Vikings Fall to 1-3 Following Frustrating Loss to the Browns

Sep 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates during the second quarter against Seattle Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Familiar faces came to U.S. Bank Stadium when the Minnesota Vikings faced off against former offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. At 1-2 and coming off of a dominant 30-17 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Vikings Nation felt good about their prospects against the Browns.

Kirk Cousins led a methodical 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game. Cousins found Justin Jefferson on a 12-yard touchdown pass that gave the Vikings a 7-0 lead after a drive that took 7 minutes and 34 seconds off the clock.

The Browns responded with their own time-consuming drive. Cleveland took the ball to the Vikings’ 6-yard line. On 4th-and-4, Everson Griffen sacked Baker Mayfield for a 12-yard loss and it appeared the Vikings had control of the game.

The game appeared to hang in the balance a few drives later when Minnesota faced a 4th-and-6 at the Browns’ 36-yard line. Mike Zimmer opted to go for it as opposed to kicking a 54-yard field goal. Cousins held the ball and tried finding Adam Thielen on a drag route. The ball fell short and Cleveland took over. They responded with an 18-play, 64-yard touchdown drive that was extended when linebacker Eric Kendricks was called for defensive holding on a 4th-and-goal.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Vikings had too many players on the field for the subsequent extra point. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson tried calling a timeout, but because the Vikings were out of timeouts, Minnesota was penalized for delay of game. With the ball at the 1-yard line, the Browns went for two points. Mayfield found fullback Andy Janovich wide open to give the Browns an 8-7 lead.

Minnesota took over with 1:12 left and subsequently went three-and-out. After punting back to Cleveland, the Vikings had the Browns at 3rd-and-20 at their own 26-yard line. Neither team had any timeouts, so Cleveland opted to run. Even though the draw play to Kareem Hunt couldn’t have been any more predictable, the running back rumbled 33 yards for a first down. It set up a 48-yard field goal that gave Cleveland an 11-7 lead going into halftime.

The two teams traded punts for most of the second half. In the fourth quarter, the Browns marched to the Vikings’ 34-yard line. Kicker Chase McLaughlin booted a 53-yard field goal to give Cleveland a 14-7 lead. On the next drive, Cousins was intercepted by Browns’ cornerback Greedy Williams. The Vikings then got the ball back but the drive stalled at the Cleveland 33-yard line as Minnesota turned the ball over on downs. Minnesota got the ball back for one final drive, but the drive ended at the Browns’ 26-yard line when a desperation pass by Cousins fell short to Thielen.

Next week the Vikings face off against the winless Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Minnesota will likely right the ship temporarily, but the loss to Cleveland will sting for awhile.