The Vikings Week 3 matchup against the Chargers was essentially a must-win game after an unlucky 0-2 start. It really didn’t look like a battle between 0-2 teams for most of the game. Both sides put together a generally great showing for most of the first 58 minutes of game time. The Chargers ended up getting the win, but it could have gone either way. The Vikings can make a real case that they’ve outplayed every team they’ve played thus far, including last year’s NFC Champions on the road. That’s what makes the 0-3 record so difficult to swallow. This game again came down to what the Vikings weren’t able to do in the final seconds.
Vikings Can’t Get Out of Their Own Way
For a moment it looked like the Chargers were going to Charger their way to being on the losing end of another heartbreaking game. Brandon Staley’s inexplicable decision to go for it on fourth and one deep in their own territory set up the Vikings with a short field. Then Kirk Cousins and the Vikings said, “Hold my beer”.
After calmly guiding the offense down to the goal line with 30 seconds remaining, chaos suddenly hit the huddle. Minnesota had issues getting a play called and rather than spiking the ball and resetting, Cousins threw an interception. Sure, Hockenson probably could have caught it, but a veteran quarterback has to know what to do in that situation. Whether crowd noise was a factor or not, it was an inexcusable decision to simply run a play for the sake of running one. Spike the ball, reset, and get to the right plays that give you the best chance to win the game. It was about the most Viking way to lose a game imaginable.
It wasn’t just the last drive; the Vikings couldn’t get out of their own way all day. It’s become a recurring issue through the first three weeks. Minnesota came into the game having lost all six of their fumbles through the first two games. On cue, a promising opening offensive drive was ended on a T.J. Hockenson fumble. Later in the game, a surefire interception bounced off rookie cornerback Akayleb Evans’ hands right into a Charger touchdown. The Vikings have somehow gone from the luckiest team in football last year, to the unluckiest this year. Every ball has seemingly bounced the other way. If the Vikings are going to turn their season around, they may simply need their luck to change.
Other Vikings Week 3 Culprits
Sunday’s performance likely will spell the end of Ed Ingram’s career as a starting guard in the NFL. The 2022 second-round pick has started every game since getting drafted. Despite an abysmal rookie season, the Vikings handed him the starting role again by not bringing in any off-season competition. That’s proven to be a disastrous decision thus far. Ingram has continued to put out awful tape, and he’s been a point of emphasis for every defense the Vikings have seen. The Chargers followed that blueprint to great success, getting multiple pressures on Cousins up the middle by sending extra rushers at Ingram.
The Vikings appear to have finally given up on Ingram with the signing of veteran guard Dalton Risner last week. After spending a week getting up to speed, Risner will likely be starting in Ingram’s place against the Panthers. Even average guard play will be a huge step up from what Ingram has displayed to this point.
Alexander Mattison’s issues holding on to the ball have been a big part of Minnesota’s turnover issues. Whenever he touches the ball, the collective fanbase holds its breath, hoping he doesn’t fumble. While he didn’t lose a fumble against the Chargers, he came awfully close a few times. He honestly should have lost one when he got called down due to forward progress near the goal line. Mattison runs violently and brings a powerful dynamic to the offense, but all of that doesn’t matter if it leads to turnovers. The coaching staff needs to get Mattison to focus harder on ball security. If he doesn’t show he can be trusted, it might be time for Ty Chandler to get more looks.
Vikings Week 3 Performers
The season that Camryn Bynum has been putting together has been one of the most pleasant surprises of September. Coming into camp, Bynum was supposed to be pushed for his job by former first-rounder Lewis Cine. Cine ended up being a non-factor in the competition, and Bynum seemingly held onto the job by default. He’s proving early in the season that he’s more than just a placeholder at the position. Bynum has effectively replaced long-time stalwart Harrison Smith as the defense’s primary sideline-to-sideline playmaker. The turnovers haven’t come yet, but with his propensity to attack the football, highlight reel plays should follow.
Pivoting to another surprising early-season performer in the secondary, Mekhi Blackmon has been solid as a rookie. Cornerbacks have one of the hardest learning curves entering the league, but Blackmon is holding his own. Brian Flores has been blitzing like a madman, putting his corners on an island regularly. On a unit that’s largely bereft of proven talent outside of veteran Byron Murphy, Blackmon’s emergence is key to Flores being able to continue sending so many extra rushers. The Vikings can be hopeful that Blackmon and fellow young corner Akayleb Evans can finally stabilize a long-troubled unit.
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