FOX Sports North’s 2018 Minnesota Vikings season awards
FOX Sports North
Kirk Cousins and his top target were spotted in a shouting match with the Vikings losing to the Chicago Bears in Week 17, but for most of the season Adam Thielen was Minnesota's offense. The Detroit Lakes, Minn., native posted eight straight games of 100-plus receiving yards to start the season, breaking one NFL record and tying another. While Thielen had just one 100-yard game the rest of the way, he still posted career highs across the board with 1,373 receiving yards, 153 receptions and nine touchdowns on the season.
His 6-foot-6 frame and impossibly large arms have been subjects of discussion for years, but Danielle Hunter broke out in his second season as a full-time starter. The fourth-year defender earned his first Pro Bowl nod after racking up 14.5 sacks, tied for fourth in the league, and 51 total tackles. He ran wild on the Detroit Lions in Week 9 to the tune of four quarterback hits, 3.5 sacks and three tackles for loss.
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The Vikings suffered a major blow in Week 5, losing starting strong safety Andrew Sendejo to a groin injury. Enter, Anthony Harris. The fourth-year defender finished the 2018 season as Pro Football Focus's third-highest-graded safety, tying for the team lead with three interceptions in 15 games and nine starts. He went off in Week 11, picking off Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky twice.
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Rookie of the Year
A few rookies made significant contributions for the Vikings this season. From Mike Hughes, the first-round cornerback who tore his ACL in Week 6, to Holton Hill, an undrafted cornerback who started three games. But the Vikings' biggest needs are along their offensive line, and right tackle Brian O'Neill provided some immediate relief on that front. Once considered a long-term project, the former second-round pick ultimately started in Minnesota's final 11 games. According to STATS, O'Neill allowed just one sack all season.
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Harris was the Vikings' highest-rated defensive player this season per Pro Football Focus, but cornerback Mackensie Alexander is perhaps the most surprising name on the list at No. 3. The third-year cornerback didn't start in 2016 or '17, but appeared in 15 games this year, starting six. He registered the first four sacks of his career, and finished with 10 passes defended and seven tackles for loss. He showed out in the Vikings' win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 15, allowing just two catches for two yards on four targets.
Play of the Year
The Lions have now been Rodgers'd by both Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins, which is surely some sort of record. Cousins launched a 44-yard Hail Mary towards the end zone on the final play of the first half in Week 16, and his 6-foor-6 tight end Kyle Rudolph went up and got it, giving the Vikings their first lead of the afternoon. The play was visually similar to Rodgers' game-winning 61-yard touchdown pass to tight end Richard Rodgers back in 2015.
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If such a disappointing season can have a high point, it was probably Week 4, the moment when the Vikings' most resembled the bona fide contender they'd been billed as over the summer. Cousins and rookie Jared Goff dueled in primetime as the 1-2-1 Vikings hung with the 4-0 Los Angeles Rams from start to finish. Both quarterbacks threw for more than 400 yards, while Thielen and Stefon Diggs racked up a combined 258 receiving yards. Dan Bailey even made a few kicks, going 5-for-5 overall. The Rams won in the end, 38-31, but the score was close enough that more than a few Vikings fans probably believed things were going to be just fine, and Minnesota would in fact win four of its next five games.
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The Vikings were looking relatively solid through the first two weeks outside of some truly horrific kicking, courtesy of rookie Daniel Carlson. Cousins had just thrown for 425 yards and four touchdowns in a tie with the Packers. Surely, this was just a contender working out the kinks. Or not. The Vikings' offense sputtered against the lowly Buffalo Bills, becoming one of the final teams to lose -- presumably -- to a team rostering Nathan Peterman (he didn't play, but it counts). Minnesota was shut out until the 2:59 mark of the fourth quarter, suffering a 27-6 loss and ultimately missing the playoffs by half a game.