Some bits to chew on after the 27-17 Vikings win over the Cardinals:
-Run, Run, Run! Latavius Murray had 155yds(career high) at a 6.5/carry clip, and...a TOUCHDOWN!!! Finally, six weeks into the season, a rushing touchdown for the offense. The first 100 rusher in a game and the first score on the ground this year, both courtesy of Murray. Kirk Cousins had a scamper score later in the game as well. 195 total rushing yards on the day, the most as a team since 2015 when the Vikings crushed the Giants in a Sunday night game at TCF Bank Stadium. Dalvin Cook was inactive today as his hamstring still isn’t 100%, so we all have to wait at least another week before we see him making plays on the field. The Cardinals defense has been putrid against the run all year. They surrendered nearly 150yds last week to an injury-riddled Niners backfield, so the run game was supposed to be productive and it was. ---Until Dalvin is back and completely healthy, we're going to have a hard time running the ball against formidable defensive fronts. So I don't think the run game was "fixed," but it was experienced a needed boost on Sunday
-Danielle Hunter has 7 sacks through 6 games, and has gotten to the opposing QB at least once each week. The franchise record for consecutive games with a sack is 8, held by Jim Marshall, Jared Allen, and then Everson Griffen who had 10 sacks through the first eight weeks of 2017 before a foot injury slowed him down. Danielle is having an absolutely stellar season and was key in the seemingly relentless pressure unleashed upon Cards QB Josh Rosen today. Feasting on the rookie passer, the Vikings got to him 4 times, giving the defense a total of 18 sacks this season. Harrison Smith and Mac Alexander both tallied a sack as well. ---Zimmer pressured the hell out of Rosen today, and the rookie folded. The confidence and swagger continues to grow with the defense and Danielle is a budding star, providing the key to this pass rush. Vikings are 5th in the NFL in sacks.
-Anthony Barr --- When Zimmer said that "simplification" might be the route in improving the defense after a tough start to the season, has any individual player jumped up like Barr? He had 6 tackles, a TFL and a hit on Carson Wentz in Philly. I dig that. Yesterday, only 3 tackles, but had a forced fumble that Tom Johnson recovered for a turnover and a big tipped pass in Josh Rosen's face on 3rd down that held the Cards to a field goal. Anthony Barr is on fire right now, changing games in a good way again. Very cool.
-The Vikings set an NFL record last year by allowing opponents to convert 3rd downs at a 25.2% clip. That's the best since the league started keeping track of the stat about 30 years ago.....OK, so what about 2018? The Cardinals were 0-for-10 on 3rd Down yesterday....through six games, the Vikings defense is allowing conversions at a 25.0% rate, just a pinch better than last year! Additionally, they've allowed 9 redzone scores on 24 opportunities, good for 37.5%...that's 2nd best in the NFL. The defense is killing people on 3rd downs, and good luck getting into the endzone from the RZ...Aaron Rodgers was 1-of-5 from the RZ back in week 2 at Lambeau, for example, and Rosen was 1-of-3 yesterday.
-Adam Thielen --- 6 games with 100+ receiving yards has Thielen leading the NFL in catches, targets, and receiving yards to go with his 4 TDs. What else can you say at this point...in a game that features names like Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr, DeAndre Hopkins...in a game that has done everything it can to enhance high-flying offense with rule changes and the protection of QBs...ADAM THIELEN is doing what none of these guys are doing. Calvin Johnson had 8 consecutive games of 100+ in 2012. Can Adam chase down Megatron?
-Kirk Cousins...first, a question...what's up with these fumbles? 6 fumbles now, 5 lost (although, I think the Roc Thomas lateral kerfuffle is considered one of those fumbles, which is definitely Roc's fault). Kirk is standing there, trying to make plays and just doesn't appear willing to abandon too many plays. While it's great that he's making those plays a lot of times, two fumbles resulted in 10 early points in the ugly Buffalo game, one became a return touchdown in the Arizona game and another one ended the comeback effort in LA against the Rams. Again, I blame Roc Thomas for the 5th. Need this to improve....now, a weird thing...He's significantly more productive on the ROAD than at home so far in 2018...74% completions(67% at home), 8-1 TD/INT(4-2), 116 rating(87) and 382 yds/game(257) on the road...is is because of the elite road opponents resulting in shootouts with Rodgers, Goff and Wentz?....Overall, this passing offense is working with his production and leadership and he has guys like me feeling stupid about ever questioning the 84 million dollar commitment. I was dumb, you all were smart...
-Mike Hughes is potentially a huge loss. If the ACL is indeed torn and he's done(reports are that this is what the team fears...MRI happening today), that really kicks the team depth in the pants. Hughes has been important on the special teams end of things in coverage and P/K returns, and he's been seeing a ton of reps in nickel coverage. Fellow CB Trae Waynes was nicked up in each of the first 3 or 4 games of the season before missing the Philly game altogether. He was back yesterday and didn't miss a beat, so that's good...BUT! The reason I bring that up is because Hughes is the guy that fills in outside when either Waynes or Xavier Rhodes aren't in. So more nickel work, no more backing up Waynes and Rhodes. Where does that leave us? Mackensie Alexander played an "OK" game yesterday, had a sack, also had a couple mistakes and dumb penalties. He will get more nickel work along with safety Jayron Kearse (Zimmer/Edwards have actually rotated all three guys at the nickel spot a ton so far, so now it'll just be two instead of 3 guys.). And here comes Holton Hill. Hill is the undrafted rookie from Texas that has talent, but nearly zero experience outside of a handful of snaps on defense and then special teams. If either Waynes or Rhodes need to miss time...cross your fingers that Holton is ready to make some plays.
-OTHER: Dan Bailey made all his kicks which is sweet. Thank god.......George Iloka came in to start yesterday in place of Andrew Sendejo, and he looked fantastic. Clearly feels comfortable in Zimmer's scheme.......Rashod Hill didn't win much at LT against Cardinals All-Pro Chandler Jones yesterday. Jones is a freak, but just the latest example of how battered and beaten the O-Line is. Riley Reiff inactive with the foot injury forced Rashod over to the left, giving rookie Brian ONeill a chance to start at RT. I thought he held up really well. Pat Elflein is mashing people again at center so that's awesome.........Laquon is catching everything thrown in his direction, so we may actually have a third receiver!!!!....
On to the Jets!!!!