EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings returned to the win column for the first time since mid-October, recording a 27-20 victory over the Chargers in Los Angeles.
Players savored their first “Victory” formation of 2021 thanks to aggressive decision-making by coaches and players as Minnesota improved to 4-5 on the season.
The Vikings were balanced on offense and kept a potent Chargers attack off-kilter. Special teams also turned in another strong day.
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 10 games except for tonight's game between the Rams and 49ers.
1. Going the distance and going for speed — again
Last week, we spotlighted the way kick returner Kene Nwangwu hit top gear on the longest NFL play of Week 9.
This week, punt returner Dede Westbrook sprung loose for a 45-yard return.
Westbrook recorded the fourth-fastest speed by any ball carrier across the league, reaching a max of 20.48 mph. The play involved Westbrook covering 81.1 total yards as he weaved his way through the crowd to find the open freeway. It was the second-longest play of Week 10.
2. Cousins effective all over field
Much was understandably made of big completions by Kirk Cousins. The quarterback hit a pair of 27-yard passes to Justin Jefferson and also connected with Adam Thielen for a gain of 18 on third-and-20 that allowed Minnesota to ice the game by going with a run by Dalvin Cook on fourth-and-2.
It turns out that Cousins was productive all over the field.
20-plus yards beyond the line of scrimmage: 2-for-3 with 54 yards
10-20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage: 4-for-8 with 78 yards
LOS-10 yards beyond it: 12-for-16 with 86 yards and 2 touchdowns
Behind the line of scrimmage: 7-for-8 with 76 yards
Minnesota's defense, meanwhile, contained Herbert at all locations.
20-plus yards beyond the line of scrimmage: no passes attempted
10-20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage: 4-for-7 with 76 yards and an interception
LOS-10 yards beyond it: 12-for-22 with 86 yards and 1 touchdown
Behind the line of scrimmage: 4-for-4 with 33 yards
According to Next Gen Stats, Cousins' aggressiveness percentage of 21.6 was the fifth highest in Week 10.
Here's a great breakdown of one of those aggressive throws:
Herbert's aggressiveness percentage of 11.8 was tied for 22nd among qualifying passers in Week 10.
For the season, Cousins' aggressiveness percentage is 14.7 and Herbert's is 15. In Week 8 against Dallas, Cousins' aggressiveness percentage was 2.9, the lowest in the NFL among qualifying passers. It climbed to 14.3 percent last week at Baltimore.
3. Jefferson makes Vikings right
Whether it was play-calling by Offensive Coordinator Klint Kubiak or in-play decision-making by Cousins as the game progressed or reminders from Head Coach Mike Zimmer that he wanted the offense to be aggressive, Jefferson made the Vikings right.
His 143 receiving yards were the most by any player in Week 10, and his nine catches tied for the lead league this week.
Jefferson accounted for 48.8 percent of Minnesota's intended air yards, the fourth-greatest share for a player on any team in Week 10.
Opting for a 27-yard pass on third-and-6 late in the fourth quarter was a bit of a risk. Next Gen Stats calculated that the play had a completion probability of 29.3 percent, the 11th lowest in the NFL. An incompletion would have stopped the clock and wouldn't have required a challenge by the Chargers that resulted in L.A. using its first timeout.
The other 27-yard gain to Jefferson also make the list of this week's "improbable completions" with a likely completion rate of 31.1 percent.