3 Takeaways from the Minnesota Vikings' Week 11 Loss

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistNovember 23, 2020

3 Takeaways from the Minnesota Vikings' Week 11 Loss

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    The Minnesota Vikings wasted an opportunity to improve their standing in the NFC playoff picture on Sunday. 

    Instead of moving to .500 and closer to a wild-card position, the Vikings lost against the Dallas Cowboys at home and dropped to 4-6. 

    The Week 11 performance was far from a complete one for Mike Zimmer's side, as it struggled for long stretches to find offensive consistency and contain the Andy Dalton-led offense. 

    Minnesota is one game back of the Chicago Bears for eighth place and two games behind the Arizona Cardinals for the final wild-card spot. 

    The Vikings have a favorable schedule ahead that could move them back to .500, but they have to avoid another disappointing performance against a weaker team to achieve a postseason spot. 

Poor Start Hurt Minnesota

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Dalvin Cook's one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was Minnesota's lone scoring play of the first half. 

    Dallas produced three scoring plays in the opening 30 minutes, including a Greg Zuerlein field goal that put the Cowboys' halftime lead at nine points. 

    The four non-scoring drives Minnesota had in the first half resulted in a pair of punts and fumbles by Kirk Cousins and Cook. 

    The Cowboys turned the pair of fumbles into 10 points. It took three plays after the first turnover for Ezekiel Elliott to find the end zone, and the second giveaway produced the end-of-half three-pointer. 

    Minnesota deserves some credit for bouncing back from the halftime deficit with two passing touchdowns from Cousins to Adam Thielen. 

    However, once the Vikings took the lead, they easily surrendered it to the visitors on two occasions in the fourth quarter.

Subpar Finish Cost the Vikings a Victory

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    If the Vikings finished off the second half as they started it, they would have washed away the poor first-half performance. 

    When Thielen found the end zone for the second time at the start of the final period, Minnesota appeared to be moving toward a victory. 

    That thought was taken away less than two minutes later when Tony Pollard gashed through the right side of the defense on a 42-yard touchdown run.

    Dallas also had an answer to Minnesota's response to Pollard's score. Dalton Schultz caught a two-yard touchdown pass to finish off an 11-play, 61-yard drive that led to the winning touchdown.

    Both of Dallas' fourth-quarter scoring drives lasted under three minutes and totaled 136 yards. Both of those statistics are unacceptable for a team looking to make a playoff push. 

    If the Vikings made a stop on one of the two drives, they could have used Cook to close out the victory and entered Week 12 with a .500 record. 

    Instead, they sit in an unenviable position in the standings with no room for error against the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars in the next two weeks. 

Adam Thielen's Red-Zone Reliability Has Helped Kirk Cousins

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Thielen's four touchdowns in the last two weeks have all come from inside the 20-yard-line. 

    On Sunday, the experienced wideout found the end zone from two and three yards out, with one score each coming in the third and fourth quarters. 

    While Justin Jefferson has received a ton of buzz for his rookie-year performances, Thielen has become the go-to guy in red-zone situations for Cousins. 

    Thielen went through a production increase in Week 11, as he earned his third 100-yard outing of the season and first since October 4. 

    In the span between those games, Thielen caught five touchdown passes but only eclipsed the 50-yard mark on a single occasion. 

    If Thielen continues to thrive inside the red zone, he will be one of, if not the most important piece in the Minnesota offense for the final six games. 

    He could turn in high yardage totals as well, but with Jefferson in the fold, that does not have to be Thielen's primary contribution to the offense.

             

    Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

    Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.