ESPN’s Football Power Index still gives the Vikings a 71 percent chance to make the postseason, likely as the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoffs, because of the help they received in the standings from losses by the Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles in Week 14.
But make no mistake, the way the Vikings performed in yet another critical game appears to foreshadow what’s in store down the line: one step closer to an early exit in January.
So far this season, the Vikings have done very little to prove they’re legitimate contenders for a deep postseason run. They’re now 0-5-1 against teams that enter the game .500 or better and 6-1 versus teams that have a .500 or worse record.
The way they lost in Seattle, largely because of an offense that crashed and burned from the first drive of the game, is among the litany of issues that may bite them in the postseason.
Coach Mike Zimmer has been adamant that the Vikings achieve more balance offensively. But balance (33 passes, 21 runs) was not the issue in Seattle -- it was execution.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins is now 0-7 on Monday Night Football. From the start, the Vikings quarterback was rattled on dropbacks where he was pressured. In the first half, Cousins was pressured on three of his nine dropbacks but appeared panicked immediately after each snap.
In fact, Cousins had more time to throw in the first half of Monday’s loss -- an average of 3.70 seconds from snap to release on his passes per NFL Next Gen Stats -- than he’s had all season (2.69 seconds on average), but went 4-for-8 for 27 yards in the first two quarters.
It’s part of the issues Cousins and his offensive line have faced all season. While the Vikings O-line has struggled in protections throughout the 2018 campaign, predicated by injuries and players being forced to play out of position, Cousins has not been able to overcome the issues happening in front of him.
And while the offensive line’s struggles have been noted, much of what transpired Monday was a result of Cousins' inability to execute under pressure in the broadest sense. He went 20-for-33 passing for 208 yards, a touchdown and a fumble that resulted in a touchdown.
Cousins' fumble that was returned for a score in the fourth quarter was the fourth defensive touchdown scored against the Vikings this season, tied with the Bills for most allowed in the NFL. All four have been off Cousins’ turnovers -- the most on any player's turnovers this season.
Cousins constantly left his two best playmakers wide open. On the Vikings second drive, the quarterback had his back turned to Adam Thielen, who was wide open 20 yards down field, and instead dumped a short pass off behind him to Latavius Murray that went for a 2-yard gain.
It happened again in the third quarter when Cousins had Stefon Diggs wide open in the flat and instead hit Kyle Rudolph for a 2-yard gain.
And the icing on the cake happened on one of two late chances the Vikings would have in the red zone, set up by the deepest pass Cousins has completed in weeks, a 48-yard bomb to Diggs. But instead of executing his read to Thielen first, whose defender fell and left the Pro Bowl receiver wide open, Cousins threw a pass to Rudolph in the back of the end zone on fourth-and-1 that was tipped and incomplete.
The frustrations on offense amounted in Minnesota’s second straight loss and sixth of the season. With three games remaining, the Vikings have done little to show that they’ll be able to sustain a deep run a month from now when they’re pitted against the beats teams in the NFC.
As it stands right now, chances are they will make it that far. But whether they deserve to given what they’ve shown is hardly up for debate.