MINNEAPOLIS. The Minnesota Vikings have made life difficult for anyone who wants to declare once and for all whether they are “real”.
The Vikings have won seven games in a row to start this season 8-1.
But they were all games with one score. And they’ve played with three backup quarterbacks and only three teams that currently have series winning records.
They beat Super Bowl favorites Buffalo Bills in overtime in a wild signature game in Week 10.
But would that have happened if quarterback Josh Allen hadn’t fumbled the snap on his goal line with 49 seconds left, a Joe Pisarczyk moment these days?
On Sunday, the debate could finally, fortunately, end. If the Vikings had beaten the Dallas Cowboys at home, they would have undoubtedly moved into the top tier of the NFL.
Even a close loss would keep them high. Instead, the Vikings suffered the second-worst home loss in team history, a 40-3 rout that fueled everyone who thought their record was a mirage.
Coach Kevin O’Connell subsequently admitted that “many stories” would accompany his team during the short week of preparation for Thursday’s game against the New England Patriots (8:20 pm ET, NBC). The question, however, is whether these narratives will be fair.
“I don’t think we can worry about these things,” O’Connell said. “I just know that every week in this league is another opportunity to really prove who you are. As a football team, I don’t think we made it. [Sunday]. I don’t think we gave ourselves a chance to compete. In a short week, we have a lot of things to fix.”
However, even after defeating the Bills, the Vikings have historically been downplayed. On Sunday they lost to the Cowboys at home by two points, the first time since 1976 that an NFL team was 8-1 or better.
A simple loss at home to the Cowboys (7-3) would not in itself be a devastating or shocking outcome. But the historical nature of the Sunday margin deserves further study.
There has only been one game in NFL history where a team that hit at least seven games over .500 lost at home by more points. It happened in the final week of the 1961 season when the San Diego Chargers lost 41-0 to the Boston Patriots. It was also the second-highest defeat rate in the Super Bowl era—home or away—for a team that suffered one or fewer lesions after 10 weeks; worst was 42 points (45-3) from the New York Jets in 1986 to the Miami Dolphins.
The difference in loss didn’t faze quarterback Kirk Cousins, who called the game a “disappointing outcome” but added, “What I’ve learned in this league over the years is that they all count as one. The points difference doesn’t end there. We have to find a way to move forward so we can win and play much better than today.”
Several players made sure to note that the Vikings record remains 8-2. The truth is, they still have a 99.7% chance of making the playoffs, according to the Sportzshala Football Power Index, thanks to a poor year at the NFC North.
But they have two winning-record teams next on their schedule: the Patriots (6-4) and the New York Jets (6-4) in Week 13. And any assessment of their competitiveness compared to the league must include another historical fact. : This is the first team in NFL history to go 8-2 or better with a negative point margin (minus two).
This startling revelation speaks to both the rarity of their winning streak and the sound nature of their two losses: 17 points to the Philadelphia Eagles and 37 points to the Cowboys.
Receiver Adam Thielen suggested that “sometimes these games are only good to wake you up a bit”. Thielen went on to say, “You must bring this. And you have to find a way to show your best football. It doesn’t matter if you feel pain, fatigue or injury. You have to find a way to mentally play your best football. Otherwise, what happened tonight will happen.”
In truth, the NFL almost never loses 37 points to 8-1 teams. More than anything, Sunday speaks to the particularly low margin of error that this team must balance in order to win.
As noted many times this season, the Vikings won when they dominated the small and undervalued parts of the game that added up to the outcome. When they didn’t, they were blown up – and on Sunday in a historic way.