When the Minnesota Vikings lost 14-7 on Sunday to the Detroit Lions, they lost more than just an early-season divisional game. In the third quarter, rookie running back Dalvin Cook broke off a 10-yard run. When he made a cut, though, his left knee buckled, he fumbled the ball in the process, and he was out for the game. According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Cook suffered an almost complete tear of his ACL on the play. While the outcome of the game was yet to be decided, Vikings fans everywhere wondered about their long-term fortunes for the 2017 season. At 2-2, where the team goes from here will determine if they can return to the playoffs or falter much like they did in their 2016 campaign. Let’s take a look at three Vikings takeaways from week four’s game.
Week Four Minnesota Vikings Takeaways
Cook’s Injury Tests Running Back Depth
While it’s obvious that the Vikings will miss Cook and his 354 rushing yards, what is not so obvious is what the team will do with backups Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray. McKinnon has been the team’s primary kick returner and has been mediocre at best in that role. While spelling Cook, he hasn’t done much out of the backfield in four games.
Murray, meanwhile, hasn’t made much impact after signing with the Vikings this off-season. After Cook left the game Sunday with 13 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown, Murray carried seven times for only 31 yards. Even though he is still trying to get back to full-speed after having off-season ankle surgery, he lacks the burst that Cook possesses and isn’t as big of a weapon in the passing game. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will need to find a way to utilize a questionable running back tandem.
Lopsided Time of Possession
When looking at the box score, much of the stat line was fairly even across the board. Two stats jump out, though in this game: the Lions held the ball for over 36 minutes and forced three turnovers while the Vikings failed to capitalize on passes that hit four different defenders in the hands.
One drive before Cook fumbled and ultimately tore his ACL, McKinnon mishandled a read-option out of the Wildcat formation, giving the Lions a short field to kick a field goal. Cook’s fumble set up another touchdown drive. So even though the Vikings got the ball to start the second half, the Lions had the ball for six of the first seven minutes of the half.
And while none of the potential interceptions thrown by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford were necessarily easy, Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes could have intercepted a pass in the endzone on the Lions lone touchdown drive that could have salvaged a disastrous beginning to the second half. One play later, Lions running back Ameer Abdullah ran in a three-yard touchdown, giving the Lions the go-ahead touchdown that ultimately decided the game.
The Quarterback Case is Far from Closed
Vikings quarterback Case Keenum fell back down to Earth one week after having the best game of his professional career. Keenum went 16-of-30 passing for 219 yards and no touchdowns. He didn’t turn the ball over, but he still didn’t provide the Vikings ideal quarterback play.
What’s worse is that the team was only 3-of-10 on third down conversions, also factoring into the lopsided time of possession. Keenum also took a sack when the Vikings faced a third-and-goal at the Lions three-yard line that put Minnesota in a poor spot for a desperation fourth down attempt at the 14-yard line. Keenum then flushed left and threw an uncatchable pass out of the back of the endzone.
With starting quarterback Sam Bradford‘s availability likely in question again leading up to next Monday’s tilt against the Chicago Bears, the Vikings may need to lean on Keenum again and hope that they can have him closer to how he was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week three. And with former starter Teddy Bridgewater set to return to practice in two weeks, an already murky quarterback situation is set to get murkier, even if Keenum or Bradford can look more like Fran Tarkenton than Tarvaris Jackson.