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Reviewing the Minnesota Vikings’ 2021 season: Week 3 vs Seattle

Purple Pain

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

I’m continuing my look back at 2021, looking for opportunities and changes that could be made with largely the same personnel for 2022. I’m working on a season preview type of piece, and with little else going on in the offseason, I’m posting what I see.

Game 1 @ CIN

Game 2 @ ARI

Week 3 – Vikings vs Seahawks: Vikes win 30-17

Interesting stat: The box score says DK Metcalf killed the Minnesota Vikings with 107 yards and a touchdown. But that story of the Vikings’ secondary being shredded is incomplete. Because

DK Metcalf on the 1st drive: 55 yards + 1 TD

DK Metcalf on the last 8 drives: 52 yards + 0 TDs

Interesting stat runner-up: 22:40 vs. 7:20 – the Vikings’ time of possession advantage in the second half.

Key play: second quarter, third-and-three, the Vikings with the ball on their own 22, with the Seahawks leading 17-7. The Vikings had gone three-and-out on their last drive, and Chris Carson shredded the Vikings on the ground after Metcalf shredded the Vikings through the air on the opening drive. If the Vikings go three-and-out on this drive, it could potentially put them in a big hole.

Related: Minnesota Vikings GM on Kirk Cousins: ‘QB play matters, but there are other ways to win’

Alexander Mattison’s screen steals the momentum

Kirk Cousins drops back, looks, and is swarmed and … sacked.

BUT!

There is a flag.

Defensive holding, five yards, and an automatic first down.

The momentum shift at this play was massive. The game was 7-17 before this and 23-0 after it. I don’t know if it was psychological, or just a lesson to never give an NFL team life. This also set up a great play. In the Cardinals’ recap, I complained that there were too many pages in the section of the Vikings’ playbook for “stupid screens”. This, on the other hand, is how screens are supposed to work.

Members of the Seahawks’ defense are falling all over themselves trying to get after Cousins after they almost took control of the game on the previous “key play” – and then he’s just like, “Oops! Ball’s over there; you missed it!” Garrett Bradbury is about to treat Jordyn Brooks (also #56) like a windshield treats a bug, and then Alexander Mattison is out-the-gate for 23 yards. Perfection.

I’m going to go back into a few more interesting plays after ratings. As a reminder, each unit will get +2, +1, -1, or -2 (no 0’s; I want an opinion on everything).

Passing offense: Overall, very good. It’s hard not to give a max score of +2 for a 323 Yds / 3 TD / 0 Int game, but I’m going to grade a bit more harshly in a win. Justin Jefferson looked uncoverable, but did have some drops. Cousins was great converting some long third downs. The slight negative is that it was the passing game that stalled in the second half and left three potential touchdowns on the board in favor of three field goals. If another group wasn’t so dominant, that could have haunted the team this game. And if I split pass protection out into its own category, that would probably be a -1. But overall, very good.

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

Rushing offense: Dalvin Cook missed this game due to injury, but Mattison was dominant. Maybe the yards-per-carry wasn’t gaudy, but I’m going to look the other way on that because I’m so starstruck by how good Mattison was in the screen game (yes, I’m aware that’s technically a pass, and I don’t care).

Game score: +2 (cumulative season to date: +1)

Pass defense: This is the group that kept their foot on Seattle’s throat. The pass rush was the star here; pressure covered up any mistakes. Patrick Peterson had a heck of a game when he was matched up against DK Metcalf. Coverage was aggressive. Russell Wilson’s 298 yards might look solid, but there were 90+ garbage yards at the end of the two halves that didn’t lead to any points (or even much of a threat of points). Makes me wonder what’s going to happen later in the season if this unit will disintegrate…

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

Run defense: Only okay. The dominance of the Vikings’ pass defense put the Seahawks in a position where they didn’t have a chance to run much, but they were effective when they did.

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

Special teams: I won’t give out a bad score when Greg Joseph goes 6/6 on kicks for 12 points. But the return game stunk, so not much to brag about.

Game score: +1 (cumulative season to date +2)

Coaching: This game was mostly what we asked for. Clock management at the end of the first half was great, scoring a touchdown to take the lead with 0:16 seconds in the half. Great adjustments shut down Metcalf after the first drive. A couple of good play calls. Aggressively playing to win the game (turning Cousins loose to throw on third-and-eight with 2:08 left iced the game). Credit where it’s due; this coaching performance was absolutely playoff team quality.

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

Related: Dalvin Cook primed for even bigger role with Minnesota Vikings under Kevin O’Connell

Areas of improvement

This was a comfortable win, but the reason I’m looking at all of this is: changes and opportunity for 2022. Here are a few plays I noticed:

We’re going back to the “stupid screen” section of the playbook. Why

Really? I say something nice about the screens, and then they pull this one out in a crowded stadium? Adam Thielen is seven yards behind the line of scrimmage when he catches this with no help. There isn’t even any pressure that Cousins has to avoid. The Cousins-to-Jefferson dug the offense back out of the hole this created, but this is clearly an opportunity to be better.  There’s no trickery at all.  The Vikings’ coaching staff doesn’t seem to understand: You don’t call screens whenever you want; you call them whenever the other team doesn’t want you to.

WATCH: Minnesota Vikings Lewis Cine says he wants to ‘stack bodies’ in NFL rookie season

Lewis Cine may be a welcome addition

The next thing I was looking for was coverage breaks in the secondary. This was one of the big plays by the Seahawks, a crossing route to Will Dissly:

My takes from this play:

– This shouldn’t be that difficult of a cover for Eric Kendricks. This play represented 17% of Dissly’s yards for the entire season. There isn’t anyone else around for Kendricks to be concerned about, so what’s going on?  Maybe there is more of this that explains the Brian Asamoah draft pick.

– The more I watch, the more all aboard I am on the Lewis Cine train. Look at this play and ask yourself: given the coverage, where do you think this play should be stopped? Xavier Woods is breaking on the runner who, I’ll remind you, had 231 yards for the whole season. Dissly made it all the way to the Minnesota 33. That’s 15 yards out of the frame mostly because Woods whiffed on the tackle. Yeah, this is a completion, but it was unnecessary for this to be a huge, 39-yard explosive play.  Here’s hoping Cine would hit Will so hard it makes him Dissly.

Next up, the first play of the game… what is this on defense!?

The first play of the game and the Vikings are in a 3-4! I must see how this plays out! (Does it count as a cliffhanger if I only have to wait three seconds?)

Wilson avoided a huge sack by Danielle Hunter. Then Nick Vigil started to break on Wilson instead of staying in his zone and lost contact with Metcalf. With a little practice, this could work. That is Blake Lynch in at ROLB who rushed. Lynch accomplished nothing other than to ensure Hunter had a 1:1 match-up. I can’t help but think this could be made better somehow…

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, one for anyone who ever argues Cousins can’t make plays under pressure. Third down, Vikings trying to salt away a lead. Fourth quarter is winning time, and what happens?

Insert ice water into veins: completion to KJ Osborn, 15 yards, first down!  (Also: atta boy, Ezra Cleveland!)

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!