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Next-Day Stats: Vikings Turn Timid, Cowboys Rewarded for Aggressiveness

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings opened Sunday's game with aggressive plays and downfield passing — there was even an unsuccessful WR pass in the mix.

But final numbers from Next Gen Stats reveal a cloud of timidity settled over Minnesota's sideline at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Numbers also show that Dallas actually bumped up its aggressiveness with Cooper Rush making his first NFL start in place of injured Pro Bowler Dak Prescott.

Here's a deeper dive at some "next-day stats" with an eye on the ever-increasing number of Next Gen Stats. References to rankings across the league include all Week 8 games except for tonight's game between the Giants and Chiefs.

1. Contrast in aggressiveness levels

Next Gen Stats measured Rush's average intended air yards at 9.5 per pass for the third-highest distance in the NFL in Week 8. That figure exceeds the 7.9 averaged by Prescott in the six games he's played this season.

Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, averaged 4.2 intended air yards, which ranked 26th out of 27 qualifying passers and was well below his already low average of 6.6 (tied for 32nd out of 34 passers) on the season.

Next Gen Stats also calculates aggressive throw percentages based on distances and coverages. Rush had an aggressiveness percentage of 20.0, which ranked ninth and his higher than the 17.1 by Prescott over the course of 2021.

Cousins' aggressiveness percentage was calculated at 2.9, which ranked 27th out of 27 qualifying passers in Week 8 and is well below his season average of 13.9 (26th out of 35 qualifying passers).

Rush was 9-for-16 with 224 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on passes thrown 10 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage (includes 5-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper, which was caught at the back of the end zone). He was 15-of-24 passing for 101 yards when throwing fewer than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Cousins was 5-for-7 with 114 yards and a touchdown on passes thrown 10 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He was 18-of-25 passing for 70 yards when throwing fewer than 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

2. Improbable completions

Rush's game-winning touchdown to Cooper in the final minute had a completion probability of 26.5 percent. According to Next Gen Stats, only six passes in Week 8 were less likely to be completed.

Rush also connected with Cooper for a 29-yard gain that had a completion probability of 27.4 percent. That ranked as the 10th in terms of improbability.

The Cowboys also had a pass that ranked 13th thanks to receiver Cedrick Wilson extending a play, reversing course and firing a strike to CeeDee Lamb for a gain of 35. The completion probability on the trick play was calculated at 28.6 percent.

3. Win probability shifts mightily

We hear it every week, especially with the 2021 installment of the Vikings, with how games can be decided by a handful of plays or fewer.

Although Dallas was driving thanks to a 33-yard reception by Cooper on a pass that bounced off Bashaud Breeland's belly, the Cowboys only had a win probability of 42 percent after a 3-yard loss by Ezekiel Elliott on second-and-13 with 1:04 remaining.

Minnesota called a timeout after the run but mistakenly called another consecutive timeout. Although officials are supposed to ignore that, the break was erroneously granted and led to a defensive delay of game penalty.

The 5-yard penalty made it a third-and-11 and nudged Dallas' win probability to 46 percent.

On the play that followed, Elliott caught a pass shy of the sticks and made two defenders miss on his way to converting the third down and reaching the 5-yard line. The win probability shot up to 77 percent for the Cowboys after Elliott's conversion and reached 92 percent a play later when Cooper secured the game-winning touchdown.