Adrian Peterson leads the NFL with 88.9 rushing yards per game in 2013.
That marks the third game in which the Vikings defense allowed a passing touchdown with less than one minute remaining in the fourth quarter, having already done so against the Chicago Bears and the Cleveland Browns.
At 1-7, the 2013 season has been a complete bust, matching the worst start to a season since 1961 for Minnesota.
With the level of disappointment that can be felt across Vikings nation, how can there be any reason for hope heading into the team's contest against Washington—or the rest of the season, for that matter?
It's all about perspective.
Although the loss against the Cowboys came in a much-too-familiar form, there were actually several positives to take away from a game that many expected to be a blowout—myself included.
First, the Vikings received a steady performance at the quarterback position by Christian Ponder. He posted a very efficient completion percentage of 67.6 percent, going 25-of-37 for one touchdown and an interception.
He also ran for his fourth touchdown of the year, tying him with Cam Newton for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback this season. The difference being that Ponder has accomplished this in five games, versus eight for Newton.
Look, I'm not sitting here telling you that Ponder is the future quarterback of this organization—he's not. But in a 1-7 season where everything has gone wrong for the Vikings, Ponder has at least played adequate.
Remember, it's all about perspective.
Each game moving forward for Minnesota should not result in a gut-wrenching feeling as the team continues to add to the loss column. If that's still your position, it's going to be a very long (and unhealthy) season.
Instead, each game is truly an opportunity to evaluate talent on a team more relevant for the 2014 season.
One of those foundational elements for next year, Adrian Peterson, was back to form against the Cowboys. He rushed for 140 yards on 25 carries, adding one of his most impressive touchdowns on complete will alone.
As the Vikings prepare for Washington in another prime-time game this Thursday—you're welcome, America—Peterson provides one of the few explosive options on this team.
With 711 rushing yards, he leads the NFL in yards per game with 88.9, an amazing statistic considering the reigning MVP rushed for 60 yards last week and 28 the week prior.
Speaking of explosive options, Cordarrelle Patterson should be another reason for hope as Vikings fans strap in for Thursday Night Football.
Despite a disastrous muffed kickoff return against Dallas, the rookie from Tennessee has delivered as an exceptional kickoff specialist, as he leads the league with 36.7 yards per return.
Regardless of if the ball is kicked into the end zone, Patterson brings excitement on every return, having tied an NFL record with a 109-yard return for a touchdown and also adding one of the 105-yard variety.
He should also see significantly more time at wide receiver moving forward, resulting in additional targets and opportunities to justify the decision to trade back into the first round to draft him.
Now, with all of that said, the result last Sunday against the Cowboys played out pretty well in the grand scheme of things for the Vikings. The team provided fans with a thrilling game that was close until the finish, yielding another loss to preserve a top-three draft pick for next year.
It may be strange feeling hopeful with every loss Minnesota accumulates this season, but that is the reality when rebuilding for the future.
With a high draft selection, the Vikings have an opportunity to select a franchise quarterback and revamp a defense that could see heavy turnover next year.
The 2013 season may ultimately be seen as a turning point for the entire Vikings franchise when reflecting back in years ahead. The level of futility displayed so far this season will result in change, whether at coaching positions, player personnel or both.
For Vikings fans already looking ahead to next season, there's still hope in the upcoming contest against Washington and for the rest of the season.
It just depends on your perspective.
Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.
Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.