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Lunchbreak: Vikings Among Highest-Graded Teams for Sunday’s Performance

Each Monday during the NFL season, John Breech of CBS Sports hands out grades to every team based on their performance the day before.

Breech gave the Vikings an A-minus after their 28-10 win over the Giants and wrote the following:

Minnesota dominated in all phases of the game against New York. Kirk Cousins came out of his shell in the passing game, Dalvin Cook was a force in the backfield and the defense put constant pressure on Daniel Jones all afternoon. There’s really not too much to nitpick, but some of the late offensive play calling where they elected to pass in situations where they could have simply run out the clock was puzzling.

As for their opponents, Breech gave New York a B, saying the Giants “didn’t play that poorly” but were simply “a less talented team overall.”

Daniel Jones showed strong poise against what was his toughest opponent yet. Losing Wayne Gallman early was killer to the run game and hurt New York’s aerial attack, too. Defensively, New York had no answer for Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen but did have their moments. It just wasn’t enough to get the win.

How did the other NFC North teams fare?

The Lions had an early bye, and the Packers received a B for their defeat of the Cowboys yesterday afternoon. Breech gave the Bears a C-minus after they lost to the Raiders in London.

Even with a backup quarterback, the Bears were favored in this matchup because of their defense. Chicago is thought to have the best defensive unit in the league, but they allowed the Raiders to score the first 17 points of the game. Wimpy arm tackles and inconsistent pressure marred this performance. Chase Daniel was decent, and Allen Robinson had a breakout game, but the main takeaway for Chicago in this one is that the Raiders marched 97 yards down the field on 13 plays for a game-winning score.

Day-after observations include Cousins’ success, thoughts on penalties

Cousins bounced back on Sunday with an impressive performance through all four quarters.

Mark Craig of the Star Tribune noted five takeaways from the road win, topping his list with “Cousins cruises in clean pockets.” He wrote:

Based on this observer’s definition of a “clean pocket,” the Vikings gave Kirk Cousins 14 of them in Sunday’s 28-10 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium. He completed 12 of them for 194 yards, seven first downs and both of his touchdowns.

Craig quoted Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who said the following:

“We talked this week about having a firm pocket. That’s important in the passing game, as well. It’s not just throwing and catching. It’s about being in the right place with the protection, backs being in the hole. I thought that part was good.”

Receiver Adam Thielen was targeted seven times from a clean pocket. He caught six of them for 117 yards and a touchdown. Stefon Diggs’ four targets and three catches all came from a clean pocket.

Craig also highlighted the Vikings pressure on Jones, Zimmer losing a challenge of the pass interference penalty called on Trae Waynes, and Minnesota accounting for 12 of the 17 penalties accepted. Another observation included “the good and bad” on special teams.

Dan Bailey made all four field goal attempts and both PATs. He has made 12 straight kicks, including six field goals. On the other hand, [Special Teams Coordinator] Marwan Maalouf’s special teams weren’t up to par in other areas. The Giants only touchdown was set up by rookie Corey Ballentine’s 52-yard kickoff return to midfield. The Giants also started at their own 44-yard line after Golden Tate returned a 57-yard Britton Colquitt punt 17 yards. And the biggest error came when Linval Joseph hit the long snapper when the Giants made a 28-yard field goal … That gave the Giants first-and-goal at the 5. They settled for a 32-yard field goal.

PFF highlights outings of Barr, Thielen against Giants

As part of its “ReFocused” series, analytics site Pro Football Focus delved into the Vikings victory over the Giants.

PFF’s analysis team wrote that Cousins “bounced back in a huge way” and also highlighted performances by Thielen and linebacker Anthony Barr.

Adam Thielen was the best player on the field in this game, and it wasn’t particularly close. He showed his strong hands and body control on his touchdown receptions, snagging the ball and securing it despite tight coverage. He also showed off his YAC skills as he made some great moves to pick up first downs or extra yardage after the catch.

Anthony Barr was all over the field for the Vikings defense. He had multiple solo defensive stops and was a tough matchup for the Giants when they tried to run the ball. But he was even better in coverage, making stops there as well and then finishing the game with an interception.

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