Minnesota Vikings @ Cincinnati Bengals: A Closer Look

K.J. Osborn
Jan 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) reaches for the goalline before the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings opened the season with a disappointing performance on the road, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 27-24. While it was a mostly underwhelming performance, imbued with mistakes throughout, there were also some notable bright spots to provide hope for the rest of the season. Let’s take a closer look at the film and see what went wrong on Sunday.

The Vikings should have known it was going to be a long day, as they committed a false start before they could even get a play off, and it didn’t get much better from there.

The beginning of the game was a tug-of-war for field position, with Cincinnati maintaining the advantage due to some horrendous offensive line play by the Vikings. False starts, penalties, and sacks kept them backed up against their own goal line, while the Bengals were starting drives near midfield. Oli Udoh in particular struggled, and the rest of the line didn’t do much better.

The first quarter was scoreless, but one stand out performer for the Vikings was linebacker Nick Vigil, who was filling in for an injured Anthony Barr. Vigil made an impact immediately, recording a tackle for a loss and getting a sack right off the bat.

In the second quarter, the Vikings were able to score first on a touchdown reception by Adam Thielen. However, the Bengals countered with two touchdowns of their own in the last two minutes of the half, burning cornerback Bashaud Breeland twice in the process. Breeland got absolutely toasted on Sunday, and has struggled since the preseason. The Vikings had 10 penalties for 91 yards and the score was 14-7 heading into the half.

Cincinnati took control of the game in the third quarter, scoring on their opening drive. Minnesota wasn’t able to answer back until late in the third, when Cousins hit Thielen on a fourth-and-four play for a much-needed touchdown. The touchdown was a gift from the Bengals, who had previously attempted a fourth-and-one conversion in their own territory.

Both teams went back-and-forth in the fourth quarter until the Vikings were somehow able to connect on a 53-yard field goal as time expired to send the game into overtime…only to fumble the game away. Cincinnati won the game in overtime on a 34 yard field goal.

Although the Vikings weren’t able to come away with a win this week, there were several positive takeaways from this game to consider.

First off, something very important for traumatized Vikings fans: the kickers didn’t blow the game. Punter Jordan Berry had a decent performance in his debut, averaging 50 yards per punt, including a boomer that went out of bounds inside the opponents ten yard line in overtime. Kicker Greg Joseph looked like a solid replacement in his first game as a Viking as well. He made all of his kicks, including a 53-yarder to send the game into overtime. Both kickers came through when it mattered, which was good to see, and the coverage teams didn’t play bad, either.

Another positive takeaway was the play calling of first-year, 34 year old offensive coordinator, Klint Kubiak. Taking the reins from his old man, Kubiak impressed in his debut despite all of the penalties, showing a good mix of aggression, creativity, and fundamentals. He was effective in the Red Zone, got Cook involved in the passing game, and did a good job of chaining the outside zone run plays with bootleg play action passes. It should be fun to watch him progress as a play caller throughout the season.

Zimmer also called a decent game, holding the Bengals to 21% conversions on third down, getting two stops in overtime, and sacking Burrow five times.

Overall, it was a disappointing way for the Vikings to start the season, as they could have won the game had they not made so many mistakes.

They will have to play better next week as they travel to Arizona to play a very talented Cardinals team.