Wrong Narratives and Other Week 12 Takeaways

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The Vikings fans had something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving, their football team. Bill Belichick and his Patriots came to town to face the Vikings in US Bank Stadium. His team was 6-4 because of the top defense in the league. However, the great coach and his organization couldn’t pull off the victory and lost to the purple team 26-33. Like always, there are some things we have learned about the Vikings.

The Third Act

In 2021, the Vikings selected Kene Nwangwu, a running back, in the fourth round, and many were surprised by the move, as the team already had Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. In addition to that, backup halfbacks can be found everywhere. Nwangwu was a backup in college, especially for star back Breece Hall who was picked in the second round one year after Nwangwu. Almost two seasons into his career, it’s clear what the plan was with Nwangwu. He is an outstanding kick returner and can totally change the outcome of a game.

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In his rookie campaign, the electric runner with track speed missed the first six games with a knee injury before he made his NFL debut. In that debut, Nwangwu returned a kickoff for a touchdown in just his second attempt against the Baltimore Ravens. Later in the season, the running back returned another one for six points against the San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately, the Vikings lost both games and couldn’t take advantage of the special teams’ heroics.

In his sophomore season, Nwangwu didn’t seem to have the same level of blocking on his returns. Fans were holding their breath for the explosive back to take one to the house, and he finally returned a kick for a 97-yard touchdown. The Vikings were down 23-16 in the third quarter and had to score points in the drive to stay in the game. Nwangwu drifted to the left, had excellent blocking, and due to his speed and some mistakes in the coverage unit, he was gone. His third career return touchdown tied the game and was crucial to winning the game.

Continued Struggles

Kicker Greg Joseph continues to cause headaches among Vikings fans. He hit every field goal for the fourth straight game and is seven of seven in that stretch. However, his longest field goal in those four games was a 36-yarder.

Greg Joseph's Significance to Vikings Is High
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His problem is hitting extra points. Joseph already missed his fifth extra point and is now 24 of 29 in the 2022 season. His 82.8% is the lowest percentage of all qualified NFL kickers. No other kicker missed more than three in the season. Curiously, Joseph is hitting every short field goal but can’t find his rhythm on kicks after touchdowns. There are no great kickers on the free-agent market, but the Vikings will keep an eye out for competition if he can’t find some consistency soon.

Shredding Narratives

Quarterback Kirk Cousins has to deal with all kinds of narratives, some are there for good reason, and some are false. Doing the exact opposite of the narrative is how to get rid of them, and that’s precisely what Cousins did. He had a phenomenal game, despite the game taking place in primetime. The narrative is that Cousins can’t play later on a day and magically turns into a terrible quarterback.

Kirk Cousins Reacts to Huge Primetime Win 
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Early in the game, Cousins, indeed, had a terrible throw that led to an interception, but besides that, he played a nearly flawless game. By doing so, he proved another narrative wrong when he pulled off the victory against a team with a winning record. Cousins finished the day with 299 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. His passer rating was an excellent 116.1, his second-best number of the season.

Kevin O’Connell went up against legendary coach Bill Belichick. A narrative surrounding the coach is that he’s unbeatable on short weeks and that he’s conquering inexperienced head coaches. The rookie head coach had a fantastic game plan, and his team won.

Another narrative is that Belichick is taking away the opponent’s best weapon with outstanding game plans and schemes. In this game, however, Justin Jefferson, the clear focal point of the offense, recorded 139 yards on nine catches and found the endzone once. Future opponents of the Vikings hoped to see a blueprint of how to stop the wideout, but not even the Patriots could find a way.

Bounceback Game

The Vikings Playoff Probability Meter: Week 13
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After a horrendous outing against the Dallas Cowboys only four days before the Thanksgiving matchup with the Patriots, the Vikings bounced back and increased their record to 9-2. The offensive line wasn’t great, but they held up a lot better than in their dreadful showing on Sunday. That single change made the explosive offense possible, as it’s impossible to have success running or passing the ball if the line is getting pushed around.

The passing defense had similar struggles, but the Patriots could not take advantage as the Cowboys did. The significant change, however, was up front in the running game. Even without Dalvin Tomlinson for the fourth straight game, the Vikings could contain the dangerous running game around Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris. The duo recorded only 52 yards on 12 carries. The play in the trenches and special teams was the biggest difference between the last two games.

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