Vikings fans, team stung by playoff defeat

Vikings player throws pass
Minnesota Vikings' Kirk Cousins throws during the second half of an NFL wild card football game against the New York Giants Sunday.
Bruce Kluckhohn | AP Photo

The Minnesota Vikings’ season is over, after the New York Giants won 31 to 24 in Sunday’s wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

But before the loss, Vikings fans were out early Sunday enjoying the playoff buzz. Winona, Minn. resident Ella Geiger-Schutz is the sole Vikings fan in a family that favors the Green Bay Packers.

“I started watching their game play this year and it’s been really exciting compared unfortunately to our Packers’ game play,” Geiger-Schutz said. “And it’s just a great atmosphere, the fans are amazing, and I love the team.”

During the game, the team posted an earlier quote from New York center Nick Gates calling Vikings fans “too nice” and not able to compete with Giants fans in the noise department. The crowd responded with roars that hit in the 120s decibel-wise, at least according to stadium measurements.

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The Vikings scored first but were quickly matched. And from then on, the Vikings tried to catch the Giants, but fell short for most of the game. The Vikings managed to tie the game at one point. But then New York’s Saquon Barkley scored his second touchdown with under eight minutes in the game. The Vikings were unable to come up with a dramatic performance as in the past, including against the Giants with Greg Joseph’s franchise record-setting 61-yard field goal to cap the Christmas Eve contest.

Coach Kevin O’Connell said the team did not have the explosive plays and could not catch up in the end. And he said all parts of the team could improve next season.

The loss, he said, stung.

“This team was as competitive as any group, as I’ve been around from a standpoint of each and every time, they took the field with the expectation to win, it did not always go our way, but these guys battled for 13 wins,” O’Connell said. “There are a lot of things that I am very, very fortunate and excited about moving forward with this team currently and where we can take it moving forward from here.”

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins says the loss was among the more painful of his career. He knew fans expected the team to pull out another win.

“There was always belief, you know at halftime or even when we were down 17 - 7 and then clawed our way back, there was always belief and I think that's why it hurts because you expect to find a way. Especially the way this team has gone all year, you expect to find a way," he said.

Cousins says he’s unsure of what’s ahead for the Vikings when players who came together well this year could be on other teams next season. The quarterback was asked if he’ll return.

“I have a really hard time focusing on beyond right now, but it’s an easy question to answer in the sense that I love being a Minnesota Viking. It’s a privilege to play here and to play with that group and those coaches,” Cousins said. “So that’s the way it will always be for me.”

After the game, Laura Omaha emerged from a bar near 4th and Park Avenue still wearing her Viking horned helmet. The Minneapolis resident seemed dejected.

“It’s always next year, next year we’ll get it, next year we’ll do it. I love my boys. I’ll always be a Viking fan. That’s the sad part,” Omaha said with a resigned laugh.