It took the Minnesota Vikings a while to get going against the Jets in New York, but by the end of the game, they did what they should have against a team with a rookie quarterback, defeating them 37-17 in very windy MetLife Stadium. The wind was a factor in this game, as it affect a lot of what both quarterbacks were trying to do, but in the end, the Vikings defense held serve long enough for the offense to catch up and put the Jets away.
The defense gave the offense a big assist with four turnovers, and the offense took advantage of it with 27-second half points. Latavius Murray had two rushing touchdowns, Adam Thielen tied another record and Kirk Cousins did enough to get the win.
The victory puts the Vikings at 4-2-1 and vaults them into first place in the NFC North (the Chicago Bears lost a heartbreaker at home to the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers were on bye), and they return home next week to face the hard-charging New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. That will be a huge game that have us witnessing the Minneapolis Miracle over and over all week.
Kirk Cousins returns to New York, where during the offseason he did a potential marriage dance with the Jets brass but he left them waiting at the alter. The Jets fans, thanks to an incendiary and silly New York Post article about Cousins this week, were roiled and rabid and they appeared to get to him a bit—that and all the wind at MetLife Stadium (perhaps all that screaming at Cousins was causing the wind).
Cousins wasn’t able to do much to quiet the angry throng—in fact some bad decisions (throwing to a covered Rudolph in the endzone), bad throws (one that fell a good seven yards short of a receiver), and batted down passes didn’t help. But Cousins fought through it all to go 25 of 40 for 241 yard and two touchdown passes for a quarterback rating of 95.9. Once again, not his best performance, but a gutty one that got the win.
At halftime of the Vikings game, the FOX talking heads were debating whether or not Adam Thielen is a top-five receiver in the league. What the H-E-double hockey sticks?! Is this the first game they’ve seen of his this season? The dude is amazing. His stats put him there; his amazing catches put him there. And the fact that he goes after everything and tries to catch anyway he can seals the deal. Thielen appears to understand (maybe due to his past) that every opportunity is a resume builder (or destroyer) and he will never give up on a pass. Thus the 34-yard touchdown pass in very good coverage as he was falling to the turf in the end zone. On the day, Thielen caught nine passes for 110 yards and tied the all-time NFL record for seven consecutive games with 100 yards receiving to start a season. Yes, Adam Thielen is easily one of the top-five receivers in the league—and a blast to watch play football.
The Vikings defense was short-handed on Sunday with no Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen, Andrew Sendejo and Mike Hughes in the game. But thanks to plenty of Sheldon Richardson, a good game by Trae Waynes, some turnover work by Harrison Smith, Holton Hill, Waynes and a group fumble recovery, they managed to thwart Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold (most of the game). They held the Jets to two of 13 in first down conversion (although the wind something to do with it as the Vikings weren’t any better—two of 15 third down conversions. But the defense (four turnovers and three sacks) was the MVP of this game.
The Vikings offensive line, despite the loss of guard Tom Compton during the game and Riley Reiff on the shelf, played a pretty good game. The rushing game never really got going until the second half when they opened big holes for Latavius Murray on his 11-yard and 38-yard touchdown runs (he had 69 yards on 15 carries). But the line did give Cousins enough time to make plays—even though the offense didn’t make a lot of them. They only surrendered one sack and 11 hurries. They gave Cousins time to also find Aldrick Robinson for Cousins’ second touchdown pass (a 34-yarder) and generally kept him from too much duress. The depth on the line has held up, and seems to be getting a little better each week.
Overall, Special teams is playing much better than they did early in the season. Save for a couple kickoff returns, they had good coverage, particularly when Jayron Kearse nearly recovered a muffed punt. There was a good scheme with two returners back to receive punts in the wind. And Marcus Sherels continued to make people miss.
In addition, punter Matt Wile had a great day punting in extremely windy conditions. He hit a 63-yarder with the wind to turn the field position to the Vikings’ favor in a time when they needed it, and a 66-yarder against the wind (one that the Jets should have caught) were both of great benefit to the team. The special teams unit as a whole has really turned around opening season woes and become an asset rather than a hindrance to the team.
Placekicker Dan Bailey also had a decent day in the wind—which was definitely a factor in this game. Bailey missed his third field goal of the season, which makes six on the season for the team, but it was clear the wind hit it hard and shoved it wide left. On the day, he made three of four kicks (with a long of 43 yards) and four extra points, but only because he spent time before the game and during halftime trying to figure out the wind. Bailey has been a huge addition to this team.
Should be Ending
Missed opportunities. The Vikings missed out on a couple punting miscues that could have turned into turnovers. Jayron Kearse had his hands on a muffed punt and didn’t come up with it. Then the Jets punter dropped a snap but nobody was rushing him. Either of those potential turnovers could have resulted in possessions deep in New York territory and given the Vikings a lead. They were two unforced errors the Vikings didn’t capitalize in the first half. Turnovers can change a game, and opportunities don’t always present themselves like that.
More batted balls. Two in the first half, plus a couple tipped passes hurt the offense. The problems with Cousins’ passes being batted down at the line continued. In one manner, it says that the offensive line is holding, since the defenders are not getting in, rather being held up and then jumping up to block the throws. But there is nothing more frustrating for someone watching the game to see the play never happen. Put this with the fumbles in the category of things the Vikings need to figure out about their quarterback—and right soon.
Injuries are really starting to bite the Vikings. The Vikings came in shorthanded on defense and left the game even worse so. Linebacker Anthony Barr left the game with an injured hamstring and Xavier Rhodes was helped off the field, unable to put any weight on his left ankle. That injury depletes the depth in the secondary that is already down cornerback Mike Hughes for the season. Couple them with the loss of Compton and it was a tough day injury-wise for the Purple.