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After a convincing defeat in Chicago and the resulting political fallout during the week, Minnesota responded with a better effort in New York, and clearly a better team.
We all know the routine that was hashed out in Minnesota after returning from Chicago. A tough loss revealed not only old problems, but some new ones all together.
Not addressing these problems might have been a grave mistake. But it’s clear they did so, and have a better football team because of the effort.
- The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease
Vikings’ wide receiver Adam Thielen spoke out against his team’s offensive play design–distinctly in not throwing the ball more in the Chicago game and the three games beforehand.
He did so without putting a name to any of it, but he did emphasize that he was upset about the plodding offensive example that OC Kevin Stefanski had set and QB Kirk Cousins had followed.
His receiving partner, Stefon Diggs, took a more adolescent route, cryptically missing practice and then standing in front of reporters chewing on the strings of his hoodie, “humbly” listing his virtues as a teammate and talent, while decrying the lack of communication between Vikings’ receivers and coaches.
Sunday’s New York results: Cousins throws the football 27 times, completes 22 passes for 307 yards and two receiving touchdowns in a game that the Vikings’ offense together acquires 490 total yards.
- Dalvin Cook–Not Just A Running Back
The NFL world now recognizes Vikings’ tailback Dalvin Cook as an elite talent that can break a game open with every touch of the ball. Because of the loss in Chicago and the resulting emotional demonstration of Minnesota’s receiving corps, everybody got the ball by air in New York, including Cook, who, as a rookie, was scouted as a player who needed work as a pass catcher.
He got that work on Sunday against New York, catching six balls for 86 yards, 14.3 yards a touch. On the day, Cook compiled 218 yards from scrimmage.
Defenses now have to focus on Cook as a true threat from out of the backfield and start to concentrate their best linebacker or safety upon him when Cousins steps back to pass.
- Alex Mattison Heads North
Unlike Dalvin Cook, Alex Mattison is a straight line runner; a sharp and punishing dart between gaps when gaps are there. On Sunday, Mattison took advantage of his time spelling Cook, an opportunity that may very well be enhanced by defenses sensing pass when Cook is out of the lineup.
This is an evolution of the offensive scheme that Gary Kubiak brought to Minnesota. Show pass, run. Show run, pass. Simple enough, but with a myriad of options.
- The Yin-Yang of Offensive and Defensive Football
Playing defense alongside an underachieving or inept offense is not only tiring, it’s disheartening.
In the Green Bay game in week two, after the Vikings’ spotted the Packers 21 points by starting the game off-balance, the Minnesota defense stoned Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense so many times that Lambeau Field started to look like a quarry.
Though the Vikings’ run attack was working, the pass game failed over and over. With only crucial minutes remaining, the Vikings’ defense again had to hit the field, ran out of gas and spirit, resulting in two Packers’ first downs to end the game.
Defense is not just a unit of players, it’s a squad of teammates and a group of fans. When “their” offense works, they eagerly get back to their own work with the conviction that the whole team is laboring and functioning together.
In point: Anyone watching the Giants game last Sunday saw Dalvin Cook rushing towards the end zone in the second quarter only to have the ball chopped out of his arm at the one-yard line. Immediately, the Viking D returned the ball to their hard-working and fruitful offense with a monster safety blitz.
Not only did the Viking sideline erupt with emotion, the offense got a shot-in-the-arm, took the Giants’ subsequent punt, moved down the field and scored again.
That’s a team in full swing.
The Sunny Side Of Purple
The Vikings could have landed in a deeper spot after the Chicago defeat. They could have lost a key player in the contest. They could have just skulked in separate corners and seen their deficiencies transgress.
They didn’t. After losing a problematic division contest that resulted in a barrage of hard questions and frustrated and apologetic responses, they addressed the problems–and also some of the frustrated responses, in house.
Adam Thielen was right, Stefanski and Cousins were off their mark. Facing the cold reality of it–instead of rationalizing the fact that the team was only 2-1 with a superior running game and without much to worry about–they did indeed take steps to correct the problem(s).
Sometimes it takes a problem to fix a bigger problem. The resulting cognizance and effort may begin to heal some inadequacy, eliminate some obstacle, or resolve some complication.
Which is the fifth and final reason the Vikings are a better team because that crazy week to begin October of 2019. Something was wrong and they’ve worked on resolving that dilemma.
On Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, the results of that effort will be put to the test. For now, this team should “enjoy” a thorough and demanding week of practice as a team who has now won one game in a row together.