A Receiver in Trouble and Other Week 15 Vikings Takeaways
The Vikings came out with a victory on Saturday in one of the greatest games in NFL history. The scoreboard showed 39-36 after more than four memorable hours. With that win, the Vikings secured the division crown for the first time since 2017. Like always, we learned some things about the 2022 Vikings, including a particular receiver in trouble.
The Vikings cornerback struggles are well-documented. Patrick Peterson has been excellent, but the team had to play multiple other cornerbacks on the other side, and none of them was very good. Cameron Dantzler and Akayleb Evans were at least serviceable, while Andrew Booth was a total disaster.
Duke Shelley was cut from the Bears after the preseason, and the Vikings pounced. He stayed on the practice squad at the beginning of the season but had to step up after the other guys went down. Shelley struggled in his first few games but had two incredible pass breakups in the endzone.
Dantzler didn’t play, and Booth and Evans are on injured reserve, so the team needed Shelley to step up. His 83.9 PFF grade led all Vikings players against the Colts. He recorded three tackles without missing one. Matt Ryan targeted him six times, and Shelley only allowed two catches for just 15 yards. He also broke up two passes, with one huge stop on third down late in the game. The cornerback is 26 years old, and he could be a late bloomer and turn into a serious contributor in the future, even if other players are healthy.
Receiver in Trouble and Other Week 15 Vikings Takeaways
Referees Almost Cost Vikings Epic Comeback
Chandon Sullivan crossed the goalline with the ball twice, but he did not get a single touchdown. The referees made some unbelievable decisions.
Midway through the second quarter, Sullivan stripped the ball off Michael Pittman, who was still trying to gain extra yards. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the ball got blown dead and forward progress is not reviewable. The Vikings were still down 23 points. While it at least became clear what the refs saw on the play, that was not the case in the fourth quarter.
Deon Jackson received the handoff from Ryan, ran into a bunch of Vikings defenders, and was tackled. However, he clearly lost the ball. Sullivan picked it up and scored, but Jackson was ruled down by contact, despite the ball lying on the ground 10 feet to his left — an absurd call. After review, the Vikings got the ball at the spot of the fumble, but the offensive drives stalled, and the play almost cost the Vikings the epic comeback. Sullivan understandably lost his temper and drew a 15-yard penalty.
The Vikings have shown all year that Norsemen don’t surrender. Down a couple of scores in the fourth quarter is when the Vikings are most dangerous. They have already won four such games in the 2022 season.
The vulnerable Vikings defense allowed only three points in the second half, a huge factor in making the comeback possible. The offense scored 39 points after halftime as Cousins passed for 417 yards and 4 touchdowns. Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and K.J. Osborn were unstoppable.
Everything worked in the second half — that didn’t in the first. Patrick Peterson said during the break at halftime that the purple team only needs five touchdowns, an insane statement down 33 points, but it shows the team’s belief. The comebacks against the Bills and the Colts were unbelievable games. Kevin O’Connell makes the players believe that they can accomplish, well, anything.
Asamoah’s Snaps Increase
Brian Asamoah played 45 snaps total in the first 13 games of the season and recorded 21 in Week 15. His previous single-game high was 15. The third-year linebacker looks like a promising successor once Kendricks or Hicks leave the roster.
He may even take Hicks’ job before the next season starts. Asamoah recorded eight tackles in the game. His speed brings a different element to the defense and could be an interesting factor in the postseason.
Osborn’s Career Day
K.J. Osborn had a slow start to his career in 2020 when he didn’t play a single snap on offense. In 2021, he had a surprising breakout season and recorded 655 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was viewed as a potential future second fiddle to Justin Jefferson. However, Osborn had a slow start to his 2022 season despite the high expectations in the new O’Connell-led offense.
In the first 13 games, Osborn recorded only 300 yards and three touchdowns. On Saturday, the third-year wideout was a driving force in the comeback attempt and managed to catch 10 passes for a career-high 157 yards, and he also had the first Vikings score of the day. Without Osborn, the Vikings don’t have a chance to complete the epic comeback.
Reagor in Trouble?
Before the season, the Vikings traded for Jalen Reagor to fill the open punt-returning spot. The wideout has not been used much on offense, but he was on the field for seven snaps and made two crucial mistakes. On the first one, he took a couple of steps after his route was finished, and Cousins threw the ball to the spot where he should’ve been. A Colts defender took the opportunity and got a pick-6.
On the second play, Reagor stopped mid-route, Cousins threw his way, and once again, a Colt made the interception. Both picks should be blamed on Reagor. The coaching staff pulled Reagor and had rookie Jalen Nailor on the field when Osborn needed a breather. It’s possible that Reagor is on a short leash and might lose the few offensive snaps he’s getting.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt
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