Upon Further Review: Vikings offense dazzles in Detroit

It wasn’t too long ago when it looked like the Minnesota Vikings’ offense was in shambles.

It had just been held to six points and 40 rushing yards in an ugly loss to rival Chicago. Was the clock ticking on Kirk Cousins’ status as commander of the offense? And was Kevin Stefanski over his head with the promotion to offensive coordinator?

Fast forward three weeks, and Stefanski’s unit looks unstoppable.

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The Vikings’ offense was firing on all cylinders Sunday afternoon in Detroit, gashing the Lions’ defense for 503 total yards in a 42-30 win. Minnesota scored a touchdown on six of its nine drives and was a perfect 5-for-5 in the red zone.

Coming off a pair of stellar performances the previous two weeks, it felt like Cousins was due for a letdown, something that’s plagued him in critical division games for most of his eight-year career. But the 31-year-old responded with another strong game, throwing for 337 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Both offenses battled back and forth for most of the afternoon. Minnesota had no answers for Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones, who caught four touchdown passes. The Vikings’ defense yielded 30 points for the first time since Week 8 of 2018.

In the end, it was Minnesota’s balanced offensive attack mixed with a bit of late-game aggressiveness that sealed the Vikings’ fifth win of the season — and third straight.

Here’s a recap of Sunday’s game (Story | Photos):

PLAYER OF THE GAME

We could really give this honor to the entire offensive unit, but that’d be too easy. So, we’ll hand it to running back Dalvin Cook, who was there all afternoon as a consistent force in the running game. Cook notched his fifth game of 100+ rushing yards this season. He turned 25 carries into 142 yards (5.7 average) and two touchdowns. Cook now sits alone atop the NFL rushing leaders with 725 yards, although it’s worth noting that Carolina star Christian McCaffrey had a bye this weekend.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME

When wide receiver Adam Thielen left the game with a hamstring injury in the first quarter, rookie Bisi Johnson heard his name called. Johnson hauled in four of his eight targets for 40 yards, including a one-yard score in the second quarter for his first career NFL touchdown. The 2019 seventh-round pick played in 71% of Minnesota’s snaps in Thielen’s absence.

THAT MOMENT

With three minutes to play in the fourth quarter and Minnesota leading 35-30, Cook took a first-down carry for five yards. Detroit used its first timeout to stop the clock. Coming out of the timeout, the Vikings would continue to run the ball to keep the clock moving and/or burn the Lions’ timeouts, right? Nope. In an obvious running situation, Stefanski called for a deep shot. It worked. Cousins hit Diggs in stride for a 66-yard completion, which set up Cook’s four-yard score to put the game on ice. We haven’t seen this type of aggression in Minnesota’s play calling since, well, probably ever. Well done, Stefanski.

THIS NUMBER

Over the last three games, Cousins has tallied 976 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception while completing 75.6% of his passes, adding up to a 142.6 passer rating. He’s the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300+ yards and post a passer rating of 130+ in three straight contests. Cousins has logged a passer rating of 140+ in four of seven contests.

THEY SAID IT

“Sometimes you just have those games where plays that you didn’t think would gonna be there are there. Other games, it’s gonna be a struggle and we might have to win 10-9. That’s ok. You just need to find a way to win on what the games call for. The last few weeks, it’s been a bit more ‘open it up and let it fire.’” — quarterback Kirk Cousins

“It was a darn good win — a win on the road. We keep finding different ways to win, and that’s important for us.” — head coach Mike Zimmer

“It’s all the offensive coordinator drawing it up. I don’t call the plays, but I have to say that was a great play call.” — wide receiver Stefon Diggs on the late third-down deep shot

“I was confident in my abilities the whole time. I knew I had a chance to be on this team, and there really was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be where I’m at right now.” – wide receiver Bisi Johnson

WHAT’S NEXT

It’s a short week for the Vikings, who return home to face Washington on Thursday Night Football. The Redskins are 1-6, their latest defeat being a 9-0 blanking by San Francisco. Minnesota is familiar with their quarterback Case Keenum, who stepped in for an injured Sam Bradford and led the team to the NFC title game in 2017. Keenum hasn’t exactly been remarkable, as he’s thrown for 1,213 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 66.3% of his pass attempts in 2019.