Vikings Penalties, Questionable Fumble, Sink Them in Cinci

Vikings rally late to force OT, but early OL miscues, fumble in OT cost them

The Vikings’ offense started their season unbelievably sloppy, with no less than 11 penalties accepted- most of those on offensive linemen. Although the offense was able to overcome them occasionally, between the penalties and sacks, the offensive line effectively killed several drives with a series of penalties and sacks.

Offensive Drive Summary

On the first series of the game, CJ Ham had a false start, and one play later Tyler Conklin followed suit. Cousins was able to connect with Thielen to overcome those two penalties. Second series, Ham had another false start, and one play later Oli Udoh is called for holding. 2nd and 24. Cousins fails to connect with Justin Jefferson, 3rd and 24. Cousins connects with Dede Westbrook for 11 yards. Punt.

Second drive, no penalties, three and out.

Third drive, no penalties, two sacks in second series for -18 yards. Punt.

Fourth drive, five first downs, then false start by K.J. Osborn, holding by Garrett Bradbury. Overcome, converting a 3rd and 24. Cousins then sacked for -10 yards. Overcome, touchdown.

Fifth drive, holding Rashod Hill, 3rd and 15, punt.

Sixth drive, false start Brian O’Neill, holding Rashod Hill, 2nd and 20, illegal formation penalty declined, 3rd and 20, Bradbury holding declined, punt.

Second half, seventh drive, unnecessary roughness after the play, Oli Udoh, 3rd and 26, punt.

Eighth drive, no penalties or sacks, touchdown.

Ninth drive, no penalties or sacks, touchdown.

Tenth drive, holding Ezra Cleveland, 2nd and 20, 3rd and 10, sack, punt.

Eleventh drive, no penalties or sacks, field goal, end of regulation.

Twelfth drive, 3 and out, no sacks, illegal formation declined, punt.

Thirteenth drive, no penalties or sacks, fumble.

Overall, six drives were effectively killed by penalties and/or sacks. On one additional drive the offense overcame 15 yards in penalties by converting a 3rd and 24 and scoring a touchdown.

On drives without penalties or sacks, two touchdowns, two 3 and outs, one field goal, one fumble.

Bottom line, if the Vikings play a cleaner game, with the same scoring efficiency as their clean drives, same results on defense and special teams, the Vikings win by double digits. Another way of looking at it: if they had two second halfs, in terms penalties and sacks, they also win easily.

But they didn’t. Instead, they inexplicably committed 5 false start penalties, 5 holding penalties, and one unnecessary roughness penalty, plus at least a few more that weren’t accepted. You could argue that as unacceptable as the false start penalties are, they were largely overcome. Even a sack and holding penalty were overcome too. But that leaves 4 more holding penalties, unnecessary roughness, and 3 sacks, that were not. And that’s not surprising for the Vikings offense, or any other for that matter. When you have a steady clip or 2nd and 3rd and 20+, not only do you become one dimensional and play-action is no longer effective, but it’s easy for the opposing defense to play a two deep safety umbrella coverage and take away the deep routes, opening the defensive front to blitzes and pass rush. That leaves underneath throws and a hope for YAC. That’s not a recipe for success.

To their credit, Cousins and the offense were able to rally and force overtime after falling behind 21-7 with 9 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Cousins had a solid afternoon, finishing 36/49 for 351 yards, two TDs (a third overturned questionably), no turnovers, and a 106.8 passer rating, despite being pressured on 50% of his drop backs, and facing all the penalty setbacks. It looked like the Vikings might be able to salvage a win in overtime despite a poor performance, with a promising drive into Bengals territory, but then Dalvin Cook was deemed to have fumbled, and the Bengals took over and got the win.

Defense Mediocre

The Vikings defense didn’t have the rash of penalties, and they did have five sacks, but they also allowed too many big plays, too many rushing yards, and too many points.

While doing a decent job pressuring Burrow at times, and sacking him 5 times, the defensive front also was culpable in allowing the Bengals to rush for 149 yards, including 127 from Joe Mixon. Overall the 4.1 yard average per carry needs to get better.

The big plays came mostly at the expense of Bashaud Breeland, who gave up a 50 yard TD reception to Ja’Marr Chase, and over 100 receiving yards overall- roughly half the Bengals total.

The Vikings also allowed a 67% conversion rate in the red zone, which needs to improve.

On the positive side, the Vikings allowed just 217 net yards passing, and a measly 21.7% conversion rate on 3rd downs. They also had a key stop in Bengals territory on an overly aggressive and ill-advised decision to go for it on 4rh down which turned the game around.

Special Teams Delivered

Couldn’t have asked for much more from the Vikings special teams units. Kicker made his kicks, punter punted well, coverage teams covered well. Returns were either non existent or nothing special, so if there was a shortcoming here that was it.

Good Performers

Kirk Cousins. Cousins managed to rally to tie the game late, and had a 106.8 passer rating despite a poor OL performance- 50% pressure rate and 11 penalties on offense creating plenty of 3rd and very longs- with no turnovers.

Patrick Peterson. Allowed just 2 catches for 24 yards in his Vikings debut.

Nick Vigil. Had 7 tackles – all defensive stops.

K.J. Osborn. 7 receptions on 9 targets for 76 yards including a key 25 yard 3rd down conversion. A solid WR3 is born.

Greg Joseph. All he did was make all his kicks, including a game-tying 53 yard field goal at the buzzer- twice.

Adam Thielen. Had some clutch catches, and led all receivers with 9 catches on 10 targets for 92 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Jordan Berry. Had a 50 yard average with a key 63 yard punt in overtime that flipped field position and helped keep the Bengals out of field goal range.

Michael Pierce. I’m not sure yet how good he was against the run, but two sacks from the nose tackle position is off to a good, belated start to his Vikings career.

Poor Performers

Bashaud Breeland. He got torched for a 50 yard touchdown and allowed over 100 yards receiving, with a DPI penalty to boot.

Oli Udoh. His holding and unnecessary roughness penalty helped kill two drives, and an allowed sack helped kill another.

Rashod Hill. His two holding penalties helped kill two drives, allowed pressures didn’t help either.

Garrett Bradbury. Holding penalties, pressures, not good.

Ezra Cleveland. Holding penalty killed a drive, allowed sack helped kill another.

Blown Video Reviews

The NFL Officiating crew, including the video review officials, looked to have a bad game as well, which appeared to cost the Vikings on two occasions.

Justin Jefferson Touchdown Call and Challenge

The first questionable call- at best – was the Justin Jefferson touchdown that was ruled short of the goal line.

@NFLOfficiating

Clear and obvious touchdown missed by official in perfect position to make the call, and by video review after a challenge. #Getitright pic.twitter.com/Wldx8YoP5t

— W Ludford (@wludford) September 13, 2021

Watching the video even just a couple times and your can see that it was clearly a touchdown, with the ball over the goal line when Jefferson”s butt hit the ground- his knee did not go down prior to that. And yet the official right there in perfect position to make the call, blows it. And when the call is subsequently challenged, the video review is blown too. It really wasn’t even that difficult a call to be honest.

And while Dalvin Cook scored on the next play, the Vikings losing the challenge cost them a timeout, which would’ve come in handy later in the game.

Questionable Cook Fumble Call in Overtime

While the Vikings could’ve played better early and won the game in regulation time, they were also hurt by a questionable fumble call in overtime. The issue was two-fold.

The issue with the original call was the side judge who made the call was in no position to have the view to make this call. In addition to being a good ten yards away in making a split second call, Cook also held the ball away from the side judge, making it impossible for him to see if Cook had control of the ball when he hit the ground. And yet he makes a fumble call anyway.

Live view of the Dalvin Cook fumble.

One might think the refs would rely more on the TV copy when they’re clearly not in position to make this call pic.twitter.com/usTZrwBGb1

— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) September 12, 2021

Secondly, a close review of the video, shows the ball doesn’t come free until Cook is down. If you take a slo-mo look at the first couple seconds of the video clip below, you can see the ball is forced out by a sweeping movement of the defenders arm that doesn’t get the ball out until after Cook hits the ground.

Ruled a fumble on the field but Dalvin Cook may be down pic.twitter.com/aztBJHhF2b

— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) September 12, 2021

The problem with the (blind) original call, is it puts the onus on the video replay to be conclusive, and you could argue that this image, which may or may not have been seen by the official, wasn’t clear enough- although it seems clear enough to me- and I’m sure it was a clearer view than the side judge who made the call had. This creates a blind leading the blind situation, where the original blind call is made assuming a video review will be clear, which isn’t always the case. The result is the blind call made by the official with a view worse than the video replay is deemed more conclusive.

Looking Ahead

The Vikings have a lot to clean up along the offensive line, and looked to be doing so in the second half, but the offensive line needs to do a better job of playing clean and keeping Cousins clean, for 60 minutes.

Defensively the Vikings need more from Bashaud Breeland. There were a lot of solid individual performances against the Bengals, but Breeland was clearly the weak link and allowed the Bengals a long touchdown a few other key receptions, and a pass interference penalty.

The Vikings pass defense will have a big test on the road against Arizona, who runs a pass heavy offense and put up 38 points against a weak Tennessee defense after starting the game 17-0. Ryan Tannehill had 3 turnovers – 2 fumbles and an interception- that proved costly. Chandler Jones, who”ll go up against Rashod Hill next week, had five sacks that caused two fumbles. The Vikings will need to have a plan for Jones.

The rest of the NFC North lost on Sunday, getting beat handily by playoff caliber teams, so while the Vikings loss was a lost opportunity to take a game lead in the division, it doesn’t put them at a disadvantage in the division standings.

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