From a suggestion by a reader, we continue our “snap reactions” weekly piece detailing thoughts and analysis after a Minnesota Vikings game.
This will be off-the-cuff, a wee bit “random,” and hopefully insightful.
The Vikings climbed to 2-1 atop the NFC North after a rollercoaster win over the Detroit Lions in Week 3. Minnesota outlasted Detroit 28-24.
1 – Elsewhere, you’ll probably read oodles of content about why the Vikings deserve to lose — yadda, yadda, yadda. Football games are often not pretty — perhaps you watched Sunday Night Football with Denver and San Francisco — but ultimately, the Vikings won heroically over a scrappy, energetic team. On the whole, these are not the same ‘ol Lions. Let the Vikings enjoy this one, and enjoy it yourself.
2 – Minnesota’s offensive line suddenly doesn’t look like a glaring weakness. It played well versus a sturdy Lions defensive line. The Vikings might be one of those teams that employ a mid-tier offensive line — not great or horrible — but decent.
3 – It’s probably time to quit forecasting a large Irv Smith breakout year. Folks have called for that since 2019. That’s not going to happen, especially as Minnesota’s offense prefers showcasing Johnny Mundt and Ben Ellefson as much as Smith. He’s a good tight end, but he’s nowhere near a Darren Waller or Travis Kelce type.
4 – You’re probably frustrated with the defense — and rightfully so. Sometimes, though, defenses take time to jell. This happens to the Patrick Mahomes-led Kansas City Chiefs virtually every year. While the 2022 Vikings will not emulate the 2017 Vikings, the group will improve as it acclimates to Ed Donatell. But it likely won’t be a Top 10 unit.
5 – Kudos to that same Donatell for helping to win a football game with almost no pass rush. A stout offensive line bullied the Vikings defensive line for the second time in as many weeks.
6 – Welcome back, Adam Thielen. It appears you’re not washed up after all. The folks hinting at that were silly to begin with.
7 – The Vikings had only three penalties — for 15 yards. Quietly, the lack of penalties has been a strong advantage and, as always, is the sign of a disciplined team.
8 – You may not want to acknowledge this: What Kirk Cousins did against the Lions — he did multiple times in the 2021 season. But Minnesota’s defense squandered his 4th Quarter comebacks over and over last year. Hence, no one cared that Cousins was doing his part. Well, he did his part again, and the defense held up. Funny how that works.
9 – Greg Joseph is not Justin Tucker, after all. It was also very weird that four field goals (from both teams in total) were missed inside an indoor stadium.
10 – Justin Jefferson has been quiet for two straight games, meaning he’s probably sitting on a monster game soon. Thankfully, the attention allotted to him frees up the aforementioned Thielen and K.J. Osborn. And Minnesota’s QB1 is generally terrific at getting the ball to multiple pass-catchers. He did so ad nauseam in Washington.
11 – Dalvin Cook started the injury stuff early this year. You knew it was coming. This is his modus operandi. Fortunately for Kevin O’Connell’s offense, it has Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, and Kene Nwangwu chomping at the bit for action. Cook will obviously be missed if he sits out or experiences a pitch count in England, but the Vikings have a deep RB room for a reason. This is it.
12 – The Vikings are still at their best when they run the ball almost as much as flinging it around the stadium. A balanced offense is better than a pass-happy, Cousins-throws-50-times offense. Always remember that. You should be thrilled when the team imposes its will on the ground.
13 – We’ll admit the lack of action for Lewis Cine is concerning and weird. He’s a 1st-Rounder and should play on defense, particularly with Harrison Smith out. Alas, Cine must not be ready.
14 – The no-call at the end of the 1st Half involving the Lions defender slapping the ball away from Garrett Bradbury was bogus. It should’ve been a Delay of Game penalty, one or two seconds returned to the clock, and a long field goal attempt for Joseph. Cousins was entitled to the anger he expressed.
15 – Both Vikings linebackers, Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks, had marvelous plays to end drives — a good sign of the two perhaps hitting their stride.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).