The Vikings offense has been a bit flashy in 2018. They rank third in passing yards per game (321.4) and both Kirk Cousins and Adam Thielen are on record paces. Heading into last week's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, much was made on the outside about the Vikings imbalance of rushing and passing production.
Ironically, though, it was the running game, with a healthy dose of grit and physicality, that the offense tapped into along the way to helping earn what could turn out to be one of the biggest wins of the season last week in Philadelphia.
With a 20-14 lead and 9:11 to play in the game, the Vikings offense took the field against Philadelphia and their No. 1-ranked rushing defense. Cousins and Co. went on to march 55 yards in 11 plays and took 6:24 off the clock before kicker Dan Bailey split the uprights on a 52-yard try to make it a two score game with only 2:51 to play. On the drive, the Vikings ran the ball four times for 21 yards and threw it six times for 34 yards. While that drive didn't put the game on ice, it put the Vikings in a strong position with very little time on the clock.
"I was proud of the way our guys finished," offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said this week. "It got tough there at the end. We had to move the ball down the field. It was good for us to be able to run the football there at the end a little bit. Throw it, had a big play to Rudy and to kind of seal the game and obviously get in position to kick the field goal that made it a two score football game."
The Vikings finished the game with 23 rushes for 77 yards compared to 37 passing attempts for 301 yards, so those calling for better run-pass production balance may still be signing the same tune now. But that would be a tone deaf way of thinking because at the end of the day, the Vikings used the ground game to get the job done.
"Obviously, the yardage wasn't there but there were some effective runs when we needed it," DeFilippo explained. "Everyone wants to talk about yards-per-carry, this and that. Can you run it when they know you're going to run it? Can you finish out games? We did that. We did that Sunday. We are going to continue doing that moving forward."
Helping the Vikings ability to run the ball moving forward will be the return of starting running back Dalvin Cook, who has missed 10 of the last 12 quarters. He was able to practice this week and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game. Don't expect the Vikings to go away from their strength – Cousins putting the ball in the air to Stefon Diggs, Rudolph and Thielen – but also don't be surprised if last week serves as a springboard for the Vikings in their push to become a better rushing offense.
If you have a penchant for talented defensive backs, you will like watching the defenses in Sunday's Vikings-Cardinals game. In the matchup, there are six defensive backs who were taken in the first round and three taken in the second round. The Vikings have four of the first-rounders (Mike Hughes, Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith and Trae Waynes) while Arizona has two with hybrid linebacker/safety Deone Bucannon and All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson. The Vikings have one second-rounder – Mack Alexander – and Arizona has a pair in safety Budda Baker and cornerback Jamar Taylor.
Tweet of the Week
The best place to catch a Vikings game is on the Vikings Radio Network, but it will be worth a glance at your television to catch the colorful sidelines with Vikings coaches, players and staff sporting their shoes in support of a great cause. Big-time kudos to the Wilf family's leadership on yet another philanthropic cause!
Stat of the Week
Adam Thielen's 47 receptions rank first all-time IN NFL HISTORY for the most receptions through the first five weeks of a season
What a treat to watch Adam Thielen execute and produce on a weekly basis. Do not take this for granted, Vikings fans. A remarkable aside to this statistic is that New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas ranks second in this same statistical split with 46 receptions in 2018.
Is it me, or is Danielle Hunter's performance this year going unnoticed by the league and media? Not only has he logged a sack in each of the first five games, but he's had some amazing tackles on broken plays. During the Rams game, he ran down a wide receiver. Hunter's speed was amazing for such a giant human being. I think he's having a breakout year and is going unnoticed. Your thoughts?
Paso Robles, CA
Perhaps the team's pedestrian record/start to the season has prevented Hunter from gaining as much notoriety as his production through five games should warrant. If Hunter continues on this tear AND the Vikings keep winning games, then there's virtually no chance his performances will go unnoticed. On this topic, check out the note below that was produced by the Vikings public relations staff this week…
National TV: FOX
Play-by-Play: Sam Rosen
Analyst: Ronde Barber
Sideline: Shane Bacon
Local Radio: KFAN-FM 100.3/KTLK-AM 1130
Play-by-Play: Paul Allen
Analyst: Pete Bercich
Sideline: Greg Coleman, Ben Leber