Upon Further Review: Vikings vs. Raiders

After last week’s debacle in Green Bay, it would have been understandable — logical, even — if the first play of Sunday’s game had Minnesota Vikings fans panicking.

Kirk Cousins very literally stumbled out of the gate, tripping over the feet of center Garrett Bradbury on the Vikings’ first play from scrimmage.

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Fortunately for the Vikings, their $84 million quarterback stayed largely upright the rest of the way, helping Minnesota to a 34-14 win over the Oakland Raiders.

Cousins was sharp on the ensuing drive, hitting Adam Thielen for a 35-yard touchdown, finishing the day with 174 yards, a touchdown and no turnovers. He wasn’t sacked in Week 3, the first time that’s happened in his 19 career starts for the Vikings.

It’s not a narrative-shifting stat line, but it was enough.

The Vikings’ leaned on the run game again, as Dalvin Cook went over 100 rushing yards with a touchdown for the third straight week.

The defense looked sharp against an occasionally competent Raiders offense, racking up four sacks and an interception while allowing just one touchdown outside of garbage time.


Cook leads the NFL with 375 rushing yards and ranks second with four touchdowns following Sunday’s action. All those concerns about his rebuilt left knee and injury-plagued 2018 haven’t deterred head coach Mike Zimmer and the Vikings. Cook ranks fourth with 57 carries thus far after going off again against the Raiders. He averaged 6.68 yards per carry Sunday, down slightly after Week 2, and was on the field for 60% of the offense’s snaps, double rookie Alexander Mattison‘s workload.


Veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph came up just inches short of a touchdown in the first quarter, but Irv Smith Jr. was far more productive Sunday. Rudolph was on the field for 87% of the Vikings’ snaps on offense to Smith’s 49%, but was targeted just once. A second-round pick out of Alabama, Smith Jr. led the Vikings with 60 receiving yards on three catches and three targets after nabbing just one catch through the first two weeks of the season.


The degree of difficulty wasn’t particularly impressive, but it was still encouraging to see the Vikings’ passing game start clicking quickly against the Raiders. Cousins and Thielen connected to finish off their first drive — a six-play, 66-yard romp to the end zone — off a bootleg, the first of four Vikings touchdown drives.


Cousins looked better this week, but he still isn’t being asked to do much. He attempted just 21 passes against the Raiders — no starter attempted fewer in Week 3 — and completed just 15. And while Cousins’ completion percentage (71.43%) was encouraging, the Vikings’ passing game still faces plenty of uncertainty heading into a Week 4 showdown with the fearsome Bears defense in Chicago.


“It’s a beautiful thing when you can run the ball effectively” — Quarterback Kirk Cousins.

“Good things usually happen when you play with great effort” — Head coach Mike Zimmer.

“I leave it all on the line for those guys because they stood behind me 100% when I was having my ups and downs and just going through adversity. That’s just part of this game.” — Running back Dalvin Cook.


Week 4 in Chicago presents an early fork in the road for this year’s Vikings. Minnesota could be either 3-1 and tied for the division lead by this time next week, or in last place at 2-2. The Bears’ defense looked a little less intimidating in Week 2, allowing 153 rushing yards during a 16-14 win over the winless Denver Broncos. Meanwhile, their offense has scored just 19 points through two games. That won’t mean much if the Bears can bully Cousins like they did in both meetings last season — he was picked off twice and sacked six times in two games against the Bears last season — but there are reasons to be optimistic about their chances.