Prior to Sunday's game against the Vikings, the Detroit Lions were allowing an average of 149.7 rushing yards (28th in the NFL) and 252.5 passing yards (27th) to opponents.
One side thrived for Minnesota's offense. The other didn't.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 31 of his 41 pass attempts for a season-high 425 yards (tying his fourth-best single-game total) and two touchdowns. Justin Jefferson was on the receiving end for 11 of those completions and totaled 223 yards, breaking the franchise's regular-season record previously set by Sammy White in 1976 (210 yards).
The Vikings backfield struggled to get going, though. Dalvin Cook ran 15 times for just 23 yards — averaging 1.5 per carry and a long of 5 — and added a touchdown and a fumble. Alexander Mattison added two carries that netted a loss of 1.
Krammer wrote that Cook will try to bounce back against Indianapolis Saturday. The Colts currently rank 21st in opponent rushing yards per game (126.2).
Cousins and Jefferson might need to shoulder less of the burden on Saturday against a Colts defense that has surrendered 220 rushing yards to the Cowboys and 172 rushing yards to the Steelers in back-to-back losses.
"I feel like [the Lions] played with more energy than us at times," Cook said, "and did some good things in the run game to not [let us] get going. We just got to regroup and be us this week."
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said Monday he expects both left tackle Christian Darrisaw and center Garrett Bradbury to potentially return this week to bolster the offensive line. Darrisaw has missed the past three games due to a concussion while Bradbury sat out Sunday with a back injury.
"Missing 40 percent of original starters on O-line, there are some communication and details of how we're getting to the second level," O'Connell said. "Trying to be out in front of some of those linebacker run-throughs, coming off combo blocks in a timely manner, some fundamental and technique things."
Goessling noted despite the Lions getting three sacks and eight hits against Cousins and pressuring him on 36.4 percent of his dropbacks, the Vikings quarterback played one of his strongest games of the season.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Cousins was only expected to complete 58.1% of his passes Sunday, given the difficulty of the throws he made in the game. He finished with a 75.6% percentage — 17.5 percentage points over expectations, the fifth-highest such figure in the NFL this season.
Cousins also posted his best passer rating of the season (124.5) and was 14-of-19 for 243 yards in the second half against Detroit.
"He was attempting to will our football team to a victory," O'Connell said Sunday of Cousins. "Justin's adjustments he made since the last time he played against these guys, I thought he played incredibly fast and explosive and Kirk was right there with him every step of the way. I am really proud of those guys, and I think that will help us continue to help us moving forward. We did a lot of different things today in the pass game to kind of have a plan of attack based off what we saw the last time [against the Lions]. Pair that with a little bit better of a day running the football, and I think that [puts us] offensively in a place where we feel like we can compete."
O'Connell's point about the running game is an important one; without an effective complement to keep the Vikings out of obvious passing situations, it's tough to imagine their offense will be sustainable against the quality of pass rush they could see against Dallas, Philadelphia or San Francisco in the playoffs.
On Sunday, though, Cousins and Jefferson turned in some of their best work when everyone knew what was coming. It might have done more to shape the narratives about the quarterback had it come in a victory, but it was noteworthy nonetheless.
"Every single game, he's had more confidence to throw the ball toward me; it doesn't matter if I'm getting double-teamed or not," Jefferson said. "I love that he has that confidence in me. It kind of helps me carry that confidence, as well. It creates that momentum, that energy we need on the field."
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 14, 2023.
NFL.com ranks NFC offensive players for 2023 Pro Bowl Games
This year, the Pro Bowl will have a different look to it.
Instead of the traditional AFC vs. NFC game and various skills competitions, the Pro Bowl week will end with a flag football game this year at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. (CT).
The rosters for the 2023 Pro Bowl Games will be announced next Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. (CT) on NFL Network.
On the NFC side, Carr placed Justin Jefferson as his No. 1 wide receiver. He wrote:
What more can be said about Jefferson? He's a record-setting machine. As the first wide receiver in NFL history with at least 1,400 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons, Jefferson has done it all for the 10-3 Vikings. His elite route running, body control and hands allow him to regularly make big-time plays even when double-or triple-teamed. It looks like Jefferson was right when predicting back in July that he'd be the NFL's best wideout by season's end.
Carr also listed T.J. Hockenson as his top tight end.
The Vikings didn't waste any time getting Hockenson involved after trading for him prior to Week 9. Since the trade, he is second on the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards. Among all tight ends this season, Hockenson's 62 catches and 697 receiving yards rank second behind only [Kansas City's] Travis Kelce in each category.
On the offensive line, Carr placed left tackle Christian Darrisaw as his second player at the position.
A key cog along Minnesota's improving O-line, Darrisaw has played a huge role in keeping Kirk Cousins upright, earning PFF's second-highest grade (90.0) among offensive tackles. He's been missed while out with a concussion but Minnesota expects him to return in a potential division-clinching game against the Colts in Week 15.
Fan voting for the Pro Bowl ends Thursday at 10:59 p.m. (CT). You can vote here.