In Friday’s 52-33 loss at New Orleans, the Vikings gave up 583 yards, and head coach Mike Zimmer said he has the “worst” defense in his career.
On Saturday, the Detroit Lions lost 47-7 at home to Tampa Bay and gave up 588 yards.
Minnesota (6-9) plays at Detroit (5-10) in a meaningless game to conclude the season. The loss to the Saints eliminated the Vikings from the playoff race.
Entering Sunday, the Vikings were No. 27 in the NFL in total defense, and the Lions were No. 31. In their debacle, though, Minnesota did give up more points than Detroit. It was the most scored against the Vikings since a 56-14 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Oct. 6, 1963, and it tied for the second-most scored against them in their 60-year history.
“The tackling was very poor,’’ Mike Tice, an NFL analyst who was Minnesota’s coach from 2002-05, said Saturday about the team’s Friday showing. “There was too much grabbing. They weren’t bringing their legs with them. I didn’t see anybody really engage in any thumping. It was hard to watch.’’
At least Tice only watched the nationally televised game once. Vikings players and coaches no doubt will be seeing it over and over on tape as they prepare for the season finale.
After Saints running back Alvin Kamara tied an NFL record with six touchdown runs against the Vikings, Zimmer called the loss “embarrassing.” Minnesota has had a number of injuries on defense, but he said that was “still no excuse.”
“These guys put on an NFL jersey,’’ Zimmer said. “They’ve got to play.’’
The Vikings’ offense at least was much better, rolling up 364 yards and having the team’s third-highest scoring output of the season. Kirk Cousins completed 27 of 41 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns, and now has a career-high 32 TDs on the season.
Couisins was disappointed by Friday’s defeat, but he vowed after the game that the Vikings will be focused at Detroit.
“Try to finish the season strong, put your best foot forward next Sunday,’’ he said. “Then you get to work in the offseason. I believe that with the number of young players we have playing that it bodes well for the future. I think there’s a lot to be encouraged about there. We’ll do all we can against Detroit, and then you don’t really turn the page and look forward until after that game.”
With Detroit losing Saturday and Minnesota holding a potential tiebreaker, at least that assured Zimmer won’t have his first last-place finish in the NFC North. The Vikings will finish third unless they defeat the Lions and Chicago (7-7) loses its final two games.
Against the Lions, wide receiver Justin Jefferson can break another of Randy Moss’ rookie records.
Jefferson has 79 receptions for 1,267 yards. He already has broken Moss’ 1998 mark of 69 receptions and needs 47 more yards to top his rookie record of 1,313 yards. Moss’ figure is third in NFL history for a rookie, behind 1,473 yards by Houston’s Bill Groman in 1960 and 1,377 by Arizona’s Anquan Boldin in 2003.
Running back Dalvin Cook carried 15 times for 73 yards at New Orleans to give him 1,557 yards this season. He became the third running back in team history to reach 1,500 yards. Adrian Peterson had 2,097 in 2012 and 1,760 in 2008, and Robert Smith ran for 1,521 in 2000.
- Due to an undisclosed injury, rookie cornerback Cameron Dantzler did not play Friday from late in the third quarter through the rest of the game. Dantzer was last on the field when the Saints scored a touchdown with 4:38 left in the third quarter. Dantzler was replaced for the rest of the game by Chris Jones, and ended up playing just 52 of 75 defensive snaps.
- The struggles continued for kicker Dan Bailey, who missed an extra point in the third quarter. Bailey, who did make his other three extra-point attempts, has missed eight kicks in the past four games. In those games, he is 4 of 8 on field-goal attempts and 7 of 11 on extra points.
- Undrafted rookie linebacker Blake Lynch, in his first career start and third NFL game, led the Vikings in tackles with 10.