INDIANAPOLIS — Before Sunday, the Vikings had played the Colts only one other time in Mike Zimmer’s tenure as head coach, losing 34-6 in 2016 at U.S. Bank Stadium that ranked as one of their most bewildering efforts of a season where they went from 5-0 to missing the playoffs.
The Vikings team that lost 28-11 to the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday is not yet in a position where the postseason is at stake, and it might not get to that point with efforts like the one it turned in on Sunday.
For the first time in Zimmer’s seven-year tenure, the Vikings are 0-2, starting at three consecutive games against 2019 playoff teams. And after they spent much of the offseason talking about the stability of their offense, it was that side of the ball where the Vikings most appeared to have few answers.
Minnesota averaged just 3.7 yards on 47 offensive plays, falling behind the Colts 28-3 before a late Dalvin Cook touchdown.
“They got after us pretty good today,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t control the ball offensively, we didn’t make plays defensively. … We’re going to have to get a lot better quickly.”
Midway through the fourth quarter, quarterback Kirk Cousins had a 1.5 passer rating, which would have trailed only Gary Cuozzo’s 0.0 rating as the worst in franchise history by a quarterback with at least 15 attempts. He finished with a 15.9 mark, the ninth-worst in Vikings history.
The first of his three interceptions was a deep ball to Adam Thielen into double coverage. His second came on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. His third was behind Bisi Johnson on a slant that bounced off the receiver’s hands. And for the second straight week, he was sacked in the Vikings’ end zone for a safety.
“We are doing things to beat ourselves, with the turnovers, sacks, safeties, penalties on third down,” Zimmer said.
Minnesota opened the game with Cousins hitting Thielen for a pair of first downs, before the Colts’ Denico Autry hit the quarterback as he threw for a 15-yard penalty. Dalvin Cook’s 16-yard gain gave the Vikings first and goal at the Colts’ 8, but the Vikings called a red-zone series that suggested they didn’t think they could pound the ball into the end zone against Indianapolis’ front.
Cousins lined up in the shotgun with both C.J. Ham and Cook in the backfield, handing off to Ham for a four-yard gain. Then, Colts tackle Taylor Stallworth quickly shed a block to stuff Cook for a one-yard gain, before Cousins threw incomplete for Kyle Rudolph out of an empty backfield on third down.
Dan Bailey’s 21-yard field goal would be the only points the Vikings would score until 5:20 left in the game.
Asked what the offense can do better, Cook said, “Everything.”
After the Packers ran for 158 yards last week, the Colts lined up with little doubt about how they planned to approach the Vikings. Former Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor carried 11 times on an opening drive that ended when Harrison Smith broke up a pass Philip Rivers intended for tight end Mo Alie-Cox, tipping it to Eric Wilson for an interception.
The Colts would run the ball 37 times for 151 yards before Rivers ended the game with a series of kneel-downs.