Veritable sources predicted a game just like this. A brilliant opening-drive script, a mid-game lull, and finally, a Vikings 4th quarter comeback. Just the way they draw it up. Who drove the success for Minnesota on Sunday? The better team won, but why did victory almost escape them? Let’s play the blame (/credit) game!
Three Vikings DUDS
Ok, bad news first. To be sure to get the point across on this bit, my first “dud’ is actually a trio, and it’s the entire interior offensive line. Some carnage was to be expected with All-Pro Jonathan Allen on the other side of the ball, but this unit looked wholly helpless.
Ezra Cleveland/Garrett Bradbury/Ed Ingram
If the Vikings had lost this game, the chief reason to which people would point is the interior pressure allowed by this group. So, I’m going to point anyway. Kirk Cousins detractors would call this a sub-par Kirk game, but the fact of the matter is no QB would have played up to par behind this front. They handled stunts poorly, allowed almost immediate penetration, and Kirk took a lot of hits as a result.
Ezra Cleveland had an uncharacteristically bad showing amidst the madness and Garrett Bradbury looked like the worst version of himself at times. For Ed Ingram though, this was actually a better performance than usual! Most times, he was sturdy in the run game and looking for work in pass protection. Holding up relatively well against Allen and Da’Ron Payne. If Ingram can creep toward average play at right guard, this offense will have no glaring weaknesses.
I know, I know, that was such a great touchdown catch, but Dalvin was pretty ineffectual most of the game. On a day where the passing game struggled at times, the running game wasn’t able to shoulder the load. With just 2.8 yards per carry, Dalvin was stymied by the Washington front all day.
I found myself grasping at straws for the third dud but I had to go with EK54 – and its not just because of the spin. The second level of this defense has been the weak spot if I needed to pick one. They’ve still played well, just not as well as the d-line or the secondary and this week was no different.
Six Vikings Studs
The defense as a whole played very well. If it wasn’t for the back judge torpedoing Cam Bynum on a “screw it” pass from Taylor Heinicke, this is probably a more comfortable victory. For that reason this list was difficult to narrow down, so let’s look at Six studs.
Within arm’s reach of the interior havoc, Christian Darrisaw had another phenomenal game at tackle. He’s had some highlight reel blocks in the run and the pass and only continues to get better. With only one pressure allowed, his PFF grade was 87.3. Darrisaw legitimately looks like a top-five left tackle in this league right now. A sight for the sorest of eyes.
The early returns on the Hockenson deal look favorable. Nine targets, nine receptions. After learning the offense in about four days leading up to the game, Hockenson showed out. His first game in purple was exactly what we hoped to see. Occupying the middle of the field and presenting a big target for Kirk Cousins. On a day where Cousins was constantly hurried, the newest Viking paid dividends!
Coming off a game that won him NFC Defensive Player of the Week, Za’Darius turned in another huge performance. He didn’t register a sack, or a forced fumble, but he generated nine pressures and three QB hits in another impactful outing. Smith continues to be one of the most important contributors for the Vikings.
On the other side, Danielle Hunter’s hard work finally turns into sack production with two sacks and seven pressures. To the casual viewer this may seem like a down-year for the Vikings pass-rusher but he has still been great at drawing attention in the form of double-teams that free up other rushers, and defending the run. For those fans, this was a re-assertion of Hunter’s prowess.
JJ was already penciled in here before the game even started and he delivered with 115 yards and a touchdown on an elegant, twisting snag. That being said, he left a lot of meat on the bone for a player who is in the conversation for best receiver in the league. I counted three balls that he should’ve reeled in, including that weird tip-pass interception at the end of the first half. Of course for every such instance there was an inhuman catch to balance it out.
Here’s what you all came here for. The fourth-round rookie filled in for Cam Dantzler seamlessly at the right cornerback spot. He was picked on some early but quickly adapted and began making play after play. His tackling ability in space allowed (by design or otherwise) the right-side edge to fill inside on run plays “spilling” the run to the edge where Evans was there to make the stop. The first-year man had four solo tackles, two of those for a loss, and the big-time pass deflection on fourth-and-one late.
Who’d I miss? Frankly I think we could’ve put about 20 Vikings in the stud category! Skol to the Bowl!