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Bleacher Report – Vikings

5 impact plays that led the Vikings over the Texans

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings’ win over the Houston Texans was their most complete and dominating victory of the year with contributions coming from offense, defense and special teams. Did Sam Bradford’s play have its biggest impact of his Minnesota career? How did the league’s best defense add to the win?

Using Pro Football Reference’s Win Probability Calculator, let’s have a look at the five biggest impact plays:

Adam Thielen 36-yard touchdown

Time: 11:29 remaining in the first quarter

Win Probability impact: 7.8%

The probability of a Vikings win jumped to around 80% with this touchdown pass by Sam Bradford. An early touchdown for a big favorite naturally has a larger impact on win probability than scoring first in a 50-50 game. Plus with the No. 1 defense in the NFL vs. a quarterback that had more interceptions than touchdowns coming into the game, getting the opening score made it feel like a huge hill to climb for the Texans.

At first look, the accuracy of Bradford’s pass is the most impressive part of this play. The ball travels more than 40 yards in the air and drops right into Thielen’s waiting hands. At a closer look, you can see that Bradford gives a little shoulder fake that freezes the defender and creates space for his wide receiver’s double move.

23-yard pass to Matt Asiata

Time: 8:28 remaining in the first quarter

Win Probability impact: 9.0%

Already up by seven, the Vikings’ defense forced a three-and-out and the Minnesota offense had an opportunity to give their chances to win the game a major boost. Bradford went back to work, hitting Cordarrelle Patterson for a short pass, then Jerick McKinnon nabbed a first down on a run. Another short carry from McKinnon and incomplete pass by Bradford set up 3rd-and-6 at the Houston 38, The 23-yard pass to Asiata put the Vikings at the doorstep of the end zone and gave them a win probability of over 90% at that point.

One of the must under-appreciated talents that Bradford has displayed is his ability to make a short pass that sets up his receiver or running back to run after the catch. This play appears simple, but Bradford must get the ball out quickly and on target to give Asiata a chance to get to the edge.

Eric Kendricks third-down pass breakup

Time: 5:16 remaining in the first quarter

Win Probability impact: 1.9%

At this point, the Vikings’ win probability was over 90% so there wasn’t much room to go up, but if the Texans had any chance to get back in the game, it was more or less shut down by Kendricks’ pass breakup. Forcing the Texans to punt on this 3rd-and-6 brought the chances for Minnesota to win at 95.1%.

Kendricks has been establishing himself as a quality linebacker recently and his pass coverage has been a valuable asset to Mike Zimmer’s defense. Kendricks lines up at the line of scrimmage then hustles out to reach the intended receiver Lamar Miller. The linebacker’s speed allows him to deceive Brock Osweiler into the wrong read.

Marcus Sherels 79-yard punt return for touchdown

Time: 9:05 remaining in the second quarter

Win Probability impact: 3.7%

After Sherels’ punt return for touchdown, the Vikings’ chance to win the game was at 99.4% and make it virtually impossible for the Texans to get back into the game.

Sherels has very impressive vision to find a lane. He explodes through the hole, then outruns everybody (and dodges the poor punter to boot).

Xavier Rhodes pass breakup against DeAndre Hopkins

Time: 5:52 remaining in second quarter

Win Probability impact: 0.5%

Again, the Vikings’ win probability was nearly at 100% at this point, so there wasn’t anywhere to go, but Rhodes’ play to breakup the pass in the end zone kept the Texans from reducing Minnesota’s choke hold on the opportunity to win the game. A touchdown may have opened the door a crack. The Texans’ decision to kick a field goal after this play is flat-out insane coaching. A field goal barely impacts Houston’s chances to win at all.

Rhodes had a few penalty flags thrown his way Sunday, but overall was the same Xavier Rhodes as he was against Odell Beckham the week before. DeAndre Hopkins didn’t get a catch until the third quarter and was a complete no-show.

The post 5 impact plays that led the Vikings over the Texans appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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