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Reviewing the Minnesota Vikings’ 2021 season: Week 10 @ Chargers

Purple Pain

This fan blog entry was originally posted at Purple Pain Forums by MidwinterViking.

What a great game by the Minnesota Vikings! I have to stop myself and remember the point of this series is to look for things to learn about 2022, not to just rehash 2021; because if I lose focus, this post would turn into a fun read looking at awesome plays and I wouldn’t learn anything new. So rather than just recap a bunch of highlights I’m going to try to focus on plays that might indicate something changing.

Actually… no, forget that… here are some awesome plays…

Week 10 – Vikings at Chargers: Vikes win 27-20

Play 1:

1st and 16 from the six after a holding penalty. This is how a screen is supposed to work! The Los Angeles Chargers bring furious pressure, Alexander Mattison chips a defensive lineman, and Kirk Cousins looks right, causing the only practical defender to fall over.

This play looks even better from the sideline angle, where you can see three defenders not even in a position to be involved and how far away the guy who eventually makes the tackle is. This is a smart screen, not a stupid screen like we’ve seen far too many times doing this series. 

Play 2:

This is what happens when Justin Herbert assumes Keenen Allen versus a linebacker is a plus matchup for him and throws his way without remembering who Eric Kendricks is. After Kendricks takes the ball away like parents take their little kids’ Halloween candy (that is to say: laughing, while their family is watching, and without shame), he proceeds to completely own Herbert in a “who has the cooler hair?” contest, too. 

Play 3:

The Chargers laughably think that three defenders are enough to keep Justin Jefferson from getting the ball. This was a 2nd and 20 play which set up the Vikings’ first touchdown. Jefferson then attempts to also enter the “who has the cooler hair?” contest late, which is technically closed, but we’ll allow it. The only bad thing about this play is that Cousins might have had Dede Westbrook for a touchdown (maybe… not sure if the safety could get there).

Really this isn’t even being fair to Jefferson because I skipped his 18-yard catch on 3rd and 15 just before this because it didn’t look as cool on a screen grab.

Related: Former Minnesota Vikings player believes team can ‘thrive, win a Super Bowl’ with Kirk Cousins

Play 4:

Situation is 4th down, Vikings trailing 13-17 late in the third quarter. Chargers get a free rusher straight up the middle, two defenders in front of Tyler Conklin in the back of the end zone. No problem. Touchdown!

After the play, Conklin decides to enter his Khal Drogo style against Kendricks and Jefferson; that’s not going to win, but credit for trying.

Play 5:

Tries to answer the question of: how many guys do you need to stop Dalvin Tomlinson from knocking down a ball? The answer here is not conclusive on this play; we just know it’s more than two.

Play 6:

The Vikings are holding a slim 20-17 lead in the 4th. This is sort of the time when the offense would typically disappear, and that is looking like a risk on 3rd and 9. The discussion on the telecast sets this play up better than I can:

“This is the area, Mark, where the Chargers are the best in the NFL on 3rd and long.” – Talking-head-about-to-be-made-to-look-silly

“Awww yeah, and they’re so tough and so stingy; they’re so sticky in coverage. And this crowd is really coming alive.” – Other-talking-head-about-to-be-made-to-look-silly

“You forget your place, plebs, I know where the holes in the coverage are.” – Adam Thielen (I assume)

“That was fun. I think I’m gonna do that again on 3rd and 20 in a little bit to set up a game-winning play…” – Adam Thielen (foreshadowing)

Related: Justin Jefferson: ‘I’ll be the best receiver in the NFL in 2023’

Play 7:

I was trying to limit this to one play per guy, but I’m sorry, I just can’t… I just… look at this … on third down with three minutes left. It even needs a video (skip to 2:04 or enjoy it all, your call).

That is a completely uncoverable 27 yards. The Chargers even challenged this just so they could watch it a few more times.

Now onto the real breakdown…

Related: 3 Minnesota Vikings poised to breakout in 2022

Cameron Dantzler impresses

Interesting stat:

Cameron Dantzler’s stat line: 4 targets / 2 catches allowed / 10 yards allowed / -2 air yards allowed.

This was with Patrick Peterson not playing, so this isn’t a fluff stat that comes from playing 10 plays. Dantzler played 97% of defensive snaps this game. Dantzler also allowed a catch to Jared Cook for 0 yards that was nullified by penalty (hands-to-the-face on a defensive lineman). Here are the catches he gave up:

The second, Mike Williams comes behind the line of scrimmage. I’d argue this completion isn’t caused by poor coverage by Dantzler.

Related: Overpaid or underrated: 2022 outlook for Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

Vikings try something new?

Key play:

The first play of the game was a checkdown to Chris Herndon, the sort of thing that has killed Vikings’ drives to this point in the season because the checkdowns are thrown to receivers standing and waiting for the ball 5-10 yards behind the line of scrimmage while a defender is shadowing them. But look at this one…

Herndon was doing some non-traditional things for this offense. He was beyond the line of scrimmage. He was running. He wasn’t set up right behind some other players to make defending him redundant. He was moving away from defenders, so the result was a 14-yard gain. It’s like there was a whole other offensive coordinator for this game. The Vikings only called one “just stand there” route, and that was late in the game after hitting several deep passes, so it worked for 11 yards.

I didn’t forget the purpose of this series. The lesson learned from this game is why the Vikings brought back so many of these veterans. A lot of these awesome plays (and more I didn’t show) were really a high degree of difficulty. The Chargers’ defense played well, and Justin Herbert throwing to Mike Williams and Keenan Allen is not a slouch offense.  

Related: Minnesota Vikings training camp 2022: Schedule, tickets, location, and everything to know

Minnesota Vikings player grades

A reminder on the scoring I’m using: each unit is awarded -2 to +2 points depending on how much the group contributed to the game (no 0’s – you either win or lose).

Passing offense: Cousins was the better quarterback on the day, and it wasn’t particularly close. The Vikings converted some long third downs in key situations, the receivers were sure-handed, the offensive line played well (Joey Bosa was quiet with one sack and two pressures). The entire group was strong.

Game score: +2 (cumulative season to date: +4)

Rushing offense: Not a lot generated in the run game. They did power in one touchdown, but that would not have been enough if Cousins, Jefferson and Thielen weren’t playing out of their minds.

Game score: -1 (cumulative season to date: -4)

Pass defense: Prior games I have credited the pass rush for making the secondary look good. This game the secondary really held their own. Even a pass interference on Bashaud Breeland was pretty ticky-tacky in my opinion.

Game score: +2 (cumulative season to date: +5)

Run defense: Fantasy football says Austin Ekeler is a stud; not this game. When the opposing team’s quarterback has the longest run of the day and it’s only 11 yards, the run defense had a good day.

Game score: +2 (cumulative season to date: +2)

Special teams: No missed kicks, and Westbrook broke a long return. Solid contribution.

Game score: +4 (cumulative season to date +4)

Coaching: The games before this the team looked unprepared and uninspired. In this game, they came out and played with purpose and focus in a game many expected them to lose.

Game score: +2 (cumulative season to date: -4)

Here are the other games from this series if you want to look back:

Game 1 @ CIN

Game 2 @ ARI

Game 3 vs SEA

Game 4 vs CLE

Game 5 vs DET

Game 6 @ CAR

Game 7 vs DAL

Game 8 @ BAL

As always, if you’ve enjoyed this piece, please consider hopping over to Purple Pain Forums and debating with other Minnesota Vikings fans about not only this topic, but so much more!