Upon Further Review: Vikings at Jaguars

Logan Bowles

A win is a win, especially for the Vikings who are desperate to slip into the playoffs after a 5-0 start to the season. In a 26-15 win over the 2-11 Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota moved to 7-6, keeping their heads above water in the NFC playoff race. And while they came away with a victory, it was not always a pretty sight. The Vikings lost the turnover battle, twice failed to score from the one-yard line and barely escaped a team with two wins. Minnesota still has to face Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers to close out the season before facing the Bears in the final game, but a win over a struggling team was mandatory to extend their hopes of making the postseason — and they got the job done.

Head coach Mike Zimmer also returned to the sideline after staying home after surgery on a detached retina Thursday night against the Cowboys. He was wearing a patch and special sunglasses in sunny north Florida. Throughout the week the Vikings said they felt like they let Zimmer down in the Cowboys' loss so pulling out a win as he fights his own battles this season must have been appreciated. Zimmer, who flew to Jacksonville but needed a doctor's clearance to resume his coaching duties, said he didn't have any limitations: “I couldn't see to my right, but other than that, not really,” he said.

SUNDAY SCHOOL

— Under new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, the Vikings have committed to the West Coast offense which depends on short passes underneath the defense. Minnesota went a slightly different route Sunday. Quarterback Sam Bradford found tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 44-yard pickup on the first play from scrimmage. Adam Thielen hauled in a 41-yard pass on the second possession and Stefon Diggs had a beautiful catch for 45 yards in the first half. Coming into the game, Jacksonville had allowed just two plays longer than 40 yards all season. The Vikings had those three in the first half.

— The Vikings finished the first quarter with a single rushing yard and 100 passing yards. For the game that would increase to 85 yards — but Minnesota's ground game has not improved and continues to be one of the league's worst per yards per carry.

— Bradford's throws were successful early and he did move the offense, but it wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that he completed a touchdown pass: a 3-yard toss to Kyle Rudolph with 2:13 left that sealed the win.

— Injury update: the Vikings lost receiver Laquon Treadwell (ankle), cornerback Trae Waynes (concussion protocol) and guard Brandon Fusco (concussion protocol).

DULY NOTED

— Kicker Kai Forbath was making a case for player of the game, but shanked an extra point late in the game after his first attempt was erased by a penalty. His four field goals, though, were undeniably important. He hit the longest from 46 yards out.

— Red zone efficiency was . . . lacking, and that's a big problem if this team is to indeed sneak into the playoffs. On two different drives, the Vikings had five plays from the one-yard line and came away with zero points on both possessions.

— This win is the Vikings' first on the road since Sept. 25.

WHAT IT MEANT

The Vikings still cling to hopes of a playoff game. Winning the remaining four games of the regular season is necessary (unless they get another source of help along the way), but beating a two-win Jaguars team was absolutely mandatory. Mistakes and a lack of efficiency, especially in the red zone, weren't encouraging — but they got it done.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Quarterback Sam Bradford only threw one touchdown but he moved the offense down the field, finishing with 292 yards on 24-of-34 passing. Give credit to the offensive line, though — Bradford wasn't sacked against the Jaguars, giving him time to make plays.

DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME

Defensive end Everson Griffen had two sacks and was consistently in Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' face throughout the game. He also finished with two tackles for loss and three QB hits.

THAT MOMENT

Holding on to a slim 18-16 lead with five minutes left, the Vikings were in possession of the ball with a chance to try and put the game out of reach. On 3rd and 10 at the Jacksonville 28-yard line, Bradford targeted Cordarrelle Patterson. The wideout caught it short of the sticks but battled for extra yardage. That play set up the touchdown which came four plays later.

THIS NUMBER

0: the number of times Bradford was sacked against Jacksonville. The offensive line deservedly bears the brunt of criticism, especially when it comes to protecting the quarterback. In this game, however, the unit performed, allowing Bradford — and the offense — to succeed.

THEY SAID IT

“This was huge to win today. The situation we put ourselves in, we feel we have to win out. You can't win out until you win the first one.” — tight end Kyle Rudolph

“We know what lies ahead for us and we felt we needed to win this one to get us going.” –running back Jerick McKinnon

“We created some explosive plays, and anytime you do that, it just makes it easier for the offense.” — quarterback Sam Bradford

“I wouldn't say we were desperate, but definitely there was a sense of urgency. When you get desperate or get in shambles and don't stay calm, cool and collective, that's when things don't go your way.” — wide receiver Stefon Diggs

“We needed this one. Our backs were against the wall.” — wide receiver Adam Thielen

WHAT'S NEXT

The Vikings stay in the AFC South and face the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are 6-7, but the Vikings will have to depend on their defense to contain Andrew Luck. Despite the team's sub-.500 record, Luck remains one of the most elite quarterbacks in the NFL. To make the playoffs the Vikings will need a lot of help, but winning out will substantially boost their chances.