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Can Vikings overcome all their close losses and save this season?

Is it a tribute to the Vikings that they have been in every game this season without an obvious clunker? Or is it a case that all of these close losses could potentially doom their season?

MINNEAPOLIS — In this roller coaster of a year, the Vikings could end up having a season like no other one this century.

All six of the Vikings’ losses have been by eight points or less. Since the start of 2000, Minnesota (5-6) has not had a season in which it did not lose a game by more than an one-possession total. In fact, the Vikings have lost at least one game by 13 points or more in each of the 21 previous seasons.

“I think that we can play with any team that we’ve played against,” cornerback Bashaud Breeland said Wednesday. “You look at those (losses), one key mistake … really kept us from winning those. If those go in our favor, we could be undefeated right now.”

Instead, the Vikings aren’t even in position to make the playoffs entering Sunday’s game at Detroit. They currently are No. 8 in the NFC playoff race, and seven teams will make the postseason.

Is it a tribute to the Vikings that they have been in every game this season without an obvious clunker? Or is it a case that all of these close losses could potentially doom their season?

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“I think if we would have had a clunker, it probably would have been last Sunday after an emotional win, going back to the West Coast, playing a good team on the road,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said of the 34-26 loss at San Francisco that followed a 34-31 home upset of Green Bay. “I think it shows this team likes to compete. We’ve got the right kind of guys that will go out there and compete each and every day, and hopefully we won’t have any of those clunkers. Hopefully, we win some by 13. That would be nice.”

The Vikings beat Seattle 30-17 in Week 3, their only game this season that has been decided by more than eight points. So, in one-possession games, they’re 5-5.

“I think back to some of the wins that we’ve had that have been close, as well,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “You know that if you’re able to squeeze a couple of those (other) games out, that you put yourself in a different position here down the stretch. …As Coach Zimmer has said, the preference is to not even make it close. … Let’s not leave it to the last play.”

The Vikings have six games remaining in the NFL’s first 17-game season. So far, they haven’t had a game this fall in which they didn’t have a chance to win entering the final minute.

That wasn’t the case in any of Zimmer’s first seven Minnesota seasons. His teams had losses by as many as 32 points in 2014, 31 in 2013, 28 in 2016, 17 in 2017, 21 in 2018, 13 in 2019 and 19 in 2020.

One notable cliffhanger of a season for the Vikings before this one was in 1999, when they finished 10-6. Of their victories, six were by eight points or less. All six of their losses were by seven points or less and they were by a combined total of 22 points.

The Vikings’ six losses this season have been by a combined total of 26 points. But at this point they would be hard pressed to reach the double-digit win mark that the 1999 team reached.

“We know we can play with anybody,” safety Harrison Smith said. “We’ve shown that. It’s about winning.”

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On Sunday, the Vikings might need a win to keep their season from going down the tubes. The Lions are 0-10-1 but they certainly have Minnesota’s attention.

In the first meeting between the teams, in Week 5 at U.S. Bank Stadium, the Vikings needed Greg Joseph’s 54-yard field goal on the final play of the game to defeat the lowly Lions 19-17.

“You can’t take them lightly,” Breeland said. “This is one of those games where you get hiccups. … They really want to … spoil our chances of getting the playoffs. We’ve got to hone in and treat this game like it’s a playoff game.”

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