If NFL games were decided by style points, the 2017 Minnesota Vikings definitely wouldn’t be 5-2 and alone atop the NFC North. Thankfully, all that matters is the final score. Once again, the Vikings found a way to score enough to compliment an amazing defensive performance and come away with a victory. The Vikings defense suffocated the already-anemic Ravens offense all afternoon while the offense leaned on the running game and six Kai Forbath field goals to secure the victory. Once again, it wasn’t pretty at times, but winning ugly still counts just as much.
It’s time for our weekly list of the five most impactful plays from Sunday’s game.
Play 1: Ravens ball, 2nd & 10 at the Baltimore 35. First quarter, 12:07 remaining. J.Flacco pass short right to M.Wallace, dead ball declared at BLT 44 for 9 yards. BLT-M.Wallace was injured during the play. PENALTY on MIN-A.Sendejo, Unnecessary Roughness, 18 yards, enforced at BLT 44.
For the second straight week, the Vikings’ opponent lost a key offensive player in the first quarter.
Baltimore losing Mike Wallace isn’t nearly as big as the Packers losing Aaron Rodgers, but it certainly didn’t help a Ravens offense that was already struggling and thin at wide receiver. While Anthony Barr’s hit on Rodgers last week was by-the-book, the hit from Andrew Sendejo was flagged for unnecessary roughness, thus canceling the turnover. The refs threw the flag extremely late, but it was the right call. Sendejo should probably expect a fine from the league later this week.
(UPDATE: Sendejo was actually suspended for this hit, and will likely miss the Cleveland game, though apparently he’s going to appeal. -Chris)
It was doubtful that the Ravens were going to move the ball much on the Vikings defense with Wallace, but his concussion solidified that it was going to be a very long day for Joe Flacco and company.
Play 2: Vikings ball, 3rd & 10 at the Minnesota 16. Second quarter, 6:19 remaining. (Shotgun) C.Keenum pass short middle to J.Wright to MIN 28 for 12 yards (A.Levine Sr.).
On a day where Jarius Wright had catches like this:
it might seem counter-intuitive to include the least spectacular of his three receptions on the list of most impactful plays.
But this seemingly innocuous third down conversion in the second quarter was quietly a huge play. It prevented the Vikings from punting deep in their own territory in a tie game. It led to a go-ahead field goal and a lead that the Vikings would not relinquish. It proved that Wright is still a reliable target whenever he’s called upon. According to the Pro Football Reference, it was the most impactful positive play toward win probability the Vikings had all day.
Play 3: Ravens ball, 3rd & 9 at the Baltimore 26. Third quarter, 10:05 remaining. (Shotgun) J.Flacco sacked at BLT 15 for -11 yards (A.Barr).
Anthony Barr had himself a day on Sunday.
With the game still in the balance early in the third quarter, Barr snuck through untouched on a blitz and stopped another Baltimore drive in its tracks. Barr was flying all over the field, finishing the day with 12 tackles and a handful of incredibly impactful defensive stops. After such a head-scratching 2016 campaign, it appears that Barr is all the way back to form this season. Just in time for what’s likely to be a nice fat contract extension.
Barr’s sack also opened the door for the Vikings offense to finally break through into the end zone on the ensuing drive.
Play 4: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 at the Baltimore 29. Third quarter, 8:05 remaining. L.Murray left guard for 29 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Finally! Someone broke up Field Goal Fest 2017!
Latavius Murray had his best day as a Minnesota Viking, amassing 113 yards on 18 carries including this 29-yard score. Murray showed some signs of improvement last week against the Packers, but this looked like the first game of the season that he completely trusted his surgically repaired ankle. On a day where Case Keenum struggled to make much headway against the stout Baltimore pass defense, the one-two punch of Murray and Jerick McKinnon were the most reliable way the Vikings moved the ball on Sunday.
The offensive line should also get a lot of credit for the victory. Even with Jeremiah Sirles and Riley Reiff going down during the game, the Vikings didn’t allow a sack and gained 5.12 yards per carry on the ground. The “Minnesota Moving Company” continues to keep the offense afloat despite all the injuries the the team has endured.
Play 5: Ravens ball, 4th & 11 at the Minnesota 13. Fourth quarter, 0:04 remaining. J.Flacco pass short right to C.Moore for 13 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Why would I include a meaningless garbage-time touchdown from Flacco to something called Chris Moore on the game’s final play?
Because despite not affecting the final outcome, it was very meaningful in a variety of other reasons. Sure, it’s always nice to keep an opponent out of the end zone for an entire game, but the touchdown had other more notable implications.
For instance, if you had bet the under, which was between 38.5 and 39.5 at kickoff depending on where you looked, this score was extremely important. (Just ask Arif what he thought of this play.)
It also prevented the Vikings defense from holding an opponent under 200 yards for the first time in nearly five years. (The 208 total yards the Ravens finished with is still the lowest number since the Vikings allowed 187 to the Houston Texans in 2012.)
Even though the play didn’t mean anything, it was unsightly punctuation on an otherwise solid performance from Trae Waynes. Even during his better games, Waynes always seems to give detractors something to point to.
And finally, this touchdown ruined something truly great: my final score prediction. I had predicted a final score of Vikings 24, Ravens 9 in my weekly preview last Thursday. I was so close!
Which play do you think was the biggest from Sunday? Vote in the poll below, and let us know if we missed any in the comments.
In just a few hours I’m off to London for the rest of the week, with a quick stop in Paris mixed in. (Pro tip: when your wife lets you book a trip to go watch a Vikings game 4,000 miles away, you give her a couple days in Paris beforehand.) I won’t have time for my preview article this week, but make sure to follow along with all my adventures on Twitter leading up to and including the London game.
What was the most important play of the Vikings’ win over the Ravens?
This poll is closed
Moore’s garbage time TD
Other (comment below)