Can Vikings Adjust without Christian Darrisaw?
Following the atrocity that was Minnesota’s outcome at home on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, the Vikings will face a short week against the New England Patriots. Matthew Judon comes in leading the NFL in sacks, but does his team provide an opportunity for Minnesota to get things right?
There’s no positive way to spin Minnesota without their most important bookend. Christian Darrisaw has provided stability for Kirk Cousins that he has never before seen with the Vikings. A second concussion in as many weeks is as detrimental of an injury as it gets, and Darrisaw has already been ruled out for Thanksgiving. That said, if there’s a way to combat a negative offensive outlook, it’s probably in knowing the other team is already at a deficiency on that side.
The greatest thing that any New England Patriots team has had going for them since the early 2000s is Bill Belichick. That much remains the case for this 2022 squad, but Tom Brady is gone, and Mac Jones stepping in is hardly an answer. This version of the Patriots brings a young quarterback that was semi-benched in favor of something named Bailey Zappe. As has been the case for much of the past decade, there are no superstars in the backfield, and the wide receiver room is void of a true guy. Rob Gronkowski isn’t coming out of retirement any time soon, and the offense should strike fear into the hearts of no one.
All of that being said, the players on the other side of the ball have also done poorly when it comes to doing their jobs. Although Za’Darius Smith has been a menace up front for the Vikings, Minnesota’s secondary is largely as porous as was expected. Patrick Peterson has been a fine veteran leader, but Chandon Sullivan and the rookies have been burned far more often than not. It’s been a bend-but-don’t break approach for Ed Donatell’s group, and the dam unloaded on Sunday against the Cowboys.
Kevin O’Connell’s focus for Thursday night’s primetime matchup has to limit the number of opportunities the Patriots and Judon have to get home. Cousins can’t be involved in consistent situations where he’s required to go through five-step drops or long reads. Slants and short passes should be the name of the game, and as much as Justin Jefferson can be a deep threat, he can beat corners off the line as well. New England will give up opportunities on the ground, and it will be on Dalvin Cook to exploit them. Although the New England defense anchors the team, that’s the unit Minnesota should be looking to keep on the field.
It’s a short week of practice, and Blake Brandel isn’t going to become reliable overnight. He will have the understanding of drawing a start going into the contest, though, and that should provide a better opportunity to prepare and be ready. It’s a tough test facing such a dominant defense, but if the Vikings can get their offensive weapons involved early and often, it should provide an uphill battle that doesn’t allow the Patriots to bullrush the opposition.
Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.