NFL: Super Bowl LVIII-San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsYet again, Patrick Mahomes proved that he was operating at a wholly different level.

San Francisco had a phenomenal roster. The defensive line was ferocious and their skill was second to none. Fred Warner is a monster at linebacker and Trent Williams is still (arguably) the league’s greatest left tackle. And while he isn’t without flaw, Brock Purdy is an excellent QB who can run the Kyle Shanahan offense with reasonable proficiency. Add it all together and it still wasn’t good enough. Mahomes led his team to a second-consecutive Lombardi a week ago. Do the Vikings even have a chance?

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Warren Sharp did a pretty good job of laying out what made Kansas City’s triumph so discouraging for the rest of the NFL.

The listed problems include the QB having the league’s largest cap hit. There was the youth and uncertainty at wide receiver (and maybe a drop of two along the way). The offensive line took a step back. There was no 1st-round bye. There were several road games as underdogs while travelling through the AFC gauntlet. And, of course, there were several other hurdles. In the end, it doesn’t even matter (as Linkin Park once said).

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Minnesota VikingsOct 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws a pass as Minnesota Vikings linebacker Pat Jones II (91) defends during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Go ahead and consider the opponents Kansas City overcame. Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins, Josh Allen and the Bills, and then Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Pretty decisively, those three teams were better than Minnesota and yet still fell short in the playoffs.

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And then there’s San Francisco, the team that Minnesota wants to become. Kyle Shanahan, a brilliant coach, had basically every advantage he could possibly hope for and yet still couldn’t take down Mr. Mahomes. The margin for error was remarkably thin and a few bad plays — the punt going off a blocker’s ankle, the missed PAT, the coverage bust on Travis Kelce — ended up making a world of difference in the game’s outcome.

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ersAug 25, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan looks on during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Kick things back by a year and consider the other team Kansas City defeated. Like San Francisco, Philadelphia was rallying behind a strong, up-and-coming, MVP-runner-up QB on a rookie deal. The Eagles’ defensive front was loaded with pass rushers and the secondary boasted some excellent coverage men. The talent on offense — A.J. Brown, Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith — was deep and highly skilled.

But, like San Francisco a year later, Philadelphia couldn’t get the job done. Where does that leave the Vikings moving forward, a team that’s a major step back from the 2022 Eagles and 2023 49ers?

Feb 12, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, US; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) throws a pass against Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (55) during the second quarter of Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah knows that he needs to absolutely crush the upcoming offseason. In his words: “I think, again, you want to get to a point from a depth, from a top end standpoint, where you can overcome the adversity we have. So right now, in the competitive rebuild, we want to get to a place where there’s no rebuild, right, it’s just competitive in a window, and I think we’re close to that. It’s going to take a big offseason. It’s why we’re going to be here a lot, and I think it’s important and its key, and I’m excited for the challenge.”

For a long time, the 2024 offseason always looked like a major transitional phase. Yes, much has already been done to overhaul the roster, but the GM has worked the team toward a point where decisions on Kirk Cousins, Danielle Hunter, Justin Jefferson, and Harrison Smith are all reaching climactic moments.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training CampJul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Somehow nailing these decisions will directly feed into Adofo-Mensah’s ability to do the other necessary work — namely, signing impact free agents and drafting excellent young players — that will make 2024 a season where Minnesota can not only get into the playoffs but compete once there.

If the day comes when Minnesota actually has a shot to take down Kansas City, then basically everything will need to go right. Over the past couple seasons, brilliant coaches got outdueled by Andy Reid (with a hearty portion of Steve Spagnuolo); absolutely loaded rosters got knocked down by Patrick Mahomes (with a hearty portion of Chris Jones and Travis Kelce). The Vikings, like every other team in the NFL, has been watching closely.

And while the Vikings cannot be intimidated or ever forfeit their desire to compete, the task that’s ahead — winning within Patrick Mahomes’ NFL — appears more challenging than ever.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.