Statistically, this was not necessarily a flattering game for the Vikings’ offense. The Miami Dolphins nearly doubled their offensive output. However, this was still a game where the better team won, and it was a reminder that some stats are significantly more critical than others.
Bend, Don’t Break
I mentioned in my preview that this was a game I was hoping we’d stick with the Donatell shell. And it was textbook. The Vikings gave up 458 yards of total offense; 329 of those yards came courtesy of former Viking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater finished the game after Skylar Thompson left early with a hand injury.
In part, Miami’s passing attack looked threatening due to Tyreek Hill’s huge game. He made 12 catches for 177 yards. Jaylen Waddle also broke the 100-yard mark, and by all accounts, the Dolphins on paper should have put up way more points. And yet, the Dolphins only mustered three first-half points and didn’t find the endzone until the fourth quarter on a pass from Bridgewater to TE Mike Gesicki. While I’m not saying the Vikings’ defense was perfect, they did show up when it mattered, and frankly, I don’t care how many yards we give up if the other team struggles to get to 16 points.
Odds And Evens
As I looked at the box score I noticed a strange stat in terms of scoring: the first and third quarters were “oddly” shut-outs, and all of the points were tallied in the second and fourth quarters. The Dolphins accounted for just 88 total yards in the first and third quarters combined, and five of their six drives ended in punts, with the other drive a turnover on downs.
The Vikings were not much better, with negative two total yards in the first and third quarters, except for their final drive of the quarter. This drive was a good one of 73 yards and was capped off with a two-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Adam Thielen. This may be a nothing stat to a lot of people, but it also highlights the need to score and play well when it matters most. The even quarters saw the Vikings and Dolphins put up all of the game’s points, and for the Vikings, that meant some very timely big plays.
Stats That Matter: Turnover Margin
The first half could have very well been a disaster for the Vikings. The Dolphins’ defense looked very stout, and the Vikings started the game with four straight three-and-outs. They would then score a touchdown on their fifth drive, but it was back to a three-and-out on what appeared to be their last drive before halftime.
The Dolphins, on the other hand, were moving the ball decently against the aforementioned “bend, don’t break” Vikings’ defense. They were only able to muster one made field goal, and one missed one before their final drive of the second quarter. But then the Vikings caught a break on Harrison Smith’s wild interception.
This pick gave the Vikings enough time to tack on a 34-yard field goal before half by Greg Joseph. This was a pretty decent momentum swing, especially considering the Dolphins started with the ball in the second half. The Vikings then finished +3 on the day, adding two more key takeaways in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins scored two touchdowns in the fourth, but the Vikings defense stripped Jaylen Waddle, and savvy veteran Patrick Peterson added a pick as well. Even though the Dolphins had moved the ball better than the Vikings, the Vikings’ offense at least protected the football, and the defense showed up with some big plays late.
Stats That Matter: Sacks
The Vikings had six sacks on the day, and it was encouraging to see them get consistent pressure throughout the game. They added 13 QB hits, and I think Vikings’ fans got a chance to see how effective this defense can be when they get to the quarterback.
Za’Darius Smith had two sacks; Danielle Hunter and Jordan Hicks each added one. But I’m most excited about the two sacks by Patrick Jones II. Filling in for D.J. Wonnum, who was out with an illness, Jones looked great rushing the quarterback, and I’m happy to see him fill the stat sheet as well. Here is his first sack, and it was at a crucial spot on the field with the Dolphins on the fringe of field goal range.
We don’t need to get six sacks every game, but boy would it be epic to see these guys take off! Our defense might just be figuring things out.
Stats That Didn’t Matter, Thankfully: Time Of Possession
Annoyingly, I’ve been all about the time of possession battle this year in Vikings’ games. I know it sounds very obvious, but I just like when our offense is on the field a lot more than the other team’s offense. See? Very obvious. But in Miami we were outpossessed significantly, 35 to 24 minutes.
Again, I reference our defense giving up a lot of yards, but not a lot of points. In general, I really like how our defense played. We could have been down by a lot after all of those three-and-outs in the first half, but our defense held. That said, I don’t like losing the time of possession battle because it leads to fatigue for the defense. It’s also hard to generate momentum when your offense is getting cold (or hot, because the Vikings’ sideline was criminally hot on Sunday) on the sideline. I’m just glad it didn’t cost us the game, but I don’t want to see this become a trend after the bye week.
Stats That Didn’t Matter, Thankfully: Three-And-Outs
The Vikings were a terrifying 2-12 on third down. It looks worse when you read that stat “The Vikings had 10 three-and-outs.” Thankfully, it didn’t cost us the game, but we have to be better in this department. The Vikings only had 11 total first downs, compared to the Dolphins’ 23, and that seems too low for success.
Again, we were the better team overall, and made more plays when it mattered. That said, I have to think this will be a hot topic in the film room as we prepare for Arizona in two weeks. This offense is too good to not move the ball. I’m not worried about this necessarily, because I think Miami has a really good defense. But, it is noteworthy, to say the least.
Stats That Didn’t Matter, Thankfully: Vikings’ Rushing Yards
The Vikings’ offense did not put up big numbers in general on Sunday. This is not exactly surprising given their amount of first downs. In fact, the Vikings’ offense only put up 234 total yards, which is not acceptable.
However, the reason I’m calling out the rushing yards specifically, is because of the 78 total rushing yards the Vikings had, 53 of those yards came on one play. Now, I will say again, that we made the big plays when it mattered. Those 53 yards came on this beastly run by Dalvin Cook.
But, without this run, Dalvin Cook averaged just over two yards per carry. This is something that really should not happen, and I think it will be hard to continue winning if this is our rushing production. The offense does, and should, run through Justin Jefferson, but we have to complement our passing game with a rushing attack that is at least somewhat feared by opposing defenses. This may all mean nothing if the Vikings had less three-and-outs, but it is worth bringing up as a talking point for how our squad can achieve continued success.
Individual Excellence Awards: Defense
Harrison Smith: two takeaways. Smith made that ridiculous INT in the first half, and then followed it up with the forced fumble on Jaylen Waddle that basically sealed the game.
Za’Darius Smith and Patrick Jones II: two sacks apiece. I know I’ve already mentioned these two guys, but it was awesome to see so many guys meet at the quarterback in this one. Also, two sacks in a game should be lauded.
Individual Excellence Awards: Offense
Justin Jefferson: In a game where the offense struggled to produce consistently, he managed to eclipse 100 yards for the third consecutive game. We are witnessing one of the best the Vikings have ever had, and he’s only in his third year. Even if the accolades are redundant, I will always recognize his greatness.
Irv Smith, Jr. catches his second touchdown of the season. I have been hard on him for a lack of contributions to the offense, but each week he looks more and more like the role player every good team needs. Seemingly always in the right spot, he only managed seven yards on his four catches, but his touchdown showed him executing a great play call perfectly.
Adam Thielen: He is now alone in fourth place all-time in Vikings’ receiving touchdowns with 51. He continues to contribute more or less, depending on team need, and I want to see him continue to move up the Vikings’ record books.
Shout-out To The Special Teams
Our special teams squad continues to be a huge positive for this team, and I want to make sure we are recognizing these guys. Rookie P Ryan Wright pinned six of his 10 punts inside the 20. While I wish he wasn’t punting so much, that percentage is lights out. Our punt coverage has also been good, and even Jalen Reagor had a 25-yard return in Miami, so we are seemingly always a net-positive when it comes to the field position battle.
And how big was this play?!?!
Metellus played 87% of the ST snaps in Week 6, and this play was AWESOME. He has been ready to play every time his name has been called, so I want to make sure we are noticing his contributions.
Stat That Mattered?
I am going to pretend that the heat in Miami caused the Vikings to start sluggishly. After all, it seemed as if the Dolphins had an unfair advantage.
I’m not ready to let the offense blame their three-and-outs on this, but this graphic is hilarious. And as a Minnesotan myself, I’d much rather play outside in cooler temps than in tropical temps.
The Vikings get a chance to rest and watch other teams scramble for wins while they sit and bask in a solid NFC North-leading position. My only qualm is that Philadelphia is also on bye, as I would like to see them suffer their first defeat.
Regardless, the Vikings return to US Bank Stadium to face the Arizona Cardinals on the Sunday before Halloween. I think this is a very winnable game, and like always, I will expect the Vikings offense to hit the field first and start with a touchdown drive. Until then, stay on The Daily Skol for more great Vikings’ content, and make sure to remind all of the Packers and Bears fans in your inner circle that we are 5-1, and they are not. Also, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, @Jlime8, or reach out to the whole crew @DailySkol. We would love to hear from fellow Vikings fans, SKOL!