MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Not even Kirk Cousins and his son, Cooper, sounding the Gjallarhorn and doing the pregame Skol chant shirtless in front of more than 67,000 fans at U.S. Bank Stadium was enough inspiration for the Minnesota Vikings on New Year’s Eve.
It was about the only highlight of the night for the Vikings in a 33-10 blowout loss to the Green Bay Packers to fall to 7-9 on the season. Minnesota entered the night controlling its own destiny for a Wild Card spot in the NFC Playoffs after the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. After Sunday's loss, the Vikings fell to 10th in the NFC. They need a win at Detroit and a ton of help to get to the playoffs. The Vikings have lost five of their last six games and finished 2023 with one of their worst overall performances of the season.
"Not much to say other than we got outplayed and I gotta do a much better job preparing our team. Regardless of circumstance, we have to play better," Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said after the game. "This is going to be one that we really gotta take a long look at, it starts with me. I’m going to be the first one out in front of this thing fighting to make sure we don’t have any more performances like that."
The reality is the 2023 season likely ended when Cousins tore his Achilles at Green Bay on Oct. 29. The Vikings haven’t had consistent quarterback play since. Sunday night, Jaren Hall got his second start of the season and was 5-of-10 for 67 yards, one interception and lost a fumble. The Packers turned both of those turnovers into touchdowns on the way to a 23-3 lead by halftime.
Hall was also sacked three times as the Vikings generated just 81 first half yards, and O’Connell had no choice but to go back to Nick Mullens for the second half. Mullens led Minnesota’s only touchdown drive, hitting Johnny Mundt from six yards out early in the fourth quarter after NaJee Thompson recovered a muffed punt.
"Bottom line is you’ve got to do what’s best for the team and in that situation, that’s what it was. I just couldn’t get into a rhythm, spin the ball down field consistently," Hall said. "Just not giving myself a chance, not giving the guys a chance. They were always there and ready to make plays, and I just didn’t do them any favors. If I was the coach I would’ve made the same decision, that’s the bottom line."
"We had to give ourselves a chance, especially with where the score was at half. This isn’t about Jaren tonight. This isn’t about any one particular aspect of our team, ultimately I’ve got to be better for our group," O'Connell said. "We’ll look at it, all options are on the table."
So what do we think we know about the Vikings’ quarterback situation? Hall isn’t ready to be a full-time starter, Mullens is a career back-up and Joshua Dobbs likely isn’t on the roster in 2024. Cousins is the obvious choice, but that's a process that starts in the offseason when he becomes a free agent in March.
Jordan Love is quickly becoming the Packers’ future at quarterback, and his resurgence started after that Week 8 game at Lambeau Field against the Vikings. Sunday night, Love was 24-of-33 for 256 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another, doing whatever he wanted against Brian Flores’ beat up defense. Jayden Reed had six catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns, and Bo Melton had six catches for 105 yards and a score. Melton’s touchdown from nine yards out gave the Packers a 30-3 lead with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
Aaron Jones added 20 carries for 120 yards on the ground. Minnesota’s defense allowed 470 total yards on the night and allowed Green Bay’s wide receivers to get open all over the field, with no pressure to speak of on Love. It’s as deflating a performance as the Vikings have had all season, with everything still to play for.
Not anymore. The 2023 season likely ends next Sunday at Detroit, with the Lions still battling for the No. 2 seed in the NFC. O’Connell has tried every button he can push without Cousins, but he’s out of answers.
The Vikings did not defend their home field in any way in 2023, going 2-6 at U.S. Bank Stadium. Their path to a playoff spot starts with a win over the Lions. They also need the Bears to beat the Packers, the Cardinals to beat the Seahawks and the Panthers to beat Tampa Bay, or the Falcons to beat the Saints.
"I’ve learned that this group responds to adversity, they respond to tough circumstances. Whatever has happened, they’ve come back and gone to work every single week. They love one another in that locker room," O'Connell said. "I told them after the game I wasn’t good enough tonight. There will be no acceptance of a result like this."