The Vikings arrived in Detroit on a two-game winning streak and they left Detroit with their first NFC North win and, consequently, a three-game winning streak. A 42-20 triumph over the Lions at Ford Field sent the Vikings back home with a 5-2 record and feeling good as they set their sights on the Washington Redskins and their Thursday night matchup at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Here are five takeaways from the Vikings win over Detroit.
1. Vikings offensive line dominates
The Vikings scored six touchdowns and had a lot of skill position players fill up the box score, but it all began with a group that doesn’t get called out much in the headlines or highlight shows when things go well. That group is the offensive line, and the Vikings offensive line was dominant on Sunday. The Vikings averaged 7.1 yards per offensive snap, rushed for 4.5 yards per carry, did not allow a sack, collected 32 1st downs and were four of four in goal-to-go situations. The “no sacks” part of the equation is significant because this is an area of great improvement for the Vikings offense. In fact, while Cousins was sacked six times in the Vikings loss at Chicago, he’s been sacked only six total times in the Vikings six other games. Put simply, the Minnesota Moving Company is on a roll.
2. The offense can play, too
In Mike Zimmer’s tenure as head coach, defense has ruled the day for the Vikings. The defense has played well in 2019 and is still the identity of the team, but the offense has come alive this season and is demonstrating that it can pace victories, too. On a day when the opposition was able to put up 30 points, the Vikings offense responded with a 503-yard, 42-point outburst in which both the passing game and running game were clicking on all cylinders. This is the kind of offensive output that will, over time, relieve a lot of stress from the Vikings defense and perhaps eventually result in even better defensive efforts down the road. It’s also the kind of output that will lead to all five takeaways in this article being about offense!
3. Stefanski is pressing all the right buttons
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski worked his way up the chain of command as a coach with the Vikings, beginning in his first season with the club in 2006 when he worked every day with Darrell Bevell. Now, Bevell is the offensive coordinator for the Lions and Stefanski holds the same post with the Vikings. On a day when his one-time mentor was on the opposite sideline and he had many supporters in the Ford Field stands watching, Stefanski and his offense had a banner day. Stefanski used every facet of the offense to generate 500+ yards and 42 points against a well-respected and salty Lions defense, and he did it without the services of one of his best playmakers for most of the game; Adam Thielen left the game in the 1st quarter and did not return. Thielen’s absence didn’t appear to handicap Stefanski’s ability to dial up big plays and scoring opportunities. Rookie receiver Bisi Johnson scored the first touchdown of his career. Fullback CJ Ham found the paint. Kyle Rudolph logged the first tight end touchdown of the season for the Purple and Irv Smith, Jr. had the best receiving day of his young career. And to top it all off, Stefanski iced the game with a cold-blooded play call late in the 4th quarter when, with everyone in the building expecting a run on 2nd and 5 from the Minnesota 30 with 3:00 to play in the game, he dialed up a play action pass and watched his quarterback hit Diggs for a 66-yard gain to the Detroit 4.
4. Cousins stays hot and distributes opportunities generously
How hot is Cousins? Check out the tweet below. But first, just remember that for the third consecutive week the Vikings quarterback has been in complete command of the offense, has taken care of the ball and is spreading his targets around to all the play makers available to him. On Sunday, seven different Vikings were targeted in the passing game, four different receivers had at least six passes thrown their way, four different receivers had touchdowns and four different receivers had double-digit receiving yards.
5. Dalvin does it again
The Vikings offense dazzled and ultimately clinched the game with an impressive aerial assault on Sunday, but don’t let the spectacular performance by the passing game hide the fact that the Vikings rushing attack, with Dalvin Cook as the bell cow, was every bit as impressive on Sunday. Whether using his speed to press the edge of the Lions defense or using his strength and grit to power through it, Cook made life tough on Detroit’s defense. Cook ran the ball 25 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns, pacing an effort that generated 166 yards on the ground and taxed a physical Lions defensive front. In only seven games, Cook now has rushed for eight touchdowns and the Vikings have 11 rushing touchdowns on the season, two more than they had in 16 games last season.