The Vikings continued their winning streak and are now 7-1. After losses by the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings have a stranglehold on the NFC North. However, it was another nail-biter for the Vikings, though only some of that was due to their ineptitudes.
Commanders Had Luck On Their Side
I am not using this as an excuse for the Vikings barely winning; we need to be better, plain and simple. But having said that, Taylor Heinicke and the Commanders were playing with fire all game. They finally got burned, but not before they built a lead on the back of the back judge.
I could not believe the good fortune of the Commanders in this play. Cam Bynum would have most likely had an interception, or at worst, it should have been an incomplete pass. After this play, it was definitely starting to feel like “one of those days,” especially since the Vikings ended their first half with a pick in the endzone. The vibes I was getting just weren’t good, as I can also remember at least two missed pass interference calls off the top of my head. But I won’t dwell on it any longer. This Vikings squad overcame bad luck and penalties throughout the game but won anyway.
Our Pass Rush Is Our Best Team Attribute
The Vikings’ pass rush performance was one of the biggest reasons for Sunday’s victory. Whether it was sacking Taylor Heinicke, batting down balls at the line, or just the relentless pursuit of our guys up front, this Vikings’ pass rush shows how they can take games over.
The Vikings only sacked Taylor Heinicke three times, but they hit him seven times. Additionally, they were very disruptive while batting down his passes and making him constantly be on the move. This constant pressure was immense throughout the game and was a big help to our second-level guys, who were able to record some big tackles-for-loss. Eric Kendricks and rookie Akayleb Evans combined for three tackles for losses, and our defense was swarming.
T.J. Hockenson Has Always Been A Viking, Right?
Speaking of new Vikings players, T.J. Hockenson made a significant impact in his first game. It looked so natural to see him out there catching passes from Kirk, and us Vikings fans have to be quite excited about what he can offer this offense down the stretch.
Hockenson caught all nine of his targets for 70 yards and was constantly a big, open target for Cousins over the middle. He was sure-handed and productive, and our offense needed him more than we probably thought.
The Vikings Offense Is An Enigma
And just when our offense looked like it was going to be dominant, it again seemed to sputter inexplicably. The Vikings opened the game with a nine-play, 78-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a short pass to Justin Jefferson in the endzone. He had five catches on that opening drive, and it looked like we could have taken off and never looked back. But, instead, we punted on four straight drives, followed by the interception before the half.
So what are the causes of these stalled drives? Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be an easy solution. From the Vikings’ standpoint, I think they still need to run the ball better, and I wouldn’t mind if they avoided screen plays for a week or two. Those plays are always blown up. I should mention that the Commanders’ pass rush was solid on Sunday, so they can have some credit. And perhaps some credit should go to some missed pass interference calls throughout the game, but I don’t want to make excuses and blame the referees. Regardless, this offense is still searching for consistency, and we better find it quickly.
Greg Was Perfect!
Before the Commanders’ game, I mentioned that I needed to see Greg Joseph be perfect, and thankfully, he was. While his kicks were not overly impressive, I needed to see him make both of his extra points.
And while both of his field goals were under 30 yards, one was a game-winner. The Vikings did the right thing by running out the clock before his go-ahead kick with just 16 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Joseph, then, needed to finish under pressure. Again, we will all expect him to make the kicks he made today, but I’m glad I didn’t see any funny business. He was solid, and we won.
Kirk Cousins: A Brief Assessment
When I watch Kirk Cousins, I see a tough competitor at quarterback. But I see a poised, experienced signal-caller who can make some great throws.
The above throw was super clutch and is an example of his toughness. That said, I think his biggest flaw is being unable to get the ball out against a great pass rush. I want Kirk to move around a little more in the pocket or find some way to get the ball out quicker on certain plays. He does pretty well on rollouts, but there are too many times when he is a statue. I think this is one of our Vikings’ weaknesses, and opposing teams will continue to exploit it as Washington did on Sunday.
Adam Thielen, A Vikings Great
There are a lot of players to point out individually after Sunday’s game, but my colleague John did an excellent analysis here already. So let’s highlight our guy Adam Thielen. We all know that Youtube is a rabbit hole, so there are tons of videos to choose from, but this one gives a nice variety of Thielen’s greatness.
But there are lots of guys who make highlight-reel catches in this league. It takes a special player to achieve Thielen’s longevity and production. Thielen is in the midst of his ninth season as a Minnesota Viking, and earlier in the campaign, he reached the 50-career touchdown milestone. On Sunday, Thielen eclipsed the 500-reception mark for his career, finishing the day at 502 catches overall, which puts him third all-time on the Vikings’ receptions list. He is behind only Cris Carter and Randy Moss; that is a company as elite as it comes.
It’s a big one. The Vikings travel to Orchard Park, NY, for a showdown against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are one of the favorites to make a championship run, and even though they just lost to the Jets, the Vikings will be underdogs heading into their Week ten matchup.
I am excited about this matchup because it will feel like playoff football. Barring any colossal meltdowns, both the Bills and Vikings are shoe-ins for postseason play, and I honestly think it will be a good game. Of course, you’ll have to wait for my preview before knowing who I think will win, but it should be a competitive game either way. For now, here’s to 7-1! SKOL!