The Vikings defeated the Oakland Raiders in the battle of the sea-faring folk by a lopsided score of 34-14. The team started fast on offense and defense and the Raiders never really had a chance in this one. Great play across the board for Minnesota, which was the prescription in the first game at U.S. Bank Stadium to open the season, and the result was another dominating victory for the Purple.
Dalvin Cook did it again, Kirk Cousins returned to form, the defense dictated like they have for most of the season (save for one quarter against Green Bay) and we saw breakout performances from backups.
The win raises the Vikings record to 2-1, good enough for third place in the NFC North Division. They could be tied with the Chicago Bears for third place by the end of the weekend, and, if so, get a chance to break that tie next Sunday at Soldier Field. That will be a huge game and require everything they showed and more for the win.
Dalvin Cook—16 rushes for 110 yards and a touchdown, plus four receptions for 33 yards. Are you getting used to this yet? Cook set the tone early and often, once again pushing the defense around on his way to a third consecutive 100-yard game (something that hasn’t been done to start a season since the Chuck Foreman days). Cook had another great day against a rushing defense that came into the game in the top five. Cook had help from Alexander Mattison (12 rushes for 58 yards) who scored his first NFL rushing touchdown with a dramatic leap over an Oakland defender into the end zone—it was reminiscent (for some of us grey beards) of former Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp, who did that in the playoff games in 1969—the year the Vikings last won an NFL Championship. Kapp was in attendance with the remainder of that title team who was being celebrated 50 years later at The Vault. I’d like to say Mattison did it in honor of Kapp, but it really was just a very athletic play (and he has better hops than Kapp showed back in the day).
Kirk Cousins—15 of 21 for 174 yards and a touchdown pass and a rating of 112.0—plus no picks and no fumbles. We’d like to get use to that. Cousins played more like himself on Sunday, and also ran the ball four times for 16 yards, very often extending drives. He missed a wide-open Stefon Diggs at one point and had two passes batted down at the line (questions of his vision?), but, overall, he played a very good game against the worst pass defense in the league coming in. It was a good rebound game for him, but he will have to play better next Sunday in the Windy City.
(And for what it’s worth, some fans booed Cousins on the first play when he tripped coming away from the line. They had to stifle those boos when a few minutes later he threw a 35-yard touchdown pass that was a great play by the quarterback—see below).
The Vikings defense gave up 302 total yards and 14 points—seven of them coming in garbage time. They had another dominant performance that included four sacks of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and one interception (Harrison Smith). Eric Wilson (playing for the injured Anthony Barr) led the team in tackles with 11 (two of them sacks), but he did get beat on a couple plays in coverage, however. Trae Waynes had eight tackles, Eric Kendricks was tough up the middle (seven tackles) and the other two sacks went to Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. The Raiders, despite some decent talent, are a bit of a mess, so this performance was no great shakes for Minnesota, but when you look at how the defense has played all season, we are beginning to see that this is who they are, and who they are is very good,
Tight end Irv Smith, Jr. had three catches for 60 yards. That was enough to lead the team in receiving. The Vikings got their tight ends involved in the game plan this week (Kyle Rudolph almost took his one catch for 11 yards to the house), but it was Smith who grabbed the three passes and the headlines. He has been billed as another wide receiver and when he catches the ball and runs with it he definitely looks like one.
Adam Thielen had three catches for 55 yards and a touchdown, plus a one-yard rush touchdown. It was very nice to see Thielen back on the scoreboard. His 35-yard reception was a nice pass from Cousins (who sprinted out left after play action, waited for Thielen to break open, took a big hit as a result and then hit Thielen going into the endzone), but his rushing TD was a surprise. It came on a forward handoff that was nearly uncontested into the endzone. This was another example of some new offensive wrinkles for the Vikings, and it was certainly welcome.
Dan Bailey hit four extra points and 2-of-2 field goal attempts—one from 50 yards. His perfect game couldn’t have come on a better day with the ghost of Daniel Carlson in the house. That is the kind of execution this team needs, although let’s remember that the pressure on this kicker lessened all day long as the Vikings kept building a big lead. Still . . . Bailey’s performance was worth defending.
Should Be Ending
Speaking of Daniel Carlson, hopefully we can bury that ghost. The Vikings won’t have another regular season game against the Raiders for four years, so we won’t have to revisit this sorry chapter of the Minnesota Vikings kicking woes for a time. And Bailey will likely be gone by then. The fans did get their money’s worth, however, when Carlson lined up for his only field goal attempt of the afternoon and doinked it off the right upright. It was his first miss of the season and only his second since leaving town, so it was poetic justice and the Purple faithful enjoyed it immensely.
Watching Kirk Cousins run is always a bit of an adventure, but we are still not sure we like it happening in the red zone. He got drilled good and fell on by about half of the Raiders defense in a decent little scramble in the second quarter. He held onto the ball today, despite taking some big hits throughout, but let’s keep those scrambles only to a necessary minimum.
What should be ending most of all is the Vikings’ dearth of championships since the one in the 1969-70 season. Having the 1969 team in the house was great for an old fan like me, and great for those players, who really seemed to enjoy it, but it is also a reminder that 50 years is a long time. Keep playing like they did today—against everyone else they must face—and maybe we can start thinking about ending that string of futility.