offense had all day on Sunday, hauling in six catches for 84 yards and the team’s only touchdown. He would have been over 100 yards on the day if it weren’t for a holding call that negated another 30+ yard play.
Osborn had one of the best catches that I’ve seen this year and continues to cement himself as the WR3.
With Thielen still playing at a high level this unit is going to be fun to monitor as the season goes on. Jefferson and Osborn are only in their second year in the league, so the sky's the limit with how good the duo can get with Thielen still playing like a savvy veteran.
There were some good things that came out of this game, but it’s not always easy to look through that perspective when the loss was as ugly as this one. The offensive line was shaky, the run defense still doesn’t look improved and the Vikings weren’t able to establish the run no matter how hard they tried.
This might not have been the game to throw out the first-round rookie offensive tackle, but the Christian Darrisaw situation will also be worth monitoring as the week goes on. Cleveland’s front four is nasty and that showed with the poor offensive line play, but Darrisaw needs to get his chance if he’s fully healthy.
A 1-3 start is not ideal and the road ahead doesn’t look much easier for the Vikings. Multiple things are going to have to get turned around if they want any chance at getting back into playoff contention.
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