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NFL: Vikings still on track for playoffs, but questions persist

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings remain on a clear track for the playoffs, closer in perception to the four teams ahead of them in the NFC than the pack behind.

After their setback in Seattle on Monday night, though, there’s a persistent question about whether they can produce a complete, winning performance on the road against the league’s elite.

That’s the scenario the Vikings (8-4) will probably find themselves in the postseason next month, if they avoid a late collapse. The biggest concern, believe it or not, might be whether the defense is still capable of delivering.

Though the offense had two turnovers the Seahawks turned into 10 points toward the 37-30 victory and the defense pitched in a touchdown of its own, the Vikings allowed the most points against them in 24 games. Only five times in six seasons under coach Mike Zimmer have they given up a higher score.

“I think we have a football team that can go on the road in a tough environment and get a win,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “I think this was an opportunity that we missed, and that’s disappointing. I think tonight we were able to at least show resilience, and we’re going to need that.”

Here’s a closer look at the Vikings entering the last quarter of the regular season:

What’s working

The red zone offense. The Vikings rank third in the NFL with a 68.3% touchdown rate on possessions that advance past the 20-yard line, converting on both such drives at Seattle. Last year, they were just 21st in the league with a 54% touchdown rate.

What needs help

The run defense. Though the season-long performance against the pass has been a greater concern, the Vikings were vulnerable on the ground far too many times as Seattle gained 218 yards, a season most against them. The average of 5.1 yards per rush allowed was their third-highest total this year, with the Seahawks frequently using a third tackle for more blocking power.

“I thought they would be throwing the ball a little bit more than they did,” coach Mike Zimmer said.

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