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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings win, but slow offensive start is reminder that there’s work to do

By Matthew Coller

In Detroit, the Minnesota Vikings were hoping to carry over their offensive success from a 41-17 win over the Miami Dolphins last Sunday. But it took far longer than expected for Kirk Cousins and Co. to get rolling in the first half against a sputtering Lions team, which should act as a big fluorescent sign that they will still need significant improvement in order to be a dangerous in the playoffs.

It didn’t help that the Vikings opened the game at their own 2-yard line and then immediately committed a false astart. After a QB sneak and fullback run, Cousins missed an open pass and they were forced to punt.

Field position was not the Vikings’ friend throughout the first half. After allowing a field goal, Minnesota went three-and-out. On third-and-6, interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski surprisingly dialed up a handoff up the middle to Dalvin Cook. It went for two yards and the Vikings punted the ball away again.

Drive No. 3 went three-and-out again. It was highlighted by a sack of Cousins on third-and-8.

Had Detroit’s offense not been the definition of ineptitude, they could have opened up a significant lead on the Vikings. Instead, Matt Patricia’s team decided to commit to running backward with LeGarrette Blount. Quarterback Matthew Stafford may be lacking his two best weapons — Golden Tate was traded at the deadline and Marvin Jones is out — but his inaccuracy was on display when he missed open receivers and nearly threw a fade pass into the hands of Mackensie Alexander in the end zone.

With the Lions up 6-0, the Vikings took over and their own 22-yard line and went three-and-out again. On second down, Cousins took his second sack of the game.

Once again, Detroit failed to make them pay, ending another drive with a field goal.

It was only so long that the league’s second worst passing defense in QB rating allowed could hold down the Vikings. On third-and-17, Detroit completely forgot to cover the NFL’s second-leading receiver Adam Thielen, who strolled wide open down the sideline for 40 yards. Stefon Diggs’ quick out into the end zone brought them within two points.

Had the Lions covered Thielen, we might have been looking at a first half repeat of the Monday Night Football mess that ultimately got John DeFilippo fired.

Instead Detroit went full Detroit and allowed a last-second Hail Mary to land in the mits of Kyle Rudolph to put the VIkings up 14-9 going into halftime. Prior to the touchdown bomb, everything was going the wrong way. They committed two holding penalties and Rudolph forgot his team had a timeout left and nearly ran the clock out trying to reach the sideline.

As is usually the case with teams out of the playoffs, the Lions were easily broken. They came out in the second half with little interest in hanging around. Cousins led a 69-yard field goal drive to open the second half and then found Rudolph for his second touchdown of the game.

Cousins finished 21-for-28 with 253 yards and three touchdowns. Rudolph put up nine catches with 122 yards and two TDs. The running game also picked up 100 yards. The sorry Lions offense picked up only 116 yards on 32 attempts from Matthew Stafford.

The Vikings walked away with a victory, but long stretches of offensive ineptitude, sacks, penalties and struggles to run the ball early in the game could have ruined their chances to reach the playoffs.

A performance like Sunday’s opening half at Ford Field most certainly will send them home either next week against the Bears — depending on whether Philly wins — or in the postseason.

The post Vikings win, but slow offensive start is reminder that there’s work to do appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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