The Minnesota Vikings are 10-2 after a close win over the New York Jets in Week 13. The 27-22 victory was the ninth one-score win of the Vikings season, a number that the Vikings faithful don’t like. Like in every game, learning new things about the team is possible.
Vikings Are Who They Are
That far into the season, it’s unlikely to see significant changes coming. The Vikings just are who they are at this point. They make fewer mistakes than the opponents and, therefore, are plus eight in the turnover differential. The defense is opportunistic and steps up in big situations.
In all other game moments, however, the opponents move the ball up and down the field. Against the Jets, the Vikings allowed 486 total yards, including 366 passing yards, to backup quarterback Mike White. The unit took advantage of the inexperienced passer twice with picks by both safeties Harrison Smith and Camryn Bynum.
The offense, meanwhile, is getting the job done in most games but is highly inconsistent. Kirk Cousins and his teammates received the same criticism last season because the offense disappeared for stretches in games. In the game against the Jets, the same thing happened again. The Vikings had a comfortable 20-6 halftime lead, and fans thought about the first blowout win in quite some time.
Some other fans predicted the eventual outcome, as the Vikings usually don’t show up in the third quarter. Minnesota had the ball three times in the third quarter and punted the ball away on all three drives. They gained just one first down in total. The defense held the Jets to two field goals in between and saved the day. Both units can look elite at times, but they can also look terrible.
Facing Tough Defenses
Since Week 9, all five of the Vikings’ opponents have ranked in the top 10 in defensive EPA/play. The Cowboys are even the top defense by the rankings. The offense did just enough in those five games to pull off four wins. Of course, the game against the Cowboys turned out to be one of the worst stinkers in franchise history.
The Vikings didn’t have any offensive fireworks, as the offense ranks 23rd in the same EPA/play statistics during those five games. Cousins passed for seven touchdowns and four interceptions in that stretch. All four interceptions were bad ones in the first three quarters, but he was outstanding in the fourth quarter when it mattered most. Despite the tough opponents and the four victories, the offense has to play better, especially more consistently within games, if the Vikings want to win games in the postseason.
Ed Ingram’s Best Stretch
The offensive guard positions have been a struggle in Minnesota for years. While providing a minor upgrade, that hasn’t changed in 2022. However, rookie Ed Ingram had the best two-game stretch of his young career. He struggled earlier in the season and gave up the most quarterback pressures in the league. Ingram showed massive improvements in the two games against the Jets and the Patriots.
He finally showcased his physical tools not only in the run game, which is his strong suit but also in pass protection. The rookie gave up one sack in each of the two games, a totally acceptable number. Both opponents have strong defensive lines and can confuse linemen with creative blitzes, but Ingram stood his ground, even against superstar defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.
Unexpected Heroes Take the Stage
Three Vikings backups and role players had a huge impact on the game. Defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga relived starters Dalvin Tomlinson and Harrison Philipps and registered on quarterback hurry. He batted one pass down and helped eat up blocks in the running game.
An even better day had second-year edge rusher Patrick Jones. He comes into the game when Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith need a breather or the Vikings play with three or more edge rushers (and he shares the backup duties with D.J. Wonnum). Jones recorded four tackles and a sack in just 20 snaps.
Jalen Reagor, a late preseason trade acquisition, played only two snaps on offense. His primary role is the punt-returning job. The former first-rounder went deep on his only passing play, and Cousins decided to throw him the ball. Cousins was hit during the throw, and the pass was way short. Reagor adjusted and came down with a huge 38-yard reception. Barring injuries, there are not a lot of chances for the speedy receiver to make a huge impact, but he could get a few extra snaps in the next games.
Bynum’s Best Performance
Camryn Bynum, the starting safety, has been one of the low-end starters of the Vikings. He was probably not supposed to start after the Vikings selected Lewis Cine in the first round, but he won the job in training camp and kept it. It’s unknown if Cine would’ve taken the spot had he not gotten injured in Week 4.
Some teams took advantage of Bynum’s lack of experience as a safety. He was a cornerback in college, and the transition was not easy. In addition, he’s still a young player without a full season’s worth of starting experience. Against the Jets, Bynum had his big day. Mike White targeted the second-year player four times and completed just one pass.
He broke up the pass that led to the Harrison Smith interception in the first quarter, and he clinched the game late in the fourth quarter with an interception in the endzone. Bynum added value to the running game in his best performance of the season.
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