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Home » Vikings’ Defense Struggles in 31-24 Playoff Loss to Giants

Vikings’ Defense Struggles in 31-24 Playoff Loss to Giants

16 January 2023, Monday
The Vikings had an impressive regular season, going undefeated in all one-score games. However, their playoff run came to an abrupt stop in their first game, a narrow 31-24 loss to the Giants in the wild card round. Despite their impressive feat in the regular season, their luck ran out in the postseason.

Facing a crucial fourth and 8, Kirk Cousins threw short of the marker to T.J. Hockenson and saw him tackled to bring the game to an end. It was an odd decision from the quarterback who had otherwise been excellent in the contest, tasked with the challenge of keeping the Vikings alive on a day where their defense failed to stop the opposition.

The Vikings were all set up for a thrilling late-game victory once again, something they had become quite familiar with throughout the season. Fortunately, a gift from the football gods presented itself in the form of Darius Slayton's drop, forcing the Giants to punt it away. The Vikings, who were down by a touchdown with three minutes on the clock, got a much needed boost from a questionable roughing the passer call on Dexter Lawrence that sparked their drive.

They found themselves near midfield, but their progress soon stalled as they couldn't locate a play to propel them towards the end zone. On the first attempt, Cousins launched the ball too far for Adam Thielen's outstretched fingers. Dalvin Cook was then shorted on a short pass for second down. On third down, Cousins threw just behind K.J. Osborn, who had been adequately guarded. And on fourth, Cousins bafflingly picked T.J. Hockenson in the flat, who had no chance of gaining any yards after the catch. This mistake, regardless of context, will likely be the everlasting memory of Cousins' first playoff run with the Vikings.

Following an impressive 13-4 season, the Minnesota Vikings have entered the offseason with plenty of questions to answer. This year saw the Vikings take the NFC North crown, as well as win a series of riveting games.

However, the team's season ultimately ended with no Super Bowl victory which leaves many to ponder its success. Did the season truly qualify as a success given its abrupt end? This is a fair question to ask, and it will undoubtedly be present in the minds of both fans and analysts alike.

Cousins and the Vikings' offense were impressive, keeping the team in the contest despite a slim margin for error. Cousins had an outstanding outing, completing 31 out of 39 throws for 273 yards and two touchdowns. His QB sneak resulted in another score. Showing great decisiveness and precision when facing pressure from the Giants, Cousins embodied excellence.

The Vikings' pass-catching contingent was headlined by tight end T.J. Hockenson in their rivalry win against the Giants. Hockenson, who was acquired in a trade with the Lions prior to Week 9, torched the Giants' secondary for 129 yards on ten catches. It was just the second time in the postseason that a Vikings tight end topped 100 receiving yards, with Steve Jordan having achieved the feat in a January 1990 game with 149 yards. Hockenson made numerous big plays during the game and was a reliable target when the team needed him most on third and fourth down.

The Minnesota Vikings defense had a difficult time containing the New York Giants in the first half, and throughout the entirety of the game. Daniel Jones proved to be particularly problematic for the Vikings, as he threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns in addition to running for 78 yards. The Giants efficiently accumulated 267 yards of offense prior to halftime, as they had little difficulty moving the ball through the air and brought forth a strong ground game featuring Jones and Saquon Barkley. Additionally, Ed Donatell's defense had difficulty creating pressure or defending passes over the middle of the field.

In between Vikings touchdown drives to open and close the half, the Giants responded with a 17-0 run. It took them roughly five minutes of game time to do so, thanks in large part to several big plays. Saquon Barkley scampered 28 yards to the endzone to level the score at seven, and a 47-yard reception from Darius Slayton paved the way for an Isaiah Hodgins touchdown on the following drive.

The Giants were up 14-7 early in the second quarter when they embarked on an 85-yard, 20-play drive that ate up nearly 11 minutes of clock. On four consecutive third down situations, the Giants converted, but ultimately stalled in the low red zone and had to settle for a field goal and a 17-14 lead at halftime. The Vikings responded quickly, however, and the game was tied 17-17 at the break.

During the game, the Vikings' offense demonstrated the tiny window of error that exists when the defense is not providing any resistance. On their second possession, Kevin O'Connell called for Jefferson to attempt a reverse throw across the field to Cousins, which was unsuccessful. This misfortune led to the Giants driving the length of the field for a touchdown. Furthermore, in the fourth quarter, the Vikings had a clumsy three and out that enabled the Giants to take some precious time off the clock.

The Giants kept their momentum throughout the day, successfully converting seven of their initial ten third down attempts. This was largely thanks to the fact they often found themselves in third and short. They finished with a staggering 431 total yards and an average of six yards per play. On the Vikings' side, their veteran-heavy defense seemed to struggle, with players such as Eric Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, Patrick Peterson, and Harrison Smith often out of position to make a play. Also, there was a lack of pressure on Jones throughout the game, which often allowed him to escape the pocket and run freely.

The Minnesota Vikings tasted defeat in the opening round of the playoffs, courtesy of an unrelenting defensive struggle. Despite a determined effort from QB Kirk Cousins and the Vikings' offense, it simply was not enough.

The game saw a pair of QB sneaks from Cousins, both of which were difficult to stop. Nevertheless, the defense failed to turn out a victorious result.

For the Vikings, it was a bitter pill to swallow on their home turf. Possessing deep postseason aspirations, the team had entered the game feeling optimistic. However, it was not to be.

The regular season point differential was no match for the defeat of the playoff round, leaving the Vikings with a premature ending to the season.
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