Five takeaways from the dramatic, too close for comfort Vikings’ victory over the Lions
Is it possible that a victory looks a bit like a defeat?
The Vikings escaped Sunday’s game against the Lions with a 19-17 win thanks to a winning field goal of 54 yards from Greg Joseph at the end of the time limit. It was their second win in the last three games, keeps their season alive and eliminates the possibility of Mike Zimmer being fired this week.
And yet, it hardly looked like a feat worth celebrating. The Vikings left one of the worst teams in the NFL hanging around all day with incredibly conservative game calls and decision-making, and it probably should have cost them a win. The Lions took a 17-16 lead after Alexander Mattison’s late fumble and could have sealed the deal by simply covering Adam Thielen in the last minute of the game.
The Vikings should have won this match by multiple scores. Instead, they played incredibly safe all day, giving Mattison 32 touches despite a secondary that went unanswered for Justin Jefferson in the first half. It was one of the Vikings’ most hair-raising training efforts in recent memory and did nothing to suggest that they have a realistic chance of getting into the playoff mix in the last 12 games of season, especially with their next five games against teams with winning records.
But they got the win, and at least for today, that’s all that matters.
“It wasn’t the best of wins, but it was a win, and we’ll take it,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes when you win games like that it’s a good thing because it balances out at some point if you can keep tune in. I’m proud of our guys, the way they fought. . Not particularly proud of the way we played, though. “
Let’s go over five takeaways from this wild game.
The Vikings can’t continue to play so cautiously
What more can we say about the attacking game and the philosophy of this game?
Zimmer, Klint Kubiak and the Vikings seemed quite content to kick the ball to the ground all afternoon, for reasons that are beyond me. It’s not like Kirk Cousins was under a lot of pressure when he stepped back, like last week. It’s not like he doesn’t have success in the air.
Their offensive approach deserved to cost the Vikings the game.
It started right away. In their first practice, the Vikings ran it with Mattison in the 2nd and 10th, then were bailed out by Jefferson on the third down. Two plays later, they ran it on the 2nd and 10th and lost two yards, forcing Jefferson to take them back on the third down. Mattison then hit it two more times, gaining two yards and establishing another third and long. This time the Vikings didn’t convert him and had to settle for a basket.
After a hold penalty in the second quarter, Cousins sent a pass to Mattison for three yards at 1st and 20, then Kubiak called a run at 2nd and 17. That led to another field goal. Kubiak ran it again in 2nd and 15th at the start of the third, leading to a punt. A screen pass to the 3rd and 16th was recovered two yards later in that quarter. At the start of the fourth, Mattison got all three touches on a three-and-out, including a run that lost a yard on 3rd and 3. The Vikings continued to run the ball and throw the ball late in the game. when they had several chances to seal the game. He almost came back to bite them.
The most damning example of all came at the end of the first half, when Zimmer decided against trying to move the ball with 37 seconds and two timeouts.
“I shouldn’t have to explain all of this to you,” Zimmer said. “But the plan was – we missed a few plays at the end of the first half of this year because we were out of bounds. So the plan was to throw the ball the first play, see how many yards we get, and then go. go from there, if we get a first down then we put the ball in and move.
This explanation, frankly, makes no sense.
If the Vikings head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback don’t all increase their aggressiveness in the coming weeks, they don’t stand a chance of running. You can’t expect to win games in the NFL by playing like this.
The left tackle rotation was the starting plan
During the Vikings’ third practice of the game, it emerged that the left tackle position suddenly belonged to rookie Christian Darrisaw, who had come onto the pitch to replace Rashod Hill.
This training ended up producing the Vikings’ only touchdown of the day. And yet, Hill came back for the last two games before halftime, and again to start the third quarter. Veteran Hill, who has clearly been the weakest link in Minnesota‘s offense this year, missed twice in a row in that first practice of the second half. He was thrown to the ground by Trey Flowers for a sack on the first try, then missed a block in the running game to set up a 3rd and 12.
Darrisaw and Hill rotated the left tackle for the remainder of the game. According to Zimmer, this was a planned rotation that had nothing to do with either player getting banged. They just wanted to help Darrisaw take action since he hadn’t practiced much.
“He’s trained 12 times,” Zimmer said. “He’s still got a ways to go. We’re just trying to break him down easily. It really has nothing to do with conditioning now. It’s about training time.”
Without seeing the tape again, Darrisaw seemed to be playing pretty well, while Hill continued to struggle. So we’ll have to wait and see if the rotation continues next week at Carolina, or if the Vikings hand the job over to the full-time rookie.
I think it should be the latter. Either he’s ready to play or he’s not, and the rotation of two guys on the left tackle keeps them from getting into rhythm.
Greg Joseph obtains redemption
It’s been a roller coaster season for new Vikings kicker Greg Joseph.
In Week 1, he punched a 53-yard field goal to send him to overtime, but the Vikings lost. He made two more out of over 50 in Week 2, but those were overshadowed by his two crucial failures: an extra point that ended up being the final margin of defeat and the potential winner of the game for 37 yards at the end of the time limit.
After two fairly calm weeks, the spotlight was once again on Joseph in this match. He scored a few field goals early on, then managed a career 55 yards to give the Vikings a 16-6 lead. With a chance to widen the lead again, Joseph missed a 49-yard short. It kept the Lions alive and they managed to capitalize on Mattison’s fumble to take the lead.
But Cousins found Adam Thielen twice in the final 40 seconds, giving Joseph another chance to kick a winner. He stepped forward and pierced it 54 yards and was carried off the field by his teammates.
“What a great feeling,” Joseph said. “So happy for the guys. Personally I don’t need to be carried away because they deserve as much credit as I do. I was like, ‘Drop me off!’ They were like, ‘No!’ So that was pretty funny, but yeah, that’s a great feeling. Happy for everyone in the stadium. Hearing that stadium erupt was pretty amazing.
Despite a few notable hiccups, Joseph is enjoying a solid season overall. He’s now 10-for-11 on extra points and 10-for-12 on fielding attempts, including a perfect five-for-five of 50 or more. The Vikings need to score more touchdowns, but Joseph continuing to hit the ball well would give a big boost.
The defense of the Vikings has grown considerably
Lost in the discussion of the Vikings’ offense is the fact that they have now held three consecutive opponents to 17 points or less. They stalled things in the second half against Seattle, played pretty well against the Browns (but were bailed out by Baker Mayfield’s inaccuracy) and shut down the Lions on Sunday.
Without Mattison’s fumble that gave Detroit a short field, the Vikings’ defense wouldn’t have allowed a touchdown all day.
The big story of the three-game homestand is Everson Griffen’s play, which looks like his prime at 33. He had at least one sack in all three games, including two against the Lions in consecutive games, the second of which was also a forced fumble. Griffen taught rookie Penei Sewell a few lessons, beating him with a tearing motion and then his signature spin. He must continue to play more and more.
Griffen was not the only one to intervene. Danielle Hunter and DJ Wonnum each had their own bag, also on back-to-back plays. Eric Kendricks had a fantastic one-handed interception. Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods combined 17 tackles and one pass break. Patrick Peterson had two SEBs on third downs in a strong overall performance. Anthony Barr is finally back.
Things are going to get tougher soon for the Vikings’ defense, with tough clashes against the Cowboys, Ravens, Chargers and Packers after their week off. But if the passing rush and the secondary can continue to play at a high level, the Vikings might have a chance to beat some good teams if their offense can figure things out. There is still a lot of room for improvement in stopping the race too. They missed Michael Pierce in this regard.
Vikings need a lot more from their attack
Finally, the simple truth is that the Vikings aren’t going anywhere this season if the offense doesn’t improve much. It starts off by being more aggressive, as I mentioned earlier. They have to play through Jefferson, Thielen, and Cousins, even when Dalvin Cook returns.
But it’s more than that. The Vikings have only scored one touchdown in back-to-back games and haven’t scored a second-half touchdown since Week 1. The entire offense, from the O-line to the Cousins on the way by all players in the position of competence, must be better after half-time. . They need to avoid costly penalties, like those imposed on Chris Herndon and Oli Udoh against the Lions, and they need to eliminate dropped passes which have been a bit of a problem. They need to perform better in all aspects of the game.
If the Vikings’ offense can start playing again like they did in the first three games of the season, they’ll give themselves a chance. But after watching the last two weeks, especially this game against a bad defense, I’m terribly skeptical.
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