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After Further Review: WR Sweeps Lead to Bigger Gains for Vikings

After Further Review is a deeper look at plays or stats after Vikings games…

The Vikings were able to cruise down the field for a touchdown on their opening possession against the Chargers in Sunday's 39-10 victory.

The drive featured a little bit of a lot and was important in the overall approach to minimizing the potential impact of edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III on the game.

Minnesota built off modest gains, then used misdirection for a 21-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph that was sandwiched by runs from receivers Bisi Johnson and Stefon Diggs.

The Vikings forced the Chargers to pay attention to the perimeter with those plays to Johnson and Diggs. A screen pass to C.J. Ham followed the run by Diggs and gained 10.

Kyle Rudolph drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone three plays later, which earned the Vikings a first-and-goal at the 1. Kirk Cousins found Irv Smith, Jr., in the back of the end zone on the following snap.

Minnesota waited until the fourth quarter to mix in another run by a receiver, when Adam Thielen had a gain of 3.

The implementation of receivers in the run game helped Minnesota on a day when the Vikings knew they'd be without backup running back Alexander Mattison. Starter Dalvin Cook also left the game early in the second half.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on Monday explained how the implementation of carries by receivers can affect a defense.

"It just keeps them honest. It could be sometimes, we kind of call it 'eye violations' — linebackers have to get to another gap — or if it's a man-to-man, a guy has to run with them, so that kind of opens up other areas in the running game, as well, and sometimes off the play actions."

The gains by Johnson, Diggs and Thielen were for 6, 4 and 3 yards, but the plays that followed went for 21, 10 and 10.

Here's another look at the three runs by Vikings receivers:


Q1, 13:17 remaining — First-and-10 at the Minnesota 39

The Vikings have 12 personnel in the game with Cook, Rudolph and Smith. Johnson and Diggs are in at receiver.

Johnson goes in motion from the right of the offense to the left and takes the handoff from Cousins.

Bosa penetrates up the field 2 yards, and Johnson is then able to turn the corner.

Linebacker Thomas Davis, Sr., who is in his 15th season and first with the Chargers, comes over to make the tackle on Johnson.


Q1, 12:04 remaining — First-and-10 at the Los Angeles 34

One play after using the same personnel grouping, play-action and clear-out routes by Johnson and Diggs to open things up for Rudolph, Theien has replaced Johnson.

Diggs is over on the left and then heads to the right as the rest of the team sells a handoff to Cook for a run to the left, drawing all but one defender — cornerback Casey Hayward, Jr., several steps to the left of the right hash mark.

Hayward does a solid job of setting the edge and allowing linebacker Denzel Perryman to recover, come over and slow down Diggs so that safeties Derwin James, Jr., and Rayshawn Jenkins can tackle him.


Q4, 12:04 remaining — First-and-10 at the Minnesota 37

The Vikings have just used play-action with Cousins faking a handoff to Mike Boone before hitting Kyle Rudolph on a seam route for a gain of 22.

Thielen takes a handoff from Cousins and avoids Bosa's rush up the field. The play is limited to a gain of 3 because of savvy positioning by Davis.

Mike Boone followed with a rush for 10 yards and scored on an 8-yard run four plays later.