Analysis

Friday Night Flashback, PFF Style: Minnesota Vikings 21, Seattle Seahawks 20

Pro Football Focus Grades from the Week 3 preseason matchup.

With the final dress rehearsal in the books for the Minnesota Vikings starters, let’s take a quick look back at how the Vikings performed on Friday night – with a little help from Pro Football Focus.

Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense looked better after a rough outing last week against Jacksonville. There were moments when the unit looked flat-out… well, flat, but there were many more positives to take away from Friday’s game.

The biggest positive for the Vikings has to be how the game finished. Kyle Sloter found Chad Beebe with under a minute left remaining to put Minnesota down by one. Sloter then found Jake Wieneke on the two-point conversion who fought his way into the end zone for the go-ahead score. The Vikings held on to win by one, despite some flaws in the kicking game.

Cousins finished the game with 17 completions on 28 attempts (60.7%) with 182 yards. While the quarterback looked out of synch at times, leading his receivers into huge hits and missing open targets, there were no turnovers from the first-team offense and no sacks were allowed.

The front five looked shaky at times in pass protection, but there were positives to be found there as well. Two starting offensive linemen, Mike Remmers and Rashod Hill, returned to game action last week. While they played in just one drive, it was a welcome sight to see, especially with the way things have gone for the Vikings offensive line.

Starting running back Dalvin Cook, in his first game action since last October, received two carries for one yard. Head coach Mike Zimmer said after game “We just wanted him to get tackled.”

Things went a little more smoothly for running back Latavius Murray, who fumbled twice in preseason Week 2. The Vikings’ second possession of the game, a 13-play, 97-yard drive, ended with a 1-yard touchdown by Murray. He finished with ten carries for 25 yards (plus the touchdown) and 3 catches for 32 yards.

Mike Boone seems to have taken hold of the third running back spot. He received a number of carries and targets Friday night, rushing nine times for 26 yards and catching four passes for 13 yards. He didn’t break any big plays but he showed the same explosiveness and agility he displayed during last week’s loss to the Jaguars.

In the receiving department, Laquon Treadwell caught all three of his targets for 44 yards. Starters Stefon Diggs caught four passes for 51 yards on eight targets and Adam Thielen caught four passes for 26 yards on six targets. Minnesota native Jake Wieneke had his coming out party, catching a one-yard touchdown pass and also nabbing the game-wining two point conversion. But it was Chad Beebe who stole the show Friday evening, hauling in five catches on six targets for 59 yards and a touchdown. Beebe, who also had a 34-yard punt return, may have secured a job on the 53-man roster with his performance.

As it has for most of the preseason, the Vikings defensive unit looked solid. There were times when the pass rush seemed to lag, but the defense held Seahawks quarterbacks to a combined passer rating of 67.5. Starter Russell Wilson went 11 of 21 for 118 yards with zero touchdowns in the first half.

Through three preseason games the Vikings defense has the third-highest PFF grade in the NFL (82.1). Only Baltimore (87.2) and Oakland (82.8) have better grades.


Pro Football Focus Game Grades

Highest-graded players on offense

  1. WR Chad Beebe (85.4)
  2. OL Storm Norton (84.2)
  3. QB Kyle Sloter (82.4)
  4. WR Stefon Diggs (76.0)
  5. LT Riley Reiff (73.9)

Fullback C.J. Ham (71.7) and tackle Brian O’Neill (70.8) finished just outside the top 5. It’s a positive sign for the Vikings to see players like Reiff have a bounce back game after struggling noticeably against Jacksonville last weekend.

Quarterback Kyle Sloter turned in yet another solid preseason performance. He remains the third-stringer for the time being, but if he keeps playing like he did Friday, the Vikings have to give him more opportunities to prove he can become the backup.

Lowest-graded players on offense

  1. QB Trevor Siemian (28.9)
  2. TE Tyler Conklin (42.6)
  3. TE Kyle Rudolph (43.8)
  4. TE Tyler Hoppes (48.4)
  5. RT Rashod Hill (49.8)

Trevor Siemian struggled against Seattle. He completed four of eight passes for only 3 yards. He was also sacked three times for 25 yards. I’m not sure why the Vikings are intent on keeping him as the backup, but Siemian has the right mentality for the job and perhaps this was just an off night for the 26 year-old.

I don’t believe Kyle Rudolph‘s grade was fair given his pass blocking grade was 72.4 and he didn’t drop a pass. However, his run blocking grade was poor (45.6) and his only catch went for three yards. So, there you have it…

Highest-graded players on defense

  1. DT Sheldon Richardson (84.6)
  2. Anthony Harris (77.0)
  3. Jayron Kearse (76.2)
  4. DE Danielle Hunter (75.8)
  5. DE Stephen Weatherly (74.8)

Although Sheldon Richardson was sealed off by Seattle on a couple of trap plays (designed to stymie the former Seahawk), he was effective on the plays where he wasn’t blocked in clear view of the camera. He tallied three quarterback hurries, recorded two and a half tackles and stuffed a run behind the line of scrimmage.

Both backup safeties played as if Friday was their last game in the NFL. It makes sense considering the acquisition of George Iloka last week, as both players could be fighting for their spot on the roster. The same can be said about defensive end Stephen Weatherly, who had two QB hits, three hurries and two stuffed runs.

Lowest-graded players on defense

  1. CB Marcus Sherels (39.2)
  2. DT Jaleel Johnson (44.4)
  3. MLB Eric Kendricks (46.6)
  4. DT Jalyn Holmes (47.0)
  5. DL Brian Robison (51.5)

Despite a nifty pass breakup (as you’ll see below), Eric Kendricks allowed 3 catches for 31 yards and missed a tackle, resulting in his lower-than-expected PFF grade. Marcus Sherels allowed one catch for 34 yards on 11 snaps before injuring his hamstring.


GAME HIGHLIGHTS

  • The pass from Kyle Sloter to Chad Beebe which put the Vikings down by one. Sloter hit Jake Wieneke on the next play, a 2-point conversion, for the go-ahead score.

  • FB C.J. Ham with a fantastic run after the catch.

  • This back-shoulder pass from Kirk Cousins to Stefon Diggs.

  • A nice pass breakup by Eric Kendricks on Seattle’s first-team offense.

Notables

  • In typical Vikings fashion, rookie kicker Daniel Carlson pulled two 42-yard field goals wide left. They were his first attempts since the team released veteran Kai Forbath and Carlson was given starting duties. “I’m going to chalk this one up to a bad night but hopefully it gets better,” said Zimmer.
  • With Mackensie Alexander and Mike Hughes out with injuries, Terence Newman started at nickelback and in 21 plays earned a PFF grade of 63.8. 22-year old Craig James also played some slot cornerback, recording a PFF grade of 58.8 on 26 defensive snaps.

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Sean Borman

Sean Borman is a writer with Minnesota roots that's still somehow an optimist. He was an intern with the Vikings during college and previously wrote for Rant Sports. You can find Sean on the golf course and on Twitter @SeanBoarMan.

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