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Lunchbreak: 'Sizzling' Vikings Winning Behind Efficient Kirk Cousins

After starting the season 2-2 with a pair of tough road losses to division opponents, the Vikings bounced back with four straight wins.

ESPN's Courtney Cronin referred to Minnesota as the "sizzling Vikings" who saw some ups and downs against the Redskins but "didn't need to be perfect" in the 19-9 win on Thursday Night Football. She wrote:

The same offense that has been carving up defenses since Week 5 didn't look as explosive as weeks past, but it didn't matter. The unit clicked when it needed to, sparked by another strong performance from wide receiver Stefon Diggs (7 receptions on 7 targets for 143 yards), and took care of business.

Cronin pointed out that the prime-time game included fewer bootlegs and rollouts by quarterback Kirk Cousins than the previous three contests but that the offense still moved the ball "effectively enough."

The biggest takeaway with Cousins is the change we're seeing these past four games in his willingness to take aggressive shots downfield – especially when his playmakers are covered. According to NFL Next Gen stats research, the 39-yard pass Cousins threw to Diggs in the third quarter on third-and-9 from the Vikings 10-yard line had a [24-percent] completion probability, which was the second-most improbable catch of the season for Diggs. […] His confidence during this stretch shows he's willing and able to make these tough plays and spark life into this offense when it needs it most.

The Vikings will enjoy a mini bye before returning to prep for Week 9 at Kansas City, which is where Cronin said "the real test begins."

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes practiced on a limited basis this week, so it's still too early to predict whether he'll return on Nov. 3 when the Chiefs host the Vikings. If he doesn't play, the Vikings will have a stretch of six straight quarters playing against backup quarterbacks.

Peterson calls response from Vikings fan 'special, special moment'

The clock was winding down, and the Vikings had control of the game Thursday night.

And then, a familiar face appeared on the video boards at U.S. Bank Stadium. Former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, standing on the Washington sideline, received ample time on-screen after moving into sixth place all-time for career rushing yards.

ESPN's John Keim wrote about the moment:

[Peterson was] shown on [the video boards behind] both end zones, leading to a prolonged ovation, chants of "AP!" and Peterson twice waving to the crowd. The second time, he kissed his fingers, then showed them to the crowd. He smiled, but he later said the applause also caused him to be emotional. Peterson spent 10 years with the Vikings, rushing for a franchise-record 11,747 yards and 97 touchdowns.

"I had to hold tears back, to be honest," Peterson told media members. "It was special, a special moment."

Keim again quoted Peterson, who said it "felt good" to see so much love from Vikings fans.

"Just coming back and seeing the love they still have for me and they showed, man, it felt good," Peterson said. "Even in defeat, I'm able to embrace it and take it for what it was, and it meant a lot. I spent a decade here, so just to see that ovation and the love they showed was meaningful."

Craig's takeaways include 'nasty and clean' Hunter

Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter created one of two takeaways by Minnesota's defense against Washington when he forced a fumble by Case Keenum.

Mark Craig of the Star Tribune highlighted the play in his day-after “5 Takeaways” article, calling the sack "vintage Hunter." Craig wrote:

He reached out a big mitt and lowered the boom to Case Keenum's chest. Nasty, but perfectly clean. It sent this fella to the stat books to see if Hunter has ever had a roughing penalty. Nope. In 70 games, he's had only six penalties for 42 yards. His only 15-yard infraction came in 2015, his rookie season, when he was called for grabbing a facemask.

Additionally, Craig covered Linval Joseph's sack of Keenum, a red zone play by the Redskins with Adrian Peterson, a "scrappy" but up-and-down performance by the offensive line and third-down struggles early that initially weighed Minnesota down.

He pointed out that the Vikings started out 1-for-4 on third-down attempts, which allowed the Redskins to stay in the game.

After converting their first attempt, the Vikings failed three consecutive times, including an ugly sack on third-and-goal from the 3. Jonathan Allen blew up that play when he essentially carried left guard Pat Elflein on his way to sacking Cousins. Later, after four consecutive conversions, the Vikings failed on third-and-12 and then fourth-and-1 when a Cousins sneak was stopped for no gain at the Vikings 34 with 2:41 left in the third quarter and the Vikings leading 16-9. For the game, the Vikings converted 8 of 15 third downs (53.3 percent), including a 28-yard run by Alexander Mattison on third-and-19 in the closing minutes.