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Skol Schemes, Week 9: They Did It Again?

Be still, my beating heart

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

The Minnesota Vikings, after a hot start, hopped on the roller coaster of 3 and outs, odd penalties (and other ref related shenanigans), sacks, turnovers, and late game heroics on the way to a win. We could spend our time talking about the persistent interior offensive line issues, low early down success rate, and a seemingly unsustainable style of play. In reality, we should.

But not today!

Instead, we will ride the dopamine wave and look at Kirk Cousins’ impressive play under pressure, T.J. Hockenson’s strong debut, and tip our hats once again to the attacking defensive front that causes issues and racks up pressures.

I Do Like That

Kirk Cousins is an NFL fan’s litmus test. His play style may not be as flashy as Josh Allen’s, but, as comparison is the thief of joy, this comparison fails to recognize what Cousins does well. Cousins has inaptly been labeled a game manager at different times in his career, but now, he dons his teammates’ chain(s). Cousins earned the ice on Sunday by performing under constant pressure, taking shots down the field that should excite Vikings fans, and hitting receivers in stride.

The term “50-50 ball” doesn’t get the percentages quite right, but Cousins allowed Justin Jefferson to make plays versus the Commanders. This is encouraging because “covered” truly has a different definition for our favorite griddy enthusiast. More chances for Jefferson = more chances for us to see explosive plays in the passing game.

The Commanders came in with a strong defensive line, and they showed out in Week 9. Pressures, wins on run downs, and knockdowns all led to a dirty jersey for Kirk Cousins. Yet, number 8 took it in stride and hit receivers in stride:

To close the half, the Vikings had a 1 on 1 with Justin Jefferson in the end zone. It ended up in an interception, but I think we have to be okay with the process on this decision. We should be excited that an All-Pro receiver has the chance to make great plays in high leverage situations. The results were less than stellar here, but an interception on this type of play is fairly rare:

Cousins showed his signature accuracy down the stretch and earned himself a game ball:

Hock Smash

When you start a new job, the assumption is that you are given training time. Some jobs give weeks or even months of training before you are expected to perform at a high level. T.J. Hockenson, notable doppelgänger of the Vikings’ logo, had just days to grasp a complex game plan that required A LOT from him. Hockenson ended up playing an astounding 60 out of 66 snaps. He helped the Vikings open up the pass game, did his duty in the run game, and even had a few designer plays called for him.

Hockenson’s first reception of the day came on the first third down of the game. Hockenson’s vertical ability can take stress off Justin Jefferson as a defense that devotes extra resources to #18 now has a literal viking to worry about. As Hockenson continues to get settled into the offense, the hope is that the Vikings now have the weapons to consistently win against man coverage even when Jefferson is doubled.

Hockenson also showed his versatility with a big 1 on 1 block on play action:

Hockenson even put his route running on display and left a defender in the dust:

Getting the EDGE

The Vikings pass rush is an unquestionable force to be reckoned with. Despite missing my favorite Viking, Dalvin Tomlinson, the Vikings pass rush pressured the Washington Commanders incessantly and notched 3 sacks, multiple pass deflections, and even more QB hits.

The Vikings came out with a similar rush plan as last week; box rush on the outside to keep the QB in the pocket, and let Za’Darius Smith work his magic on the inside. The Commanders dealt with this early by ensuring they double teamed Smith:

Not to be deterred, the Vikings pass rush succeeded by winning 1 on 1s elsewhere and taking advantage of different fronts to keep their rushers in positive situations:

The Minnesota Vikings are sitting pretty at 7-1. Kirk Cousins is playing well, the defense is clicking, and Kevin O’Connell has a shiny new toy. The Vikings head to Buffalo for a huge matchup with the 6-2 Bills that many believe are a Super Bowl favorite. I will be back later this week with a podcast preview of the matchup with some fine Buffalo Bills folks. Talk to you all then!