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Minnesota Vikings Weekly Player Recap: Week 14 (Steelers)

Pittsburgh Steelers v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The 1st half was superb. The 3rd and 4th quarters were nearly a choke job. Not sure what happened there at the end. The offense couldn’t get going and turnovers nearly killed them. The team held on, which is better than most games this year. They’re still in the playoff hunt and another big game coming up against the Bears. They can basically only afford one more loss so a 2-0 record against the Bears is a must.

QB

Kirk Cousins - 70 snaps (100%) 14 for 31 for 216 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, QBR 22.6, Passer Rating 63.4. It certainly wasn’t one of Cousins’ best games especially in the 2nd half. I’ll go through the interceptions first. The first was a tight window in which he tried to squeeze it into Justin Jefferson. The LB tipped it and it messed JJ up enough to go off of him and into a DB’s hands. This is an aggressive play that most of us (including Mike Zimmer) have been asking Kirk to make. He tried to squeeze it in and he couldn’t quite get it past the LB. It happened right after Pitt scored their first TD and the team was up 29-7. The 2nd was a slant to KJ Osborn and it looked like the CB and KJ got tangled up and the CB beat Osborn to the spot. That blame is on KJ more than Kirk. So outside of those two INTs, Kirk still wasn’t good. He was inaccurate on plays and was just a bit off on timing and placement of balls. Thielen and JJ make Kirk look good sometimes with the spectacular catches and this game the receivers weren’t able to pull them in. JJ almost got a few, but Osborn isn’t going to make the plays that Thielen does in replacement. Pro Football Reference credited Vikings receivers with 2 drops (1 JJ and 1 Cook) and Kirk with 8 bad throws (25.8% bad throw % is bad).

RBs

Dalvin Cook - 54 snaps (77%) 27 run for 205 yards and 2 TDs, 1 catch for 17 yards (3 targets). PFF 74.0. Cook looked spectacular in the game. He made big plays and was a major reason for the substantial lead to begin with. He opened up the game with a 20 yard run. He had 75% of his yards in the first half going through huge holes. The OL didn’t get those holes in the 2nd half as the offense slowed. Cook still came through with a huge 3rd and 9 catch for 17 yards to extend the last offensive drive. He clearly wasn’t 100% as one throw was a little off and Cook didn’t even raise his injured arm to attempt to catch it. Clear MVP of the game.

Alexander Mattison - 13 snaps (19%) 6 runs for 27 yards, 0 catches (1 target) Mattison opened up his action with a 14 yard run and then not much to speak of after that. Limited to a small role with Cook getting so many touches, he never got it going.

C.J. Ham - 31 snaps (44%) Another solid effort from the future Pro Bowl FB. He was pivotal in the first half making some nice blocks freeing Cook. No opportunities to catch or run with the ball this week, but Ham quietly gets the job done.

WRs - the only WRs targeted this week were Justin Jefferson and KJ Osborn

Justin Jefferson - 67 snaps (96%) 7 catches for 79 yards and 1 TD (15 targets), 1 run for -4 yards. PFF 75.6. Not an exciting stat line for JJ this week. Kirk and JJ just seemed to be slightly off on timing and placement of the ball. There were too many almost instances where JJ just couldn’t quite make that acrobatic catch. He is still the best WR in the league right now.

K.J. Osborn - 60 snaps (86%) 3 catches for 83 yards (9 targets) KJ’s big play was with just under 11 minutes left in the game. It was a play action bomb with KJ beating one on one coverage with the DB. It was 47 yards in the air (from LOS) and the DB fell down as he and KJ were fighting for the ball. It was a much needed score as Pittsburgh had just made it 29-20 with way too much time left. Huge play after a very unspectacular night from KJ. Other than the big play, he was unable to provide the strong catch radius of Adam Thielen and produce those much needed plays that help keep the chains moving.

Dede Westbrook - 29 snaps (41%) PFF 52.3. No targets for Westbrook this week even though he played 41% of the snaps. He isn’t a great route runner and doesn’t get the separation needed to be a factor. He is good with the ball in his hands if he can get some open space.

Ihmir Smith-Marsette - 3 snaps (4%) token 3 plays

Dan Chisena - 2 snaps (3%) token 2 plays

TEs -

Tyler Conklin - 49 snaps (70%) 2 catches for 20 yards (2 targets) Conklin’s significant catch was a 19 yarder after an offensive hold. It was big to get that yardage back and a few plays later Cook took it in for a 29 yard TD. Other than that he spent most of his time blocking.

Chris Herndon - 9 snaps (13%) 1 catch for 17 yards (1 target) 1 catch on a 2nd and 7. It was about a 10 yard curl and a solid route from Herndon. He fought hard for some extra yardage. Not a whole lot of action outside of that as the Vikings ran a lot of 6 OL formations rather than keeping the 3 TE sets we’ve seen a lot of.

Luke Stocker - 16 snaps (23%) PFF 53.8. Primarily used as a blocker for 16 snaps.

OL -

Oli Udoh - 70 snaps (100%) PFF 43.7 overall, 49.0 run, 28.7 pass (ouch). Udoh isn’t good at RG and he is terrible at LT. I am hoping the lineup stays the same when Darrisaw comes back and Udoh is simply switched out at LT. I can’t see a reason to move Udoh back to OG and have Bradbury or Cole on the bench. Unfortunately Udoh hasn’t developed as well as everyone had hoped and he is a penalty machine. Surprisingly only 1 holding penalty this week.

Ezra Cleveland - 70 snaps (100%) PFF 63.6 overall, 61.3 run, 65.7 pass. Solid overall effort from Cleveland. He wasn’t great, but he was better than his average game.

Garrett Bradbury - 70 snaps (100%) PFF 77.4 overall, 73.8 run, 84.0 pass. This is the highest pass blocking grade Bradbury has had since Week 6 of 2019 and 2nd best ever. He did have one holding penalty this week. He was key in opening up holes in the 2nd level for Cook early. Garrett is best used when he can pull in the run game and get Cook a cutback lane to run in.

Mason Cole - 70 snaps (100%) PFF 82.8 overall, 83.9 run, 55.2 pass. 1 unnecessary roughness penalty that was enforced on a kickoff. Impressively large holes between Bradbury and Cole made it super easy in the first half. They did get some push in the passing game, but no one was blocking better in the run than Cole.

Brian O’Neil - 70 snaps (100%) PFF 71.7 overall, 66.1 run, 78.3 pass. The most consistent OL on the team O’Neil was his usual top 5-7ish RT play. He doesn’t give up any pass pressure on a regular basis and more than holds his own in the run game.

Blake Brandel - 17 snaps (24%) PFF 60.3 overall, 59.8 run, 72.6 pass. Brandel played both TE and jumbo OL package this week. He reported eligible for 7 plays, which were ultimately just to make the formation legal and not for actual route running. He wasn’t great, but he was more effective than Stocker or Herndon have been in that role. Look to see this trend continue, especially if the Vikings build up a lead.

DL -

D.J. Wonnum - 67 snaps (91%) Wonnum did not get any measurable rush on Big Ben even though he played 91% of the total snaps. He had two combined tackles for the game and just wasn’t effective at all.

Sheldon Richardson - 56 snaps (76%) Sheldon had a tackle for a loss on a 3rd and 1 that force a punt early in the 4th quarter. He also had a sack on 3rd and 6 to begin the 2nd half that forced a punt and helped extend the Vikings lead to 26-0. Solid overall from Richardson. He did have 2 missed tackles that dinged his overall grade.

Dalvin Tomlinson - 38 snaps (51%) Tomlinson was in on only two tackles this week and really struggled to get any push up the middle. Not his best game by far.

Michael Pierce - 30 snaps (41%) PFF 89.6. Pierce had a great game in his comeback. Pierce had a tackle for a loss and a few plays later a sack that ended Pittsburgh’s first drive. He was getting good push all game.

Armon Watts - 39 snaps (53%) PFF 75.1 Watts got his sack at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. It was a first down play that essentially ended a drive before it started and forced a 3 and out. He was credited with another pressure later in the game as well. He got more playing time when Pittsburgh had to pass more than run and filled in admirably in passing situations.

Kenny Willekes - 37 snaps (42%) Not much happening for Kenny this week. He recovered the fumble that was overturned after they ruled Claypool was down. He also had one tackle on the last drive of the game to stop Najee Harris for a 1 yard gain.

James Lynch - 18 snaps (24%) Lynch was in on a TFL with Richardson to force a punt on 3rd and 1 and had another run stop for 1 yard with Kendricks. He also had 1 missed tackle.

Patrick Jones II - 17 snaps (23%) 1 run stop on a 3 and out after Watts’ sack. Other than that, not much of an impact.

LBs -

Eric Kendricks - 74 snaps (100%) 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 missed tackle and led the team with 11 total tackles. Eric was effective, but not All Pro effective this week. He was outplayed by Barr, but was a sure tackler and did his job. Maybe not 100% after the injury? His sack was on a 3rd and 11 to force a punt when the team was up 23-0.

Anthony Barr - 74 snaps (100%) PFF 79.2 Gave up 4 completions on 5 targets for 25 yards and 1 TD (127.1 passer rating) 0 missed tackles on 9 combined stops. Barr wasn’t great against the pass, but he was really solid against the run. His high PFF grade didn’t ding him too much for the high passer rating given up. I believe most of the passes given up were to Diante Johnson/Najee Harris and were mostly dump offs and short passes.

Nick Vigil - 10 snaps (14%) He split a tackle in 10 snaps.

DBs - added in Pro Football References stats for the DBs for context as well as some PFF grades. They don’t add up to 100% of Big Ben’s stats so there are some that are not contributed directly to a defensive player (3 catches and 35 yards).

Xavier Woods - 74 snaps (100%) PFF 70.3 Woods was ok, the PFF grade looks generous. Woods was in on a TFL and defended a pass, but overall didn’t look to be in support enough in the passing game.

Harrison Smith - 74 snaps (100%) PFF 79.8 Gave up 2 catches on 2 targets for 11 yards (89.6 passer rating). Harrison Smith was strong once again against the run. He had a sack on 3rd and 7 that forced a punt when the team was up 16-0. He also forced a fumble that was later called down in what seemed to be a bang/bang play (for some reason the call was overturned in what seemed to not be proof).

Patrick Peterson - 74 snaps (100%) PFF 54.7 Gave up 3 completions on 7 targets for 46 yards (104.8 passer rating). Peterson looked better than the rating. He gave up under 50% completion percentage and was a sure tackler. I’ll take that over the efforts from the other CBs.

Bashaud Breeland - 50 snaps (68%) PFF 49.9. Gave up 7 completions on 10 targets for 102 yards and 1 TD (96.7 passer rating). The bad: Big play give up to Claypool for 38 yards even though he interfered with him and chunks of yards given up all night. The good: Got into Claypool’s head early and got the taunting penalty when Claypool stuck his hand in Breeland’s face. He also got a pick and returned it to the 30 of Pittsburgh to setup an easy FG to go up 29-0. He’s too smug for his play, but he does make some plays occasionally. No consistency is going to be why he’ll likely be looking for a new team next year.

Mackenzie Alexander - 64 snaps (86%) PFF 45.9. Gave up 5 completions on 6 targets for 17 yards (79.2 passer rating) Ton of action from Alexander and the defense say in nickel most of the game. Alexander makes Breeland look good. Alexander had a neutral zone infraction to help make a 3rd and long a 3rd and short that ended up being a TD. He also had a defensive holding for a 1st down on 4th and 4 that would’ve been a run for Big Ben anyways. Just not effective.

Kris Boyd - 12 snaps (16%) Gave up 3 catches on 4 targets for 64 yards (116.7 passer rating). Gave up a 37 yard deep pass to Diante Johnson even though he interfered with him. He also gave a Pittsburgh drive a boost with an inexplicable taunting penalty after a nice play to stop James Washington for a loss. That drive ended with Pittsburgh’s first score of the game and really changed momentum. Nincompoopish move that ended up with Boyd back on the bench and Dantzler coming in.

Cameron Dantzler - 11 snaps (15%) Gave up 1 catch on 2 targets for 8 yards (60.4 passer rating). DPI in the end zone was an easy call to setup a Pittsburgh TD. Gave up another short gain in the red zone to James Washington, but sat on the bench with Peterson and Breeland getting the bulk of the action and Boyd getting some time until he made an ass of himself.

Camryn Bynum - 1 snap (1%)

Poll

Who was the Vikes’ best player on Sunday?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Dalvin Cook
    (599 votes)
  • 4%
    Mason Cole
    (33 votes)
  • 1%
    Garrett Bradbury
    (13 votes)
  • 6%
    Harrison Smith
    (42 votes)
  • 0%
    Justin Jefferson
    (5 votes)
692 votes total Vote Now

Last Game’s Poll Results

Justin Jefferson - 92%

Kirk Cousins - 5%

Cam Dantzler - 2%

Blake Lynch - 1%

Alexander Mattison - 0%