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Bob Sansevere: Vikings listless in most disappointing finale of all

A Minnesota Vikings looks on during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 30. Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Vikings had every reason, every incentive, to play their best game of the season in the last game of the season. It was simple: Win and they’re in the playoffs. Adrenaline should have been surging through every vein of every Viking.

Instead, they have us quoting Homer Simpson yet again, “I’ve seen teams suck before, but they were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.”

There is no gray area after Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings left not even a splinter of doubt. They do not belong in the playoffs.

Except for a few too-brief moments, their performance was pathetic and their attitude was apathetic.

In a game they needed to win to assure themselves of a wild-card spot, the Vikings (8-7-1) came out flat and lacked the kind of oomph a team with postseason aspirations must have.

“I don’t know what the scale of disappointment is,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “We’re disappointed. We weren’t ready for it to end.”

You want to talk scale?

Considering how close the Vikings got to the Super Bowl last season, and the heightened expectations for this season after signing Cousins, it can go down as the most disappointing season in franchise history.

“We prepared our (butts) off,” tight end Kyle Rudolph. “I don’t think anyone thought it’d be over today.”

The Philadelphia Eagles are thrilled, of course. They get into the playoffs because the Vikings didn’t. That’s two seasons in a row now the Eagles and their fans can mock, ridicule and thank the Vikings for not showing up.

Cousins was brought here with the hope he would lift the Vikings into the Super Bowl after they came so close last season. On Sunday, hope was scaled back to just winning and reaching the postseason.

When it came time to step up, Cousins fell flat. Only the Dow Jones had a worse outing in the past week. And the Dow, unlike Cousins, rallied.

Cousins was sacked four times and threw for a measly 132 yards. Yeah, there was a touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs. Whoopee, right?

Cousins had decent statistics this season except from the most vital statistic of all: Wins. Anyone who wants to tie Cousins’ troubles to the offensive line, go ahead. That was some of it.

This was more of it: When the Vikings needed Cousins to come up big this season, he came up small. Money changes some people. Unfortunately for the Vikings, it didn’t change Cousins. He’s still the quarterback the Redskins decided wasn’t worth keeping.

You should have heard him after the game, rationalizing away the failed season. “This is only year one,” Cousins said. “Give me another year.”

He went on to say layers will be added to the offense and it will get better and blah, blah, blah. He had more excuses than big plays Sunday.

It would be unfair, though, to blame just Cousins for the loss and the lost season. There is plenty to go around.

The defense that was supposed to be the backbone of this team? Well, it was far from that Sunday, and too many other days, too.

There is no disputing the enormity of this game for the Vikings. It was must-win, just like the NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia about a year ago. Both times, this game and that one in Philly, the Vikings looked uninspired and got plowed.

And that’s on the head coach. Mike Zimmer’s job is to make sure his players make plays and are in the proper mindset. He has not shown he can jolt players out of the malaise they seem to be in when they play in big games.

Presumably, inspirational speeches aren’t his thing. Knute Rockne, he ain’t.

“Again, we didn’t play good enough to win,” Zimmer said after the Chicago loss.

Again, they failed. He failed.

There will be changes in the offseason, attempts to upgrade several positions. Of course, positions are easier to upgrade than putting an entire team into the collective right frame of mind.

Zimmer has to become a better coach and, somehow, figure out how it make the Vikings a better team.

To quote another television icon, Jerry Seinfeld, “Good luck with all that.”