And Just Like That, The Vikings Are Back
The Minnesota Vikings had a dreadful start to their 2023 season. Losing close games after making crucial mistakes led to an 0-3 start, followed by another loss in Week 5. Entering Monday Night Football in Week 7, the Vikings have only won a couple of games, initiating desperation mode. More folks started to talk about a potential fire sale rather than the team competing for the playoffs.
And Just Like That, The Vikings Are Back
But those talkers should be silenced for a week. The Vikings pulled off the upset against the scary San Francisco 49ers in one of their best games in recent history. Winning the matchup is one thing but defeating the 49ers in a game that didn’t feel fluky is even more impressive.
The 49ers entered the game coming off a loss, their first and only in the Brock Purdy era, besides the NFC Championship Game in which he was unable to throw because of an elbow injury for the majority of the game. They were seven-point favorites even without Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams, and with a hobbled Christian McCaffrey. Of course, that is not an excuse as the Vikings were without Justin Jefferson for the second consecutive game.
Still, the Vikings found a way to move the ball. Other receivers stepped up in JJ’s absence. Rookie Jordan Addison certainly deserves a game ball, as he went berzerk, firing up 123 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches. One of those scores was an incredible highlight in which he just took away the ball from a defender on a desperation pass just before halftime.
But he wasn’t the only receiver emerging in primetime. Tight end T.J. Hockenson who has been criticized for his frequent drops in recent weeks caught 11 passes for 86 yards and reminded the viewers of his elite ability. Punt returner Brandon Powell made some clutch plays, resulting in four grabs for 64 yards while K.J. Osborn added five catches for 47 yards. The pass-catcher played a big role in the close victory.
And so did the passer, Kirk Cousins may have played his best game ever. He was calm in the pocket under pressure and was in total control on every single play, consistently finding receivers. He showed his ability to throw the ball deep and in tight windows and excelled on third downs. A nearly flawless performance from the 35-year-old who has now thrown for more than 700 yards and six touchdowns in two primetime games, both against elite defenses.
As football is the ultimate team sport, everything is connected. Without the receivers, Cousins isn’t racking up big numbers and vice versa. Just as important is the offensive line. Cousins was not sacked all game and the running backs had some holes to work with. The two ball carriers Cam Akers and Alexander Mattison nearly split the workload and rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries. The stats look worse than their actual performance as they were stuffed on obvious running downs late in the game.
On the defensive side, the Vikings held the NFL’s leading rusher McCaffrey to 3.0 yards per carry, forced a fumble, and caught a couple of Purdy misses. Camryn Bynum continues to play at an extremely high level, picking off Purdy twice in the fourth quarter including the game-sealing interception. They didn’t completely stop the 49ers as that group is too talented but they made life hard on all but one drive.
The Vikings are now 3-4 but the schedule is about to get a little easier in theory with games against the Packers, Falcons, Saints, Broncos, Bears, and Raiders coming up. Of course, the Vikings have shown an ability to let every game come down to the final play, no matter how good or bad the opponent is and none of those will be easy wins.
In the NFC North, the Vikings control their own destiny as they are two games behind the Lions but face them twice late in the year. While the trade deadline with the Vikings as potential sellers led the conversation leading up to the contest, they are now back in the mix. Minnesota’s leadership has treated the season as if they are thinking Super Bowl rather than draft and Monday’s game kept those tiny hopes inside and outside of the building alive.
Trading Danielle Hunter Would Be Stupid
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