Without Christian Darrisaw holding down the blindside for Kirk Cousins, disaster could have been expected on Thanksgiving night. In preparing to face a stout pass rush, Kevin O’Connell set his offensive line up for success, and a massive test was passed. Another one arrives on Sunday.
Despite the New England Patriots employing NFL sack leader Matthew Judon and Christian Darrisaw not being active to slow him down, Minnesota got the better of Bill Belichick’s defense on Thursday. The Patriots came in licking their chops at the thought of a struggling Ed Ingram and a replacement in Blake Brandel. The Vikings had just allowed Micah Parsons and the Dallas Cowboys to run Kirk Cousins ragged, and he was ultimately sacked a whopping seven times.
However, when the dust settled on Minnesota’s Thanksgiving night victory, the Patriots brought Cousins down just a single time. Judon was rendered useless, and the Vikings questionable offensive line had rebounded massively.
Against the Patriots, Minnesota allowed only four hits to their quarterback. Judon did provide two of those, but it’s hardly the defensive impact he was looking to make. Protection held up well enough for Cousins to go 30 of 37 for 299 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Avoiding the constant pressure he felt a week prior against Dallas, Cousins was able to settle in and pick apart the defense from a more comfortable situation.
Following Week 12 action, the New York Jets defense ranks 4th across the NFL, ahead of the 7th-place New England Patriots. They are third in interceptions, with rookie Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner emerging as a lockdown talent. They have generated the 7th most sacks on the season, and Quinnen Williams remains a dominant force up front. While they can be more easily beaten on the ground, they are very tough against the pass and have done an exceptional job keeping receivers out of the end zone.
There’s certainly hope that Darrisaw could be back on Sunday. He suffered a concussion in consecutive weeks, but ideally, he is healing well and can contribute in some fashion sooner rather than later. There is also the reality that Minnesota gets additional time to regroup from the Thursday night game, and O’Connell has additional time to scheme and gameplan.
We’ll soon see how Minnesota can handle two tough defensive tests, but this team has established a reality that they are good, and they answered the first one convincingly.
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.