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Lunchbreak: Vikings Benefit from Cousins' Crispness on 3rd Downs Against Seahawks

The Vikings are enjoying a Victory Monday for the first time in 2021, after knocking off the Seahawks 30-17 Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

In looking back over Minnesota's defeat of Seattle, Mark Craig of the Star Tribune shared takeaways from the game via his weekly “Five Extra Points” article.

Craig first and foremost spotlighted Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins' play on third downs. Craig wrote:

The Vikings and Kirk Cousins played with unusual confidence and crispness on third downs, converting 9-of-14 attempts while more than doubling their season conversion percentage in Sunday's 30-17 win over Seattle at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings went into the game converting 30.77 [percent]. Sunday, Cousins was outstanding on third downs, completing 8-of-10 passes for 76 yards, one touchdown and six first downs. He even overcame a red-zone holding penalty on Garrett Bradbury to throw a 15-yard touchdown strike to Adam Thielen on third-and-13.

Craig quoted receiver Adam Thielen, who said the following in his postgame press conference:

"I told him right after that play, that was good timing," Thielen said. "That ball was on me right when I broke. I think if it's a little later, that safety has a chance to smack me so it's a tougher catch. He's been like that all year. It's been a different Kirk. He's been locked in and on time."

The Vikings also were commended for cleaning up the egregious penalties committed in Week 1. Since then, Craig noted, they've had just seven penalties with no turnovers. Minnesota was flagged four times for 40 yards on Sunday.

Nary a one threw the Vikings off kilter. Besides [Garrett] Bradbury's red-zone holding call, special-teamer Josh Metellus was flagged for holding on a punt return, Everson Griffen got a ticky-tack roughing-the-passer nudge, and the Vikings purposely took a delay of game before punting in the closing seconds. After Metellus' penalty, the Vikings drove from their 15 to [kick] a 34-yard field goal. Griffen's roughing penalty was followed by Seattle turning the ball over on downs.

Craig's other three observations focused on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson "showing his age outside the pocket," Minnesota's defense "squashing" the deep ball and Alexander Mattison showing up in a big way in Dalvin Cook's offense.

No one will ever confuse Alexander Mattison with Dalvin Cook, but Mattison proved the Vikings can win with him touching the ball a Cook-like 32 times. Mattison didn't score, but he was responsible for eight of the team's 28 first downs. […] Most impressive was how he and the offensive line wore down Seattle's front seven in the second half.

Vikings receive 'A-minus' grade for home opener win

The Vikings got their first win in the bag, and CBS Sports' John Breech gave them an “A-minus” grade for the home opener performance.

Breech wrote:

At 0-2, the Vikings were desperate to get a win on Sunday, and they absolutely played like it. Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense came out on fire with six scores on their first seven possessions. Even without Dalvin Cook, the Vikings were able to move the ball at will, and that was mostly thanks to Cousins, who completed 30 of 38 passes for 323 yards and three TDs. With Cook out, Alexander Mattison stepped in to take some pressure off of Cousins by rushing for 112 yards. Defensively, the Vikings absolutely shut down the Seahawks in the second half, surrendering zero points after giving up 17 in the first half.

View the Vikings in "Big Head Mode" as the team defeated the Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium in their home opener.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, received a "C-minus" from Breech for their second-half fall-off.

For the second straight week, the Seahawks offense absolutely disappeared in the second half, and Seattle lost because of it. After moving up and down the field in the first half, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense weren't even able to muster 100 total yards in the second half. The third quarter continues to be a nightmare for the Seahawks as they've scored exactly zero points in the quarter through three weeks. If the Seahawks don't figure out soon how to fix their second-half woes, this could end up being a long season.

PFF recaps Vikings win, praises Cousins' play

Following Sunday afternoon's game, analytics site Pro Football Focus recapped the Vikings and Seahawks respective performances by position.

PFF's Michael Hull praised Cousins' play in his third game this season. Hull wrote:

Cousins lit up the Seattle defense in the first half, completing 16 of 20 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns. He tallied an 82.0 passing grade over the first 30 minutes of play, averaging 9.3 yards per attempt with an adjusted completion percentage of 94.4 [percent]. His success carried into the second half when he posted a 72.0 passing grade and 142 yards.

Hull added that Mattison "bullied the Seahawks," totaling 57 yards after contact, and that Jefferson "dominated every statistical category for Minnesota."

The Vikings offensive line held up fairly well in pass protection, posting a 76.9 pass-blocking grade as a unit. It allowed three sacks and 10 QB pressures on the afternoon. Tackle Brian O'Neill led the way, posting an 83.8 pass-blocking grade and a clean sheet on 39 pass-blocking snaps. He didn't allow a single pressure on Cousins.

The unit struggled a bit in run protection, though, posting an average 53.4 run-blocking grade.

To see Hull's full breakdown, click here.