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Vikings vs. Raiders: Five Game-Changing Plays

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Looking back at the most important plays from the 34-14 win over Oakland.

Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings
No YOU’RE the best running back in the NFL.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

I don’t know about you, but I could get used to this whole “jump out to a huge lead and then coast to an easy victory” thing the Vikings are doing at home so far this season.

Much like their Week 1 domination of the Atlanta Falcons, the Vikings led wire-to-wire in their 34-14 blowout of the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. To say that the game was never in doubt may actually be a bit of an understatement. According to ESPN’s win probability chart, the lowest the Vikings’ win probability got was 75.1% after the first play of the game. (It was 78.3% at kickoff, which shows what a lopsided matchup it was in the first place.)

Once again, Kirk Cousins was largely relegated to being a steward of the large lead, throwing the ball only 21 times for a pedestrian 174 yards. For the second straight home game, Cousins wasn’t even required to attempt a pass in the fourth quarter. But he played a much cleaner game than last week’s debacle in Green Bay. Cousins made a few nice throws, made a couple more plays with his legs, and he didn’t turn the ball over along the way.

The run game and defense took center stage at U.S. Bank Stadium once more. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison combined for 28 carries, 168 yards, and two scores. Derek Carr was stifled for most of the day. Carr’s final stat line—27 of 34 for 242 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception—was much kinder to his performance than what he put on film. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket for much of the game as the Vikings sacked him four times. Rookie running back Josh Jacobs was held to 44 yards on only ten touches. Of Oakland’s 303 total yards, 42% of that output came in the fourth quarter when the game was well in hand.

Let’s go through our weekly list of the biggest plays from another Sunday stroll to victory.

Play 1: Vikings ball, 1st & 10 on the Oakland 35. First quarter, 11:31 remaining. K.Cousins pass deep right to A.Thielen for 35 yards, TOUCHDOWN [P.Hall].

That’s more like it, Kirk.

I almost went with two key plays of this drive before the touchdown itself:

  • The defensive holding penalty on Gareon Conley while covering Stefon Diggs. It kept the Vikings from going three and out on their first drive. It also showed that while Diggs isn’t making a splash in the box score through the first three games, he’s still making an impact.
  • The play before the touchdown: a 20-yard dart from Cousins to Irv Smith Jr. Smith led the Vikings in receiving yards on Sunday after having a grand total of -1 yard in his first two NFL games. It was encouraging to see him more involved in the passing game, especially out of big sets like this pass out of 13 personnel.

But I settled on the touchdown itself for a variety of reasons:

  • It was an actual scoring play.
  • It was a very good throw by Cousins while getting hit, which was important on many levels.
  • It showed that the play action and rollout passes weren’t dead after the Packers largely shut out that aspect of the Vikings offense last week. (It also might have showed that the Raiders didn’t do their homework all that well.)
  • Thielen’s lowkey disrespectful stiff arm of Curtis Riley as he strode into the end zone. It wasn’t much more than a nudge, but it was still fun to watch.

After a disastrous start in Green Bay, the Vikings had restored order and set the tone with their first drive.

Play 2: Vikings ball, 3rd & 18 at the Minnesota 13. First quarter, 4:38 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass short left to D.Cook to MIN 31 for 18 yards (B.Mayowa) [A.Key]. PENALTY on OAK-A.Key, Roughing the Passer, 15 yards, enforced at MIN 31.

The Vikings defense had forced two punts from the Raiders on their opening two drives, but the offense was pinned deep late in the first quarter. Thanks to Cook and more help from a Raiders penalty, they were able to get out a third & long situation.

Cook made some nifty moves on the screen pass and almost got the first down on his own. In fact, the referees awarded a first down after it initially appeared that Cook had bounced on top of Benson Mayowa before going down. That spot would have likely been overturned, but it was a first down regardless thanks to this roughing the passer penalty on Arden Key.

The Vikings took full advantage of the opportunity. They marched 54 more yards—15 of which came via a face mask penalty of Conley on Diggs—in nine plays. Cook fought for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.

The offense wouldn’t have to wait long to get the ball back and start marching again.

Play 3: Raiders ball, 2nd & 6 at the Oakland 29. Second quarter, 14:23 remaining. (No Huddle) D.Carr pass short right intended for F.Moreau INTERCEPTED by H.Smith at OAK 43. H.Smith to OAK 30 for 13 yards (F.Moreau).

Harrison Smith now has 21 career interceptions. He didn’t have to work too hard for this one.

Despite good protection, Carr got happy feet and air mailed his throw to Foster Moreau. Or, if you listen to Carr’s big brother, it was just really good defense and there was nothing baby bro could do. Either way, Hitman was there to make the pick and set up the Vikings in great position to go up by three scores.

And that’s just what they did, converting two short third downs capped off by Adam Thielen’s rushing touchdown. For the third straight week, the home team was up 21-0 in the first half. Thankfully, the Vikings were at home this time around.

Play 4: Vikings ball, 3rd & 6 at the Minnesota 12. Third quarter, 11:15 remaining. (Shotgun) K.Cousins pass short left to A.Thielen pushed ob at MIN 23 for 11 yards (D.Worley).

The Raiders got on the board on a flea flicker and were showing signs of life at halftime. But any semblance of momentum they may have had was quickly quashed when the third quarter got underway. The Vikings defense forced a three & out thanks in part to a Danielle Hunter sack. The offense started deep in their own territory because of back-to-back illegal blocking penalties on Kris Boyd and Thielen. But on third down, the homegrown star wideout made up for it with a crucial catch.

The pass from Cousins was thrown a bit behind Thielen, but he made a great adjustment to keep the drive going. It’s good that he did, because it turned out to be the scoring drive that put the game away for good.

Plus it gave us our next play.

Play 5: Vikings ball, 2nd &15 at the Oakland 31. Third quarter, 8:46 remaining. D.Cook right guard to OAK 16 for 15 yards (K.Joseph).

My goodness, Dalvin.

The run gets more ridiculous each time you watch it. You can practically hear the Chris Berman “WHOOP!” noises just by watching the gif. Cook’s devastating moves embarrassed Vontaze Burfict so much that he resorted to randomly punching everything in sight. (Actually, knowing Burfict’s past, that’s just kind of what he does.) Two plays later, Mattison scored his first career touchdown and that was that.

Eric Kendricks and Hunter stuffed the Raiders on fourth down on the ensuing drive and the Vikings added a field goal to make it 31-7 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Daniel Carlson even threw in a late missed field goal, much to the delight of Vikings fans. It was another thorough domination by the Vikings at home. Hopefully they’ll travel a little better next week when they visit Chicago.

As always, we welcome you to vote in the poll to tell us which play you thought was the biggest and encourage you to suggest any we may have missed in the comments.

Poll

What was the most important play from the Vikings’ win over the Raiders?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Cousins to Thielen to open the scoring
    (525 votes)
  • 12%
    The drive-extending Raiders penalty on the Cook screen pass
    (120 votes)
  • 15%
    Smith’s interception
    (147 votes)
  • 3%
    Thielen’s third down grab to start the second half
    (36 votes)
  • 13%
    Cook’s ridiculous run to set up the final Vikings TD
    (127 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (comment below)
    (8 votes)
963 votes total Vote Now