WOOOOOOOOOOO. After a rollercoaster of a game, the Vikings come back with a Greg Joseph field goal and secure a 7-1 record heading into a bout with the Buffalo Bills. Recapping today’s game, top performances, and notable storylines.
Kirk Cousins’ GRIT
He had far from a perfect game, maybe not even a good game, but Kirk Cousins’ play against his former team today deserves being mentioned. To me, Kirk has always struggled to right the ship if he’s getting blasted by the opposing pass rush. Today, Kirk took a beating and still delivered some special, special throws. He was willing to give guys a shot in one on one situations, even threw a pick on a deep shot to JJ, and pushed the ball downfield resulting in a season-high 10.3 ADOT. That’s a big improvement in an area I did not expect Kirk to improve at this late in his career.
Kirk throws a dot on the most important play of the game (up to that point) while getting obliterated by the Commanders defensive line. The concept is a Belicheck staple, HOSS, meaning Hitch Outside, Slot Seam. Jefferson runs a slot fade and beats St-Juste’s inside leverage, off catch coverage. St-Juste is trying to “catch” Jefferson at the sticks, essentially pressing him at the top of his route instead of at his release, which works in the Vikings favor.
Kirk hits Adam Thielen perfectly in stride on this deep crosser off what might be a spear concept (need to see all 22 to be sure).
Cousins ➡️ Jefferson for 6. Jefferson with 4 catches for 48 and a TD on that opening drive pic.twitter.com/VeegK6jDLe— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) November 6, 2022
I’m including this throw because it highlights what I was referring to by giving your best players opportunities to win when they’re 1 on 1. Kirk throws a perfectly placed ball that only Jefferson can catch, which he does in a spectacular fashion.
This throw to Dalvin on a double move wheel route in the redzone is one of my favorite plays so far this year. Kevin O’Connell has used Dalvin in the receiving game in a few interesting ways, like HB Sail earlier in the year, and he does so again here. Kirk throws a beautiful ball and Dalvin makes an incredible catch to tie up the game.
Now That is a Debut
Catching all 9 of his targets for 70 yards, TJ Hockenson had one hell of a debut as a Viking. With less than a week to get acclimated to an entirely new system, Hockenson led the Vikings in EPA per reception at 0.49 and had a few big plays. Additionally, he had the highest success rate and the most first downs gained of all Vikings skill players. Of his 9 targets, 4 of them came on 3rd downs where he converted 3 times (gained 9 yards on 3rd and 11). Hockenson won all over the field, underneath, in the intermediate area, on the boundary, and most importantly over the middle. He won with his route running ability, athleticism, physicality, and catch-radius.
Another one for Hockenson, 4 catches in the first half pic.twitter.com/WonanEsgWE— Shawn (@syedschemes) November 6, 2022
Outside of his efforts in the receiving game, Hockenson showed some blocking chops both in pass protection and on the ground. He did give up one sack on a corner blitz though, but I think that was largely caused by him only being a Viking for 6 days.
Career catch no. 500 for Adam Thielen (plus some TJ Hockenson pass blocking) pic.twitter.com/ZYNTVbJ2a1— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) November 6, 2022
Oh and this
Hockenson surpassed Irv Smith’s single game high in receiving yards in his first game as a Minnesota Viking. And matches the single game high for any Vikings TE since 2018.— Forester93 (@Forester932) November 6, 2022
The duo of Danielle Hunter and Zadarius Smith is getting insanely hot right now. They’re slicing through opposing offensive lines and wrecking offensive gameplans like nobody else in the league. Today, Hunter had 4 solo tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 2 QB hits. Zadarius Smith finished with 4 solo tackles, 2 QB hits, 2 passes defended, and a Sack that got called back for a facemask. The Vikings defense has plenty of talent behind and alongside Smith and Hunter. More than half way into the season it appears Ed Donatell’s defense is meshing together at the perfect time.
Danielle Hunter sack no. 2 today (his 5th of the season) pic.twitter.com/tDCjT4XchW— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) November 6, 2022
Hunter wins with one of his favorite moves, a cross rip. He executes it almost like its a cross chop, including the hop step to affect the tempo of the offensive lineman, only swapping the chop with a rip instead.
Za’Darius Smith impacting the game in more ways than just sacks pic.twitter.com/zaU0z0IqCg— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) November 6, 2022
Za’Darius Smith sack negated by face mask penalty pic.twitter.com/RDvcqTtT6R— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) November 6, 2022
Smith tries a 2 hand swipe move, which is countered, before using his athleticism to win back inside and make the play on a flushed-out Taylor Heinicke.
Have a Day Akayleb Evans
Cameron Dantzler suffered an ankle injury that kept him out of the second half and a decent chunk of the first half, leading to 4th round rookie Akayleb Evans filling in. Evans had a fantastic game making several plays including a crucial pass break up on 4th down against Terry McLaurin.
Rookie Akayleb Evans with a huge PBU on 4th and 1. Evans is in with Cam Dantzler out for the game pic.twitter.com/MnCrMO8Qm7— Shawn (@syedschemes) November 6, 2022
Evans also tied Danielle Hunter for most tackles for loss with 2. Cameron Dantzler has often battled minor injuries throughout his career and Patrick Peterson, despite playing the best he has in years, still has Father Time to worry about. Akayleb Evans’ performance today makes me, and I’m sure the coaching staff, a lot more comfortable with the depth in the cornerback room. Andrew Booth is being worked back into action, exclusively through special teams right now, but depending on how long Dantzler is out for, Booth has a shot to overtake Evans on the depth chart.
Offensive Line Woes
The offensive line, mainly Ed Ingram and Ezra Cleveland, had one of their worst performances thus far. The Commanders defensive line, especially Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Montez Sweat proved to be too much. Surrendering only 2 sacks but 11 QB hits, and allowing 11 tackles for loss. I’ll be looking into the offensive line’s performance against one of the most talented pass rushes in the league during the week, but for now here’s a couple clips of Commanders defenders.
Jonathan Allen trying to sack LG and QB pic.twitter.com/yDXdjzghqr— Shawn (@syedschemes) November 6, 2022
Cousins throwing a dime to Thielen facing pressure pic.twitter.com/kEYB2Qeoyy— Shawn (@syedschemes) November 6, 2022
There are 3 defenders surrounding Kirk as he makes this throw.
Daron Payne with a swim over RG for a sack pic.twitter.com/cCUlDTLxmD— Shawn (@syedschemes) November 6, 2022
Ed Ingram oversets versus Payne, leading to an easy swim move and sack.
Vikings up 7-3 at the half after this ball ends up getting picked pic.twitter.com/ErjIljTI8u— Sean Borman (@SeanBormanNFL) November 6, 2022
Ezra Cleveland gets his punch chopped away by Jonathan Allen and can’t recover with his athleticism, leading to a pressure.
Hicks had a great game today, but to me his best rep came as the wobbly pin on this Harrison Smith Interception celebration. The core strength, the flexibilty, the acting, and the fall are all perfectly executed and demonstrated. Absolute teach tape here.