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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings want to ride Dalvin Cook ‘the rest of the year’

By Patra, Kevin Vikings RB Dalvin Cook had a career-high 136 rushing yards in Sunday’s 41-17 romp over the Dolphins. Will Cook have the same success in Week 16 versus the Bears?

Source:: National Football League

Breaking down a wild Week 15 with the FNIA crew

By Mike Florio The fifteenth week of the 2018 season was a wild one indeed, yet again taking our perceptions and conclusions about who’s good and who’s not and smashing them like an angry Ukrainian. As the day winded to a conclusion, we tried to make sense of things at the desk of Football Night in America, with [more]

Source:: ProFootballTalk

NFC playoff picture: Rams at risk of losing the bye week

By Michael David Smith For much of this season the Rams looked like the favorites to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and like shoo-ins to earn a bye week. That’s no longer the case. After the Rams’ loss to the Eagles on Sunday night, they’re now half a game behind the Saints, who own the head-to-head tiebreaker [more]

Source:: ProFootballTalk

Mike Zimmer: Offense is easy when you get 5-6 yards a pop

By Josh Alper The Vikings played their first game with Kevin Stefanski in the offensive coordinator job on Sunday and the fact that they won 41-17 likely tells you what kind of reaction he got from his boss after his first day. Head coach Mike Zimmer said Stefanski “never got panicked at all during the day” and was [more]

Source:: ProFootballTalk

Zulgad: Cousins manages to look far more at ease under new coordinator

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS — Kirk Cousins completed six fewer passes and threw for only 7 more yards against Miami on Sunday than he did the previous Monday in a loss at Seattle.

But there was a world of difference in how Cousins looked in the Vikings’ 41-17 victory over the Dolphins, the quarterback’s first game since John DeFilippo was fired as offensive coordinator and Kevin Stefanski was promoted from quarterbacks coach.

Cousins, whom the Vikings made a three-year, $84 million investment in as a free agent last offseason, looked afraid to make a mistake in a 21-7 loss in Seattle. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made it clear in his postgame comments that he had noticed this.

“I’ve talked to him a few times during the week this week,” Zimmer said. “When you’re in seventh grade and you took the ball and you went out there in the backyard with your buddies, you don’t run plays. You just play the game. I think that is what he needs to do is just play the game and let it unfold. You don’t want to be reckless but stuff breaks down all the time. You might call something for Cover-2 and it’s a two-man or something like that. Stuff happens. Just be a reactionary player and that is how guys play. I thought he did that today.”

The feeling from this end is that while Cousins is one of the top-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, the Vikings were making a mistake by asking him to play like an upper-echelon passer. He can be a good quarterback, but he isn’t a Top 10 QB and far too often DeFilippo was trying to ask Cousins to do too much.

That changed on Sunday. Cousins’ 14 completions and 21 attempts were both season-lows and running back Dalvin Cook, whom DeFilippo did not use nearly enough, had a season-high 19 rushing attempts for 136 yards and two touchdowns. If anything, Cousins was asked to manage the offense more than doing anything dynamic and it worked. His 112.2 passer rating was his best since he posted a season-high 129.5 in a 24-17 victory over Green Bay in Week 12 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Cousins also completed his first eight passes before throwing an incompletion of the Vikings’ first drive of the second quarter.

“I go back to that it’s not the plays so much as the players and the execution,” Cousins said when asked about the play calling on Sunday. “I’ll go back to game after game this year where the plays are there, they’re good plays, but we’ve got to execute. We’ve got to make the coaches right. Today, I think there was execution early, quickly, and that enabled us to jump out to a lead and put our defense in a position where they like to be. It went form there.”

The Vikings’ offense came out throwing haymakers at the Dolphins and scored touchdowns on its first three drives. The opening series ended with Cousins finding Stefon Diggs on a 13-yard touchdown pass. Cook then scored on a 13-yard run, and running back Latavius Murray added an 18-yard run to make it 21-0 after one quarter. Cousins added a 40-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Aldrick Robinson in the fourth quarter on a beautiful throw.

Cousins also was used more under center and less in shotgun than he was when DeFilippo was calling plays.

It was not a perfect day for Cousins.

The Viking were up by 21 when Cousins attempted to throw a screen pass to Diggs that was intercepted by Miami safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and returned 50 yards a touchdown. The Dolphins added a field goal before the quarter was finished and the momentum of the game shifted for an extended period at that point.

“I think you guys saw it,” Cousins said of the pick. “I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t know. It’s a screen, it’s a receiver screen, it’s quick hitting. I’m trying to negotiate the defensive end thinking the guy who picked it is going to be blocked and he wasn’t blocked. He jumped it and he guess right. It’s a bang-bang play. We’ve thrown a lot of those this season and had a lot of success on them. Every single one of them is tight like that. It can be scary and you’re expecting that player to get influenced and picked in such a way that the receiver can catch it and go right around him. In this case, he jumped it and you saw the rest.”

The turnover was nothing new for Cousins. He has thrown 10 interceptions this season — three that have been returned for touchdowns — and seven lost fumbles, two of which were turned into immediate scores. His 17 turnovers lead the NFL.

“I was actually on the blitz,” Fitzpatrick said. “When I walked into that 3 by 1, Diggs and those two, they were vertical. I had a couple guys call it out. I was able to just go since I was on the blitz and I didn’t have to be patient. So, I just went. Kirk was looking at them the entire time and I just looked at him.

Zimmer, perhaps wanting to dial down the pressure on his quarterback, said he didn’t say anything after Cousins threw his interception.

“Stuff happens during the course of the game,” Zimmer said. “No one said anything to me when I called that 75-yard run except for me. (Zimmer said his defensive play call on Miami’s 75-yard touchdown run by Kalen Ballage on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter was his fault.) We were trying to throw wide receiver screens. The corner just kind of jumped out in front of it. The two bad hiccups were that one and the 75-yard run. Other than that, I was pretty pleased with the day.”

The post Zulgad: Cousins manages to look far more at ease under new coordinator appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

Trusting the Stefanski process (418)

By Matthew Coller

Matthew Coller and Judd Zulgad break down the Minnesota Vikings’ destruction of the Miami Dolphins. Hot take: Keep giving the ball to Dalvin Cook. Also how new play caller Kevin Stefanski protected Kirk Cousins and got the most out of his offensive line.

The post Trusting the Stefanski process (418) appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

Zygi Wilf: We’re very happy with Mike Zimmer

By Josh Alper The Vikings fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo after losing to the Seahawks last Monday night, but they rebounded for a lopsided win over the Dolphins on Sunday and the message after the game was not one of more changes on the horizon. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf was asked about head coach Mike Zimmer’s status after [more]

Source:: ProFootballTalk

Adam Gase dejected after 24-point loss in Minnesota

By Mike Florio A week ago, the Dolphins were flying high after a miraculous finish against the Patriots, a hook-and-lateral-plus-another lateral that delivered an unlikely win over the Patriots. This week, the Dolphins are down and out after a 41-17 flattening in Minnesota. And coach Adam Gase reflects the mood of the team during his post-game press conference. [more]

Source:: ProFootballTalk

Bears clinch NFC North title, could face Vikings in opening round of playoffs

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings are very much alive in the NFC playoff picture, but they won’t be defending their NFC North title.

That became a certainty on Sunday as the Chicago Bears clinched the division with a 24-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field. Mitch Trubisky threw for two touchdowns as the Bears improved to 10-4 with two regular-season games remaining.

It will be the Bears’ first playoff appearance since they won the NFC North in 2010. The division title comes in Matt Nagy’s first season as the Bears’ coach and with Khalil Mack leading the defense after being acquired in an offseason trade from Oakland.

The Vikings,who broke a two-game losing streak with a 41-17 victory over Miami, improved to 7-6-1 and remain in the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC. The Packers will miss the playoffs for the second year in a row.

The Vikings will close the regular season with a game at Detroit next Sunday and then will play host to Chicago in Week 17. The Bears will play at San Francisco next Sunday before visiting Minnesota.

Chicago holds the third seed in the NFC and would play host to the Vikings in a first-round game if those teams remain in their current places.

The post Bears clinch NFC North title, could face Vikings in opening round of playoffs appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

Vikings strategic tweaks give offensvie line a better chance

By Matthew Coller

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been under duress on nearly 40 percent of his drop backs this year according to Pro Football Focus. During Sunday’s 41-17 win over the Miami Dolphins, interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski made a concerted effort to keep Cousins clean.

Heading into the matchup, Cousins had throw 418 passes from the shotgun and just 106 under center. Against the Dolphins it was a rare occurrence to see Cousins in the shotgun as the Vikings used bigger personnel packages with multiple tight ends and fullback CJ Ham while keeping Cousins under center.

“Mixing up different looks to give the defense,” center Pat Elflein said said of the strategy’s effectiveness. “They see he’s under center or different tendencies, you can break those tendencies by doing different stuff like that.”

The Vikings heeded head coach Mike Zimmer’s wishes by focusing on the run game, which picked up over 200 yards against the Dolphins. Elflein said giving the Dolphins a run game to fear made a difference in play-action.

“When you can establish the running game, the play-action can be a little more effective and I think we did that,” Elflein said. “We established a little running game and we were able to hit on some play-actions.”

Getting the run game and play-action going allowed Cousins to roll away from pressure when throwing and otherwise give the ball to playmakers out of the backfield. He only threw 21 passes in the win.

“It was working pretty good,” Zimmer said. “We were hitting five, six yards a carry and, you know, Dalvin Cook is a pretty talented player and when he’s got the ball in his hands, typically good things happen. Latavius Murray is a good, hard, physical running back so I thought all that was good. When you’re running the ball, it sets up play-action passes.”

The Vikings occasionally went with an up-tempo pace, which Cousins mentioned after the loss to New England that he would like to see more no huddle.

“They did a hell of a job,” receiver Stefon Diggs said. “They love it. As far as pushing tempo, firing the ball, they get excited.”

Naturally Stefanski garnered rave reviews following the 41-point explosion. At one time this year the offense was criticized having a high “volume” of plays and concepts. Receiver Adam Thielen said it was simpler but also kept the Dolphins off balance.

“It was simpler but we definitely still had everything that we needed,” Thielen said. “Coach did a great job of keeping the defense on their heels. They didn’t know if it was a run or pass. He let the guys who were playing well take over and carry the offense.”

The Vikings finished the day with only two sacks allowed and a total of 418 yards and 6.6 yards per play.

The post Vikings strategic tweaks give offensvie line a better chance appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire