With key contributions from all three phases, the Vikings notched a crucial 24-17 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night at U.S. Bank Stadium. The win improves the Vikings record to 6-4-1 while Green Bay falls to 4-6-1 in the loss. Here are five takeaways from the win over Green Bay.
1. Free agency money well spent
The Vikings two big free agent signings this past offseason were quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. And in the latest biggest game of the season, they both came up aces for the Vikings. Cousins diced up the Green Bay secondary, completing 29 of 38 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns for a passer rating of 129.5. The latest performance brings his two-game season total versus Green Bay to: 64 of 86 (74.4%) for 767 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception for a passer rating of 123.55. Richardson had 2.0 sacks on Sunday night, giving him 2.5 for the season against Green Bay.
2. The well that won't dry up – Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen
It's the same story, but Vikings fans aren't getting bored with it. Cousins isn't, either. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen cannot be stopped and have been particularly lethal versus Green Bay this season. On Sunday night, the duo combined for 16 receptions, 202 yards and two touchdowns on 20 targets. In two games against Green Bay this season, Diggs and Thielen were targeted 46 times and came away with 37 receptions for 461 yards and five touchdowns.
3. Defense! Defense! Defense!
The Vikings defense has been trending in the right direction for over a month and on Sunday night – considering the opponent and what was at stake – it may have produced its signature effort of the season. Aaron Rodgers, perhaps the best quarterback in the NFL, was put on a pedestrian outing as he completed 17 of 28 passes for 198 yards with one touchdown; he was also sacked four times. Green Bay was just two of 10 (20%) on 3rd downs, had six drives with zero or only one 1st down and scored just three points in the second half. The Vikings also held running back Aaron Jones in check (17 carries for 72 yards).
4. Aggressive mentality prevails for Vikings
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer wants his team to play aggressively and often vows to side on aggression in making in-game coaching decisions. Both were true on Sunday night. The Vikings play was aggressive and fast from the onset, and in two key moments Zimmer went the aggressive route in making decisions. Faced with a 4th and 2 from the Green Bay 7 with a 10-point lead 4:54 to play in the game, Zimmer had the option of taking a high percentage field goal attempt and subsequent 13-point lead, giving Green Bay the ball with just under five minutes to play, or he could go for it, extend the drive to eat up more clock and potentially ice the game with a touchdown and subsequent 17-point lead. Zimmer opted to go for it, but Green Bay's defense held. Later in the game, Zimmer was faced with a 3rd and 6 from the Green Bay 37 with two minutes to play. Green Bay had no timeouts, so a running play would've likely resulted in 4th down but would also have run approximately 45 more seconds off the clock. A passing play, though, would provide a better opportunity for a game-ending 1st down. Zimmer opted to pass the ball, and Cousins completed a pass to Diggs for the 1st downs. The Vikings used the victory formation on the next two snaps and the clock ran out.
5. Dalvin Cook is heating up
A quick peek at the box score will not lead one to think Dalvin Cook is changing games. But anyone who has watched Cook play the past two games has seen the Vikings have a game-changer at running back with the second-year pro. His ability to dance around, run over and sprint past defenders is uncommon and adds an explosive dynamic to the Vikings offense. On Sunday night, Cook rushed for 29 yards on 10 carries and added 47 receiving yards on three catches. But one of those catches was a 26-yard touchdown in which he displayed both his nimble footwork and blazing speed. Now seemingly recovered from a hamstring injury that slowed him earlier in the season and having knocked the rust off the past couple weeks, one can't help but think Cook is heating up as the season's final stretch approaches.