The most frustrating part of the Vikings 31-24 lost against the Giants was not that they lost, it was the way they lost. Horrible play from the defense and small mistakes from the offense led to the undoing of the 2022-2023 season. With so much left to be desired the Vikings should not be satisfied with this outcome. They sent an expectation that was not met. Many things went wrong in this game, but a few things stood out like sore thumbs.
Inability to play sound defense
Countless times during this game there was poor gap integrity and awful communication. In the 19th week of the season you would expect your defense to have the simple things down to a tea. The Vikings defense looked sloppy and undisciplined.
Here we can see Saquan Barkely wide open, he is the best player on their team and somehow there is not a defender within 15 yards. It is a simple swing route and he is able to gain over 20 yards on this play. This is unacceptable. No matter the defensive formation, there must be a player ready to guard their best player at all times. This continued to happen the whole game. Barkley was getting his way whenever he wanted. Donatell did not do a good enough job. Game Planning for this offense starts with Barkley. Making adjustments to aid slower linebackers would’ve been beneficial. None of this happened and the Giants continued to exploit awful scheming by the Vikings.
Here we have a pitch out play to Barkley he has lead blocker but there are three Vikings defenders in perfect position to make a tackle or force him inside. Barkley has the wide side of the field to his advantage so there needs to be multiple gaps filled.
Instead of filling the gaps nicely Cam Bynum decides to shuffle into two other players and let Barkley run scotch free into the end zone. This is an undisciplined play, simple pursuit angles are football 101. These types of things cannot happen in the playoffs.
Inability to get Justin Jefferson going
On the first drive of the game Jefferson collected 4 catches for 31 yards on 4 targets. The rest of the game he had 5 targets and 3 catches for 16 yards. This is inexcusable, there is a sort of understanding that he is getting double teamed with bracket help. However you must get your star player the ball. In a game where your defense cannot stop the opposing team, then your offense must be perfect, fast and very efficient. Those are things the Vikings missed by just a hair. This is being nit picky, but when you lose in the first round of the playoffs this is what happens. You must get Jefferson the ball, whether it is designed screens or simple slants. He will open up the rest of the team tremendously. In games where Jefferson is above 100 yards the Vikings are 9-1, when he is below that they are 4-4. This is the key to winning.
Poor play calling
In his first year Kevin O’Connell has done an above average job while calling the plays. This game stuck out as a stinker. From the throw back with Jefferson to the final play, O’Connell seemed shaky all game. One sequence I would like to highlight was late in the game, on first down they ran a running back screen, nothing wrong with this play. It went for negative yards. The problem came on the next play, they ran a tight end screen to the other side which went for a couple of yards, making it third and long. This sequence confused me and many others. You must be more aggressive late in the game.
This game stung the players hard. They are a better team than the Giants, but they got outplayed. With many questions entering the offseason, the Vikings could see some big roster changes. This season was very successful but ended in the worst way possible.