Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Week 8 – Vikings beat Browns in London after strong second half. Jerick McKinnon and Adam Thielen have “big days.”

The Minnesota Vikings found another way to win ugly. During their victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, the Vikings struggled to find their stride while the Browns looked like a team that could finally break into the win column.

The Browns, who were playing without LT Joe Thomas, CB Jason McCourty and DE Myles Garret, captured the early momentum as the defense picked of a tipped Case Keenum pass on the Vikings first possession of the game. Their offense scored two players later on a 26-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Crowell. In Cleveland fashion, or maybe I should say Vikings fashion, they missed the extra point.

The Vikings later responded with 35-yard field goal by Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. The next points came via starting quarterback Case Keenum, who hit a wide-open Adam Thielen in the back corner of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown. The Vikings led 9-6 with 2:48 remaining in the first half.

Cleveland fired back as rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer led the Browns on a drive that ended when he stuffed in a 1-yard touchdown run. The Browns would pay, however, as they left more than 40 seconds on the clock, plenty of time for the Vikings offense.

The Vikings moved the ball into scoring position and set up a 34-yard field goal by Forbath to end the half. Despite the blunder, the Browns maintained a 13-12 halftime lead.

The second half was a different story. 

Cleveland began the second half with a Crowell fumble (forced by Danielle Hunter), which the Vikings recovered. The turnover led to a 43-yard field goal by Forbath. On the Browns next possession, kicker Zane Gonzalez missed a 35-yard field goal by pulling it left. He would make a 23-yarder later in the third quarter, but it was the last time Cleveland would score.

Looking for a spark after a jet-lagged first half, the Vikings turned to shifty Jerick McKinnon, who has averaged 4.3 yards per carry this season. Needless to say, McKinnon responded. Late in the third quarter, the running back conveniently known as “Jet” flew around the edge of Cleveland’s defense for a 1-yard touchdown run. He capped off the TD by scoring on the two-point conversion.

The Vikings offense, feeding off McKinnon’s energy, found their stride in the second half. The team scored a touchdown on the next possession after Keenum found tight end Kyle Rudolph in the back of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown catch. After consecutive touchdown drives, the Vikings never looked back as they outscored the Browns 21-3 the last two quarters.

Full game highlights here, courtesy of Vikings.com.

The Vikings offense was responsible for all 33 points. The points came via two Case Keenum touchdowns (an 18-yarder to WR Adam Thielen and a four-yarder to TE Kyle Rudolph), four Kai Forbath field goals (of 35, 34, 43, and 51 yards), and the one-yard rushing touchdown by McKinnon followed by his two-point conversion.

Keenum went 27 of 43 for 288 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception. He had a quarterback rating of 72.0 and a passer rating of 88.1.

The Vikings stout defense hushed the Browns in the second half. Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson and Everson Griffen each got to Kizer once, giving the Viking three sacks on the day. The secondary didn’t make things any easier for the Browns rookie as Vikings defenders swatted away multiple passes that hit the hands of Browns receivers.

The final stat line for Kizer read 18 of 34 for 179 yards. He added five carries for 18 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Cleveland’s biggest offensive threat, Crowell, finished with 64 yards rushing on 11 carries, including a touchdown and lost fumble. He also had four catches for 54 yards.

McKinnon finished the day with 14 carries for 50 yards (3.6 YPC) and a touchdown on the ground. In the passing game he added 6 catches for 72 yards.

Running back Latavius Murray, fresh off a season-high 103-yard rushing performance against the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday, had trouble moving the ball consistently. His struggles led the Vikings to make the switch to McKinnon. Murray had 39 yards on 19 carries, good for a 2.1 yards per carry average. He added one catch for eight yards.

Head coach Mike Zimmer’s post-game quotes
  • Jerick McKinnon had a big day obviously, and so did Adam Thielen,” Zimmer said after the game.
    • Thielen had 5 catches for 98 yards and a touchdown, his first of the season.
    • McKinnon’s rushing touchdown was his third of the season, a new career-high.
  • On Adam Thielen being an effective third down guy: “He’s a great competitor and he sets routes up really good… He’s probably as good of route runner as we have.”
  • Zimmer on the potential QB decision he will have to make after the bye week:

“Hopefully I’ll have a decision to make. I don’t know that yet,” Zimmer said. “Case has done an unbelievable job… we’ll see.”

  • When asked about offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Zimmer said, “He moves the pocket, He’s got a lot of different formations and movements… Pat’s done a great job.”
  • On how rookie guard Danny Isidora played in his first NFL career start: “I thought Isidora for the first time, came in and played well,” Zimmer said.
  • Zimmer’s thoughts on how QB Case Keenum played today: “Early it was a little spotty I thought, kinda like last week… I thought he played great in the second half.”
Vikings PFF Grades, via the ProFootballFocus Twitter page:

TOP 5 GRADES:

RB Jerick McKinnon, 89.1 overall grade

LB Eric Kendricks, 81.3 overall grade

S Harrison Smith, 81.2 overall grade

CB Xavier Rhodes, 80.8 overall grade

QB Case Keenum, 80.5 overall grade

Game Notes
  • DE Everson Griffen extended his sack streak, tying Jared Allen and Jim Marshall’s team record with a sack in eight consecutive games. Griffen has ten sacks through eight games. He has one or more sacks in every game this season.
  • K Kai Forbath had an extra point attempt tipped at the line. It came up short and he is now 12 of 16 (75%) on extra point attempts this season. He is 21 of 22 (95.5%) on field goals.
  • TE David Morgan had three catches for 28 yards, both career-highs.
  • RT Mike Remmers left the game in the first half with a concussion.
  • Look for a decision to made regarding QB Teddy Bridgewater coming off the PUP list as soon as this week.
  • The Vikings have a bye next week. Their next game is a road matchup against the Washington Redskins. The Week 10 game is scheduled for Sunday, November 12th at noon.
  • The Vikings, now 6-2, have a four-game winning streak.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Zimmer said. “Case has done an unbelievable job… we’ll see.”
    That’s right… I love me some Teddy, but this is Case’s job now. We’re winning, Teddy hasn’t played a real game in how long? Only an idiot would bench Keenum right now. Keenum has shown some lights out pocket presence! Way better than Bradford, and better than Teddy. Put my vote as Case! This guy has guts… and guts is enough. Put Bradford on IR.

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    • I agree Harry. It sure seems like they want to give the starting job to Teddy as soon as possible, but as the cliche goes, why fix something that isn’t broke?

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  2. I would like to point out that case has had a lot of help from his receivers even though his accuracy has not been great. he has also left a lot of points on the field he’s been a great backup but that is what he is a backup. We also need to know if Teddy can still be the QB of the future or if we need to look for one in the draft.

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    • All great points Skollvikngs69, can’t argue with any of them. If the decision were mine I wouldn’t mess with what’s working because we’re winning. But I get it, it’s Teddy! I think VT’s Drew Mahowald summed up the situation nicely on the About The Labor bye week film review podcast https://youtu.be/6_PH1RktRz4: with Teddy the Vikings have a lower floor than with Keenum, but a higher ceiling. Do you think they’d be playing Teddy if he were under contract next season?

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