The Vikings bagged back-to-back wins to get back to .500, most recently defeating the Packers with a walk-off field goal at U.S. Bank Stadium Sunday.
It wasn't easy, and it wasn't pretty every step of the way, but a monster game from Justin Jefferson and refusal by Minnesota to give up in the final minutes lifted the team over Green Bay.
ESPN asked its beat reporters to weigh in on their respective teams' Week 11 performances, and Courtney Cronin spoke largely favorably about Minnesota. After a confidence rating (0-10) of 4.5 last week, she jumped all the way up to a 7 after Sunday's outing. Cronin wrote:
The Vikings beat the best team in the NFC by hanging on late and staying aggressive on offense. If they can beat San Francisco in Week 12, the rest of their schedule favors them securing another postseason bid.
Cronin summarized the win by highlighting the offensive performance, saying the unit "answered the bell" in the "wild, back-and-forth" contest.
Minnesota built off its win over the Chargers by continuing to establish an identity by getting the ball to its playmakers, and Justin Jefferson keeps taking his game up a notch. The second-year receiver caught eight passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns and was at 100 yards receiving at the end of the first quarter. Teams will always throw added defenders Jefferson's way, but the Vikings got creative in getting him open by lining him up in the backfield before sending him out on a shallow route over the middle on his first touchdown. Jefferson also drew a 37-yard pass interference in the first half that set up Adam Thielen's touchdown. Cousins utilized his top two receivers, with Thielen contributing eight catches for 82 yards and the TD.
The Vikings win doesn't eliminate all concerns, though. Cronin pointed out that Minnesota once again lost hold of a double-digit lead, ultimately enduring yet another nail-biter.
She noted that the Vikings are 2-2 this season when leading by at least 13 points.
The Vikings have built double-digit leads as easily as they've lost them; they threw punch after punch on offense by staying aggressive and taking shots down the field, yet their defense still allowed the Packers to come back in the game. After Green Bay took a 24-23 lead in the fourth quarter, Minnesota thundered back behind Jefferson's second touchdown catch and Dalvin Cook's 2-point conversion, only to have [Aaron] Rodgers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the first play of the Packers next drive to [tie the game at 31]. Minnesota's defense let Rodgers scramble for six-plus seconds on two of his touchdown throws, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. It's up to the Vikings defense to protect leads if they want to land one of the final two seeds in the NFC playoffs.
As the Vikings head into the final stretch of the 2021 campaign, being able to maintain leads will be crucial if they hope to land a spot in the playoffs.
Mark Craig highlights 'new Kirk' after Vikings win
The Vikings have shown an aggressive approach offensively the past two weeks, and it's paid off for them both times.
Mark Craig of the Star Tribune rolled out his weekly “5 Extra Points” article that dives into day-after observations. Among his takeaways was a spotlight on Cousins' gutsy afternoon. Craig wrote:
Cousins sidestepped when asked if the Vikings search for an offensive identity has led them to being a passing team with him, not Dalvin Cook, leading the way. "I think [the identity] is week to week, maybe even quarter to quarter, series to series," he said. "But we've certainly been fairly aggressive the last couple weeks."
This is Kirk's team now. And he's proven gutsy enough to handle it the past two weeks. Sunday, he threw six balls that traveled between 22 and 42 yards. He was only [1-for-6] for 56 yards on those throws, but his aggressiveness set the tone. It also created a 37-yard defensive pass interference penalty. Old Kirk wouldn't have thrown that ball, or one for a touchdown off his back foot to Jefferson against an all-out blitz. New Kirk isn't without risk. Packers safety Darnell Savage had what looked to be [an …] interception on a 34-yard deep ball with 2:01 left, but the call was overturned.
Vikings receive 'A' grade for defeat of Packers
The Vikings were considered underdogs in Sunday's divisional matchup, but they hung on 'til the end for a gratifying defeat of Green Bay.
CBS Sports' Cody Benjamin gave Minnesota an “A” grade for its Week 11 performance. He wrote:
To beat the Packers, you need to be able to make big plays in big moments, and they did just that. Kirk Cousins played with authority down the stretch, and Justin Jefferson did it even more. Their defense was victimized in the second half, nearly surrendering the entire game, but the fact they threw Aaron Rodgers and Co. off balance out of the gate made a big difference in the final result, forcing Green Bay to play catch-up for most of the day. Wild Card contenders? Definitely.
Benjamin didn't harp too much on the Packers, giving them a "B-plus" for their near-win on the road, but said their defense just didn't hold up when it mattered.
Hard to fail them for coming so close to ruining every Vikings fan's afternoon; Aaron Rodgers was straight-up dealing in crunch time, making a potential comeback look too easy. But what was with the sloppy, undisciplined start? Losing Elgton Jenkins didn't help, but they got manhandled by the Vikings up front too often early on. Their secondary, meanwhile, had absolutely no answers for Justin Jefferson, especially when it mattered most.