After two diametrically opposed games, the Minnesota Vikings were a team in search an identity and some consistency as they met the Oakland Raiders at US Bank Stadium today. And in two convincing wins, the key to the Vikings success is clear—A fast start, no mistakes, a solid defense, and Dalvin Cook, with a smattering of some downfield passes just to keep everyone honest.
Today, like they did against Atlanta...and like they didn’t against Green Bay...Minnesota started fast, jumped out to a big lead, and then used a pummeling ground game to bludgeon and gash the Oakland Raiders like Jack The Ripper used to bludgeon and gash his East End London victims. Today, The Vikings had their blood up, US Bank Stadium transformed into Whitechapel for a few hours, and the Raiders were a smelly pirate hooker that stood no chance. For a skittish fan base that was ready to bolt and stampede, this was just what we needed, wasn’t it, Mr. Ocasek?
I don’t mind you coming here
And wasting all my time, time
Cause when you’re standing oh so near
I kinda lose my mind,
It’s not the perfume that you wear
It’s not the ribbons in your hair
I don’t mind you coming here
And wasting all my time
I guess you’re just what I needed(Just what I needed)
I needed someone to feed
I guess you’re just what I needed(Just what I needed)
I needed someone to bleed
Rest in peace, Ric Ocasek. You’ve finally been driven home, sir. Godspeed to you and your family, and your above .500 SMR follows.
Blue Chip Stocks
Adam Thielen, WR: If the Vikings are going to be successful this season, it’s becoming apparent that their passing game is going to be best described as making the most of your opportunities. Today, Thielen did that, hauling in a 35 yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, which accounted for 63% of his total receiving yards on the day. He also scored the first rushing touchdown of his career, taking the ball on a beautifully designed play on the goal line that caught the Raiders off guard.
Dalvin Cook, RB: If the Vikings were Jack the Ripper, Dalvin Cook was the surgical tool that carved up the Oakland carcass. Cook was nothing short of brilliant, running with a speed, power, and elusiveness that is as good as any I’ve seen in the NFL since Adrian Peterson was in his prime with the Vikings. He had 110 yards on only 16 carries, and now has over 100 yards in each of the first three games. He was also the Vikings leading receiver, catching four passes on the day. If there’s a better running back in the NFL right now, I’d like to meet him.
Eric Kendricks, LB: Kendricks was monstrous in run support today. He was credited with six tackles and seven assists, but it sure felt like he was everywhere whenever the Raiders tried to run the ball. He had no tackles for a loss today, but every time he was in on a running play, the Raiders had little to no success all afternoon. On a day when Anthony Barr was a no-go due to a groin injury, Kendricks and Eric Wilson really needed to step up their game.
Kirk Cousins, QB: This was a very efficient, turnover free game from Cousins, and it was desperately needed. He made plays when he needed to, but didn’t force anything. He’s also developing some wheels, as he was able to tuck it and run when nothing was there, and made some money on the ground. I’ll take a 15/21, 174 yards, 1 TD and no turnover stat line every Sunday if the result is a Vikings win.
Harrison Smith, S: Smith put in yet another very future hall of fame performance, with three tackles, an interception, and a pass defended. His pick was a gift from Derek Carr, but how many times do we see a defensive back drop it? Smith never seems to drop those, and the early turnover was part of the early avalanche that the Raiders couldn’t bounce back from.
Alexander Mattison, RB: On a day when the Vikings ran for a triple option-like 211 yards, there had to be more than one running back that produced. Although Cook was the Iron Chef, Mattison was the comfort food joint from Diners, Drive In’s, and Dives. Just solid with a really WOW touchdown run that made you say, ‘yeah, that was pretty damn good’.
Dan Bailey, K: Well, maybe the kicking game is settling down. Bailey was perfect on all his extra points and just drilled a 50 yard field goal to make the score 31-7. And when memories of past kicker nightmares returned to US Bank Stadium in the form of Vaudeville Troupe Daniel Carlson and The Right Upright Doinks, it was actually a good day to be a Vikings kicker.
Irv Smith, Jr: We welcome Irv Smith, Jr., to the SMR with a brand new category, suggested by you, the fair readers of The Daily Norseman. We’re very excited about the initial
price public offering on the Vikings rookie tight end, and we expect this stock to grow and mature in the coming years. We were told in the preseason that the Vikings offense was going to be one that featured the tight end a lot this year, and big things were expected from both Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith. Through the first two games, though, the Vikings tight end was spotted about as often and with as much certainty as a Sasquatch. Today, though, Smith announced his presence with authority, and he had a team leading 60 yards receiving on three catches. He would have had another 26 had a really nice catch and run not been nullified by a penalty.
Chad Beebe, WR/PR: Both in podcasts and in print, I’ve asked what Chad Beebe has done to warrant winning the WR3 job. In two years, he’s had one big play, and that was last week in Green Bay. That’s it. He had no catches today, fumbled a punt, which the Vikings luckily recovered, and had a really boneheaded penalty. The Smith catch and run we mentioned earlier that was nullified was Beebe’s fault. Adam Thielen was called out by the referee, but replay showed it was Beebe who actually committed the infraction. And the one thing that has really dogged Beebe, other than the glaring lack of production, has been the injury bug, which bit him again today.
Buy: Playing aggressively to open the game. In two games, the Vikings offense has started fast. Today, they went right down the field, scored, and once again, before you could really get settled Minnesota was up 21-0.
Sell: Playing aggressively to end the first half. During the off-season, head coach Mike Zimmer has talked about how important it is to try and score points before the half, and he’s right. Well, one of the things about the Zimmer era that has bugged the ever loving hell out of me is how rarely the Vikings, you know, actually score before the half. Today, they got the ball on their eight, with one timeout and 1:06 left on the clock. The odds of a touchdown were long there, but getting into field goal range seemed very doable. Especially after the first play, which was a Dalvin Cook draw that banged for 16 yards. Yet, with a 14 point lead, Minnesota just decided to eat the clock and call it a half. Offense was clicking, so I don’t understand why they wouldn’t at least try to get into field goal range.
Buy: You could probably call a penalty on almost every play in a typical NFL game. Look, being a referee is hard, I get it. On almost any play, if you wanted, you could call holding, or some other infraction. The game moves at a fast pace, and there is probably a technical violation of the rules committed by both sides on every play. Judgement is a big part of the job, and knowing the rules of the NFL is tough.
Sell: Calling a penalty on almost every play in this NFL game. But my God, quit throwing a flag on what seems like every play. It’s gotten so bad that no matter what, at the end of literally every play in an NFL game, no matter who is playing, I wait to see if there’s a penalty. The only thing that can kill the NFL is the NFL itself, and sometimes it really feels they’re intentionally trying to make their game unwatchable. Seriously, the only person that tunes in to watch the referee is either his wife or his Mom. No one else does, yet these guys get so much camera time they’re going to need to join the Screen Actor’s Guild and start paying union dues. Let the players play the damn game.
Buy: Eric Wilson, pass rusher guy. When the Vikings sent Wilson after Carr or had him spy him today, it was generally successful. He was credited with two sacks, and did a really good job.
Sell: Eric Wilson, pass cover guy. But as good as he generally was in run support and the pass rush, he struggled mightily in pass coverage. He was fooled badly on Oakland’s first touchdown, and on the next drive his guy was wide open, and the only reason the play failed was because of a poor throw by Carr. If Oakland completes that pass, they’re in business in Vikings territory, and it might have changed the momentum of the game.
Quote Of The Week
So today our quote comes from my wife. I was watching the game down in the basement, and she came down midway through the 4th quarter, with the game well in hand.
Her: So how are the Vikings doing, honey?
Me: They’re winning, 34-7.
Her: Oh wow. The team they’re playing must not be very good to be losing to the Vikings by that much.
So, the Vikings move to 2-1 on the year, and settled a lot of nerves. But the Bears in Chicago loom next week, and that will be a huge test for the Vikings and the fanbase.