Upon Further Review: Vikings at Giants

A week’s worth of drama culminated in the Minnesota Vikings‘ most balanced performance of the season.

The Vikings piled up nearly 500 yards of total offense, more than doubling their output from Week 4, en route to a 28-10 win over the New York Giants.

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Kirk Cousins bounced back with a season-high 306 passing yards, while top target Adam Thielen accounted for 130 of them and caught a pair of touchdown passes.

Dalvin Cook remained the focal point of the offense even as the passing game picked up, finishing second on the team with 86 receiving yards while rushing 21 times for 132 yards.

The pass rush terrorized Daniel Jones and the resurgent Giants offense, piling up four sacks, an interception and a safety. Danielle Hunter led the way with seven tackles, two tackles for loss and two sacks.

It was the Jones’ worst game since taking over as the Giants’ starter in Week 3.

And while the secondary has looked better — Xavier Rhodes struggled, surrendering a 35-yard touchdown pass to rookie Darius Slayton — it was a strong outing for the defense as a whole.

Even star receiver Stefon Diggs, whose apparent frustration with the Vikings’ struggles and lackluster passing attack led to all that angst in Minnesota, seemed satisfied.

It was, by just about any measure, the Vikings’ most complete performance of the young season.

 

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Cousins went 22-for-27 for 306 yards and two touchdowns on the day for a 138.6 passer rating, and even pulled the trigger a few times, including an attempt of nearly 30 yards to Diggs in the second quarter that fell incomplete. Was it a coincidence that his first pass went to the disgruntled wide out? But while Diggs finished with a modest stat line — three catches for 44 yards — Thielen bounced back with a huge game. He caught seven of the eight passes thrown his way, finishing with 130 yards and two touchdowns for his biggest game since Week 4 of last season. That works out to 16.25 yards per target, Thielen’s best mark of the year.

 

DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME

Cousins and Thielen’s connection was encouraging, but the Vikings’ offense still runs through Cook. He went off after finding little room to run against the Chicago Bears last week, piling up 132 rushing yards and 86 receiving yards. He finished with a whopping 218 yards from scrimmage, the most by a Vikings player since Adrian Peterson went off for 220 yards during Week 13 of the 2012 season. His game featured one notable miscue, a lost fumble late in the first half that the Vikings’ almost immediately turned into a safety, but it was another monster game for Cook. He’s up to 542 rushing yards in just five games, second in the league to Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.

 

THAT MOMENT

After all that — the absences, the fines and the rumors — Diggs was right there celebrating with Thielen after Cousins connected with the latter for the Vikings’ first touchdown of the day. The two celebrated in the end zone with Cook and fellow receiver Olabisi Johnson following the score. The touchdown was important — the Giants cut the lead to 10-7 just five plays later — but the apparent camaraderie was even more encouraging.

 

THIS NUMBER

The Vikings racked up a season-high 490 yards of total offense against the Giants, gaining 211 yards on the ground and 279 through the air in their most balanced outing of the year. We’d caution against reading too much into such a performance — the Giants are now allowing just under 410 yards per game, among the worst marks in the league — but it’s an encouraging sign for a unit that spent the week leading up to Sunday’s game in apparent disarray.

 

THEY SAID IT

“It’s been a long week. There’s been a lot trying to separate us and I think that just brought us more close as a group.” — Running back Dalvin Cook

 

“I thought it was a very balanced attack today through the pass game and the run game. The screen game added variety to the offense. I thought Dalvin showed why he’s such a special player.” — Quarterback Kirk Cousins

 

“They had scored with the first possession in all four ball games, so it was big for us defensively not to allow them to score.” — Head coach Mike Zimmer

 

WHAT’S NEXT

The Vikings (3-2) are in last place following Sunday’s action. The Green Bay Packers (4-1) rolled past the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears (3-2) fell to the lowly Oakland Raiders, while the Detroit Lions (2-1-1) were idle after falling to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4. And while that logjam doesn’t look particularly intimidating, the Vikings’ schedule does. They host the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6, then visit the Lions in Week 7.