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Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings: Third quarter discussion

The second quarter was not nearly as good as the first for the home team.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Trailing 21-0 after one quarter of play, the Miami Dolphins started the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings with a 1st-and-10 from their own 49-yard line. Rookie running back Kalen Ballage carried the ball into Minnesota territory, but they were pushed back on second down as Anthony Barr sacked Ryan Tannehill for a loss. Tannehill found Kenyan Drake for a 10-yard gain on third down, but it was short of the line to gain and the Dolphins brought Matt Haack into punt once again. Haack’s punt bounced into the end zone to give the Vikings the ball at their own 20-yard line for their first possession of the second quarter.

Kirk Cousins started the drive with a completion to Adam Thielen for a gain of five, and Cousins was forced to throw one away on second down under heavy pressure from Cameron Wake. On 3rd-and-5, Cousins found nothing open and scrambled short of the line to gain, but the Dolphins was called for illegal contact to give the Vikings a free first down. Dalvin Cook then got back in the mix with a carry for six yards, and he got a second consecutive carry that brought up a 3rd-and-1. Latavius Murray converted the third down with a short run, and the drive continued for Minnesota.

Cousins then hit Diggs on a quick screen for a gain of 12 into Miami territory at the 42-yard line. A 19-yard run by Cook was negated by a (questionable) holding penalty on Tom Compton to push the Vikings back into their own territory at the 48. Cousins then overthrew Diggs on 1st-and-20. Cook got the penalty yardage back on a 10-yard run to make it 3rd-and-10, and a false start on Mike Remmers made it 3rd-and-15. Kirk Cousins then made one of the worst throws you’ll ever see, as he threw one right into the chest of Minkah Fitzpatrick on a screen intended for Diggs, who took it back for a 50-yard pick-six. Jason Sanders hit the extra point, and just like that it was 21-7.

Sanders’ kick went through the end zone for a touchback, giving the Vikings a start at their own 25-yard line. Cousins led the offense back out onto the field, and handed the ball to Dalvin Cook for no gain. Cousins then found Kyle Rudolph on second down to bring up a 3rd-and-5, and Cousins threw incomplete under pressure on second down for a three-and-out. Danny Amendola fielded the punt from Matt Wile, and the Dolphins would start their next drive from their own 32-yard line.

Ballage got the drive started for the Dolphins with a five-yard gain, and picked up four on second down to bring up a 3rd-and-1 from the Miami 41. Ballage took a snap out of the Wildcat on third down to move the chains for the Dolphins. The Kalen Ballage show continued as he took another handoff and rumbled 13 yards for another first down into Minnesota territory at the 43.

A swing pass to Ballage was stopped for a loss by Mackensie Alexander on first down, and Ballage got back to the original line of scrimmage on second down to bring up 3rd-and-10 at the two-minute warning. After the break, Tannehill found Brice Butler for a 12-yard gain to the Minnesota 31 to move the sticks. Another Wildcat play went to Kenyan Drake for a gain of six, and Miami called a timeout.

Tannehill found Drake again for a first down on the next play. Tannehill then found Drake again, and he took the ball down to the Minnesota 7-yard line to set up a first-and-goal for the visiting team with 30 seconds remaining. Tannehill’s pass for Nick O’Leary fell incomplete, and he then threw incomplete for Danny Amendola on second down to bring up third-and-goal. Tannehill looked for Devante Parker on third down, but the pass was knocked away by Xavier Rhodes. Sanders came in for a 25-yard field goal attempt, and he hit it to cut the Minnesota lead to 21-10. That’s how they went to the locker room for halftime.

The pick-six was a huge blemish on what had been an otherwise outstanding first half for Cousins. He completed 10-of-14 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown to go along with that pick. Stefon Diggs has led the way with four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and Adam Thielen is the only other receiver with multiple catches, as he has two for 19 yards. There has also been one reception each for Dalvin Cook (27 yards), Tyler Conklin (20 yards), Kyle Rudolph (5 yards), and Aldrick Robinson (4 yards).

On the ground, the Vikings have been doing an outstanding job in the first half. Cook already has 80 yards on just nine carries, and has also found the end zone. Latavius Murray has 40 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries. Cousins also has two carries for six yards thus far.

The Dolphins will get the ball first coming out of the locker room at halftime, and they trail the Vikings by a count of 21-10 at the half at U.S. Bank Stadium. Can the Vikings regroup in the third quarter and get themselves closer to a crucial victory?