Yay, I guess?
If I had told you going into Thursday Night that the Vikings defense would hold the Washington Redskins without a touchdown, you’d not only be happy but you’d feel like it was what good defenses should do and considering how easily the Lions moved the ball (and scored) on this unit a few days ago, one could say that’s borderline ecstatic news. Right? Well, apparently not, because while the Vikings defense did just that, it took some late drive heroics multiple times and (perhaps) an injury to the ‘Skins’ starting quarterback in the, from what we did see, highly motivated Case Keenum, for the Vikings to achieve that stat on the way to their 19-9 final score in Minneapolis Thursday night, bringing their record to 6-2 on the season.
Keenum played well against the Vikings, especially when between the 10’s, going 12-of-16 for 130 yards. Speaking of former Vikings, Adrian Peterson showed that he still had something in the tank, as he piled up 76 yards on 14 carries (for a healthy 5.4 average, which was good enough for him to pass the likes of LaDanian Tomlinson and Jerome Bettis on the all-time rushing leader list). Peterson also added 27 yards on two catches, something that was missing from his game while he was wearing purple and gold.
Keenum left the game with a concussion after half-time, though, and was replaced by rookie Dwayne Haskins, who while one of the bests performing quarterbacks in the country last season for Ohio State, had only played 22 games at that position at State and is mostly considered to be a high-end ceiling project. Haskins mostly looked overwhelmed on 3-of-5 passing (for only 33 yards) and the Vikings controlled the game from that point forward. Mike Harris nabbed his third interception on the season (leading the team) on a sailed pass by Haskins, which was essentially the final nail in the coffin for the ‘Skins in Minneapolis.
That’s not to say that the entire game was comfortable, especially with the Vikings (head coach Mike Zimmer) gifting the ‘Skins amazing field position by going for it on fourth-and-1 from their own ~30-yard line. But, really… We should be happy with that result. The Vikings are 6-2 with nine days until the Vikings face Kansas City at Arrowhead (with or without superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who was recently reintroduced to his own knee cap), so I don’t want to be hyper negative as the Vikings were 2-2 a month ago with people calling for massive changes in Eagan, and while this wasn’t the most efficient game, there was a lot to be happy with.
Dalvin Cook not only had another monster game (with 98 yards on 23 carries, for a decent 4.2 average and another 73 yards from 5 catches for a 20.4 average) but also showed that he was the heart of this Vikings offense by willing himself into the end-zone with a super clutch touchdown just before half-time that really helped turn the tide.
Before that touchdown, the Vikings were tied with the ‘Skins 6-6, thanks to a couple of Dan Bailey field goals. Considering that the ‘Skins had averaged six points in its last four games TOTAL, it wasn’t necessarily the most reassuring thing to watch that they’d been moving the ball well and had reached their typical final total before half-time.
Then Keenum went down and we all sighed mightily (although it wouldn’t necessarily be the least Vikings thing ever for Haskins to have come off the bench and thrown for 400 yards in the second half). Before that, though, the defense was doing it’s ‘Bend but don’t Break’ thing, often stopping the ‘Skins near the 10-yard line with heroics from players like Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks.
They do deserve some credit for that, as one could argue that they were just taking it easy thanks to the short week and when they really needed to step up, they did. However, that’s not really the sort of thing that screams “Zimmer’s Defense” or even a “Championship Defense” and so perhaps I’m just trying to squeeze something positive out of what was otherwise a mediocre night all around on the defensive side of the ball (which sounds really nitpicky considering the final score, but I think you know what I mean as even Troy Aikman was essentially saying the same thing, as was Zimmer before half-time when he called the defense “Soft”).
There were actually some more positives from the night though. Cousins continued his amazing run, going 23/26 for 285 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. The Vikings didn’t punt once all night for the first time in about 15 seasons. However, they often stalled once they reached the red-zone or X-and-Goal situations, thanks to yet another turnover by Stefon Diggs as well as at least six holding penalties from the Vikings offensive line (thanks mostly to a terrible night by new left guard Pat Elflein, who will get a ton of bad (internet) ink this week, rightfully).
Diggs did step up in Thielen’s absence outside of that fumble, though. He ended his night with 143 yards on 7 grabs (for a 20.4 average), with two big grabs that he turned into even bigger plays thanks to his amazing speed and yards after the catchability. He failed to wrap up the ball in the first quarter, though, and the ball was stripped and recovered by the ‘Skins defense. He seemingly learned his lesson later in the game by wrapping up on a similar play, but with the fumble last week (that was recovered by the Vikings) and the interception the week before that bounced off of his hands/face-mask, perhaps Diggs is rethinking his approach to Cousins’ struggles after the Bears game?
Rookie tight end Irv Smith Jr. and Kyle Rudolph both had 3 catches (for 21 and 17 yards, respectively), with rookie receiver ‘Bisi Johnson nabbing two balls for 27 yards.
The success of the Vikings offense, though (and again), seemed to be dictated by what Cook and especially towards the end of the game, rookie Alexander Mattison who had a decent night (he had 13 runs for 61 yards (4.7 yards per)) and who would’ve had an even bigger night if not for a couple decent runs being called back thanks to penalty flags.
There were a lot of flags tonight as well and while you can’t argue when they’re attempting to protect the players we all root for with calls for hits to the head or helmet-to-helmet, this game could be used as yet another example of the NFL throwing far too many flags and thus slowing the game WAY down. The crowd at US Bank Stadium clearly tired of all the yellow, booing the last penalty on the night on the Vikings. They probably would’ve booed sooner but a lot of the big flags ended up helping the Vikings, as the ‘Skins were flagged for multiple helmet-to-helmet type penalties during the contest, adding 15 yards to already big plays by the Vikes.
The Vikings, again, have nine full days before facing the Chiefs in Arrowhead. They’ve won four games straight after starting the season 2-2, which sounds awfully familiar. While things weren’t perfect they were clearly the better team on the field Thursday night and while things weren’t as smooth as we’d like, we will all mostly wake up tomorrow thinking positive thoughts and looking forward to a week-and-a-half of positive Vikings news!
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