On Halloweekend Sunday, we were once again treated to a blood pressure-raising Minnesota Vikings victory. Kevin O’Connell’s squad returned home after a bye week looking to build on an already impressive start to the season. The Vikings found some success in the running game, pressured Kyler Murray and a banged-up offensive line, and were 5 for 5 in the red zone on the way to a 34-26 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Look at them run
Though the Vikings have purple jerseys and a quarterback that wears the number 8, no one would confuse Kirk Cousins for Lamar Jackson. To challenge this, Cousins had a great scramble for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game. The Cardinals came out in man coverage and the Vikings had a man coverage beating play called. Arizona covered the play well, but man coverage can leave the defense vulnerable to the Quarterback run as defenders have their eyes glued to potential targets for the offense. Cousins seemed to be escaping to pick up a first down but found himself tallying up six points for the good guys:
Rushing TD for 8 in purple:— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
-mesh vs 1 cross, D does a good job relating to routes
-no one to account for Q when the pocket is broken in man coverage pic.twitter.com/URScBLq9Lv
Dalvin Cook earned a game ball today with his first 100-yard effort of the season. His biggest run of the day came on a 3rd and 1 late in the 1st quarter. In Week 6 vs. the Dolphins, The Vikings ran a dive to C.J. Ham from an offset backfield to pick up a short-yardage conversion. On Sunday, the Vikings faked the handoff to Ham before flipping it out to Cook for a big gain.
Vikings running FB Dive to C.J. Ham in Week 6 vs. the Dolphins pic.twitter.com/GA4Qxw0qMC— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 30, 2022
Fake FB dive, HB pitch off a similar look that the Vikings ran in Week 6 vs. the Dolphins pic.twitter.com/alrLECwAN0— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
Cook looked good throughout the day and won with patience, vision, and speed in open space. He also had some help up front:
OL washing people and getting to the second level. Irv Smith with a nice sift block on Dalvin Cook's TD run pic.twitter.com/0tls1JoLqr— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
Za’Darius Smith’s hat trick
Za’Darius Smith is a game wrecker. Ed Donatell has gotten Smith advantageous matchups all year by aligning him in different spots along the defensive line. This flexibility allows the Vikings to expose different parts of an offense’s protection plan by focusing on potentially squeaky wheels. Vikings fans still riding the Week 1 win over the Packers will remember Smith bullying interior linemen for Green Bay. On Sunday, Smith had 3 sacks when lined up over interior offensive linemen to help trip up the Cardinals offense. Two of those sacks came with Smith matched up on the Cardinals backup Center:
Za'Darius Smith 3 sack hat trick:— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
#1: big push over C with D.J. Wonnum helping collapse the pocket pic.twitter.com/ax4dKOCXgG
#2: swiping away C on the way to a sack pic.twitter.com/qMkfIIMfjU— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
Before Smith’s third sack, O’Connell told Smith that he needed one more from him. #55 delivered and earned himself a game ball with this sweet swim move.
With some struggles in the kicking game present, the Vikings closed drives strong and ended up 5 for 5 in the red zone on Sunday. Kevin O’Connell once again impressed us with a pretty design to get a Tight End wide open on a delay route:
Not to be outdone by Dalvin Cook’s strong day, Alexander Mattison also found the end zone on a well-blocked inside zone play:
Cleveland (72/LG) and Bradbury (58/C) with a nice double here giving Mattison room on the TD pic.twitter.com/mBl2270TPw— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
In the 2nd half, the Cardinals dialed up the pressure to create protection issues and forced a turnover on a strip sack. On this TD, however, The Vikings picked up the blitz just enough to see Kirk Cousins throw a strike to K.J. Osborn:
Mattison helping out in pass pro, Vikings rub from stack, and a great ball from Cousins all lead to the Osborn TD pic.twitter.com/qdbKnD46su— Shawn (@syedschemes) October 31, 2022
The Vikings pulled through at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday and continue to ride high atop the NFC North at 6-1. Later this week, I am looking forward to watching the all-22 to see how the Vikings defense battled in each of the final three drives, how each turnover was created, and what made Patrick Peterson have a strong day against his former team.