Top 5 ‘what went wrong?’ concerns in Minnesota Vikings loss

The Minnesota Vikings had long or repeated lapses on offense and defense that should be of concern.

The Minnesota Vikings had plenty of breakdowns on offense and defense. Here are the top five when it comes to most concerning aspects in their 20-10 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday night:

1. A really offensive line

The cavalcade of pressure on Sam Bradford started on Minnesota’s second drive when he was sacked on third-and-8 for the first of many three-and-out drives for the Vikings. He was sacked again on the first drive of the second quarter, then another time on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line in the final minute of the first half to force a field goal and keep the Vikings down by two scores, 13-3, at the half.

“We’ve got to play better,” said Jake Long after making his first start at left tackle for the Vikings. “We’ll watch the film and correct it like we always do, but just as a whole we’ve got to play better. We got to keep Sam upright. I mean when he has a clean pocket he does great things so we just can’t get him hit like that.”

At the early stages of the fourth quarter, one of the Vikings’ most extensive drives was thwarted with another third-down sack, backing the Vikings up to midfield and causing them to opt for the punt on fourth-and-11, despite being down 20-3.

2. Third-down disasters

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Of the five sacks that Bradford took, four of them came on third down. The only one of those that didn’t end their drives was because of a post-play penalty on the Bears that extended the drive after Bradford was hit and fumbled, a loose ball that Adam Thielen recovered.

The Vikings were 1-for-4 on third downs in the first half and 1-for-9 in the second half. The league average on third down is 39.5 percent. The Vikings converted a putrid 15 percent.

“I think it’s all of us,” Bradford said. “Like I said, I made a bunch of mistakes tonight. I had my fair share of misfires tonight. I have to be better. I think we all have to take responsibility; I think we all need to be better.”

3. Short-yardage comes up short

It wasn’t just the passing game and the protection that led to the Vikings being an awful 2-for-13 on third down. They gained 2 yards on consecutive running plays late in the first quarter after getting into a very manageable second-and-3.

The short-yardage woes led to more issues in the red zone.

At the end of the first half, the Vikings barely converted on third-and-1 from the 4-yard line with a 1-yard run by Matt Asiata that might have gotten a favorable spot but held up on a challenge by the Bears. But, then, facing first-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Asiata took two carries that gained a combined 1 yard. When the Vikings went to pass on third down, Bradford was sacked. Instead of cutting the Bears’ lead to 13-7, Minnesota entered halftime trailing 13-3 and feeling deflated about their abilities to convert on the ground and protect when they took to the air.

4. Can’t stop Howard

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The Vikings entered Week 8 ranked No. 3 in run defense and seventh in rushing average, but rookie Jordan Howard took care of that on Monday night. Howard averaged 5.9 yards per carry, rushing 26 times for 153 yards. On the Bears’ first drive, he broke through a tackle attempt by Harrison Smith, evaded an out-of-position Jayron Kearse and rumbled 69 yards before Xavier Rhodes caught up to him downfield.

But after battering the Minnesota defense throughout the game, Howard’s most impressive runs might have come in the Bears’ final drive as they salted the game away with a 20-10 lead. He picked up two first downs on three consecutive runs that totaled 22 yards, then moved the chains again with a 10-yard run on first-and-10. Despite the Vikings knowing he would run to use up the time, they proved incapable of sufficiently stop it.

“They outplayed us and we’ve got get ourselves back on track though,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “Our confidence level is still high. We’re still a good football team, but now we’ve got to go out and prove it each and every week. It’s tough. Nobody likes to lose so we’ve got to find a way to get back on track.”

In the first half, Howard had more rushing yards (97) than the Vikings had in total yards (95). The Vikings had averaged giving up 81.7 yards per game before Monday night. Against Chicago, they yielded 158.

5. Reversal of pressure

During their 5-0 run, the Vikings had given up only eight sacks – eight on Bradford and none on Shaun Hill in the season opener. In their two consecutive losses, Bradford has been sacked a combined 11 times.

Just as concerning, however, should be the lack of sacks the Vikings defense has had of late. In their five wins, they sacked opposing quarterbacks 19 times. In their last two games? One time. After not sacking rookie QB Carson Wentz last week, the Vikings got to QB Jay Cutler only once.

That helped the Bears convert 50 percent of their third downs (7-for-14) and rack up 403 yards of total offense – the most yielded by a Vikings defense since last year in their December matchup against the Seattle Seahawks (and that was the only time last year they gave up 400 yards).

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