It seems like we all knew the 2022 Minnesota Vikings magic would run out at some point. The team produced a 13-4 regular season record, but getting there took a 61-yard field goal in the first Vikings-Giants game, the biggest comeback in NFL history, and 11 one-score games. That’s why it is not a shock that in the Vikings Wild Card matchup with the Giants, the luck finally ran out. The Giants won the game 31-24 (another one-score game), and as the Vikings head to the offseason to regroup for 2023, we’ll look at Vikings players like Erick Kendricks, Danielle Hunter, and Kirk Cousins, who were most to blame for this loss.

3. Eric Kendricks

It’s not totally fair to blame linebacker Eric Kendricks for the Vikings Wild Card loss, but the entire Vikings run defense wouldn’t fit in the picture above.

If you don’t want to blame just Kendricks, you can also say the Giants running for 142 yards on the day is on head coach Kevin O’Connell and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell for not figuring out a way to slow down Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones.

Barkley and Jones’ legs have been the driving force of the Giants offense all season. The last time the two teams met, back in Week 16, the Vikings did a slightly better job, holding the rushing attack to 126 yards on the ground. However, that game script was much different as the Giants trailed nearly the entire game.

It’s no secret what the Giants’ game plan is these days, and Kendricks and the Vikings D just failed to stop it on Sunday. That is one major factor in this Vikings-Giants upset. The silver lining for Kendricks, though, is that he and his run defense isn’t as much at fault as Kirk Cousins or Danielle Hunter.

2. Kirk Cousins

In the NFL — fair or not fair — the majority of the credit and blame goes to the quarterback. The Vikings Wild Card game is no exception, which is why Kirk Cousins is No. 2 on this list.

Cousins didn’t have a bad game by any means. His final stat line was 31-of-39 for 273 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions, per ESPN. That type of slow and steady, efficient performance is good enough to win in the league most weeks. The playoffs are a different animal, though.

The biggest reason Cousins’ stat line is so efficient is that he pumped the ball underneath to his tight end, T.J. Hockenson, who had 10 catches and 129 yards. That’s great, but it was at the expense of the best wider receiver in the game today, Justin Jefferson.

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The third-season superstar did have seven catches, but they went for just 47 yards, which means Cousins didn’t take enough deep shots to the WR who made the contested catch of the season in the team’s Week 10 win against the Buffalo Bills.

Kirk Cousins did enough this season and even in this Vikings-Giants game to come back next season. However, this weekend was telling of his limitations.

On Super Wild Card Weekend, we saw Trevor Lawrence, Josh Allen, and even seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy throw it all around the yard when their teams needed them. That’s not Cousins, which begs the question, can the team ever win it all with him under center?

1. Danielle Hunter

It’s one thing to let Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones beat you with their feet. It’s another thing to make Jones look like Peyton Manning (or even Eli Manning) in the pocket, but that’s what the Minnesota pass rush allowed in the Vikings Wild Card game.

In the first Vikings-Giants matchup, Danielle Hunter was a madman, racking up 2.0 sacks, four QB hits, and a forced fumble. He terrorized rookie left tackle Evan Neal and then chased Jones all around the field.

On Sunday, Neal and Jones got the better of Hunter, and that was a major key to the game. It is what allowed Jones to go 24-of-35 for 301 yards and two touchdowns. And that’s not including a massive Darius Slayton drop with just over three minutes left in the game that would have put the matchup away earlier.

Now, it’s not just Hunter’s fault, and he did have a sack and two QB hits. However, the way the Giants line improved since the teams last played and how they handled the Minnesota D this game is the story of the game.

If you don’t want to single out Eric Kendricks above or Danielle Hunter here, the other option is just blaming DC Ed Donatell, which many Vikings-specific outlets and personalities are doing this morning.

We’ll see how much Kevin O’Connell blames Donatell soon if he brings him back for next season.