A primetime win in front of your crowd is a great way to wash down a bitter loss that happened days earlier. While the Vikings beat the Patriots by one possession, this win was a bit more comfortable than the recent one-possession wins the Vikings have won this season. Kirk Cousins had a polished game, completing 30 of his 37 passes for 299 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Justin Jefferson torched the Patriots’ secondary all game, recording nine receptions for 137 yards and one touchdown. On top of that, Jefferson passed Randy Moss’ record of 4163 yards for the most by a player in his first three seasons, as he now sits at 4268 yards.
However, the defense has started to expose its weaknesses over the past two weeks. Mac Jones came into the game averaging a little over 200 yards through the air. He ended up throwing for a career-high 382 yards and two touchdowns to go along with it. While New England had a good offensive game plan, Minnesota allowed a lot of underneath throws, which opened up the quick passing game for Mac Jones and the offense. When the Vikings’ defense started to play man coverage, Mac Jones took his shots downfield and succeeded. This has been the story for the Vikings’ defense all season. They rank 31st in yards per offensive play and net yards gained per pass attempt. They are also 31st in total yards allowed per game, and last in passing yards per game. The concept of the “bend but don’t break” defense may need to be reevaluated. The idea may be respectable, but if teams are averaging about seven yards per passing play, there should be some adjustments made to the defense, such as playing less off-man coverage and incorporating more man defense.
Luckily, they have to face only one team who has a top-ten offense in the Detroit Lions. Minnesota has a favorable schedule remaining, as they face two teams with winning records in their remaining six games. However, they do have to face all three of their divisional rivals on the road within the next six games. Even though they have a dominant lead in the NFC North, divisional games, especially late in the season, are never easy. They have a chance to clinch the division for the first time since 2017 with a win against the New York Jets and a Detroit Lions loss.
If the Vikings want to make a deep playoff run and make their first appearance in the Super Bowl since 1977, their defense can’t rely on turnovers to keep them in games even though they are third in the league in turnover differential. They are also one of the best fourth-quarter teams in the NFL, as they average the most points in the fourth quarter (8.5), and allow the fourth least points in the fourth quarter (3.9). Sustaining this risky trait may be difficult, but if they can, the Vikings can make some noise in the playoffs and surprise the league.