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After Further Review: Sequencing the Vikings Safety by Colts

The Vikings have suffered a safety in three consecutive regular-season games dating to Week 17 of the 2019 season.

That's a streak that only four teams have been able to claim since the 1970 merger between the AFL and NFL.

The Vikings surrendered each of the three momentum-shifting plays in second quarters on the way to losing all three games.

Mike Boone was tackled in the end zone against Chicago in the 2019 finale, and we noted an explanation last week that Green Bay cornerback Jaire Alexander wrongly guessed a run play and was unblocked on his way to sacking Kirk Cousins in the end zone.

A sequence of missed opportunities Sunday led to the most recent transgression.

First, some credit has to be given to Colts punter Rigoberto Sanchez for dropping a punt at the Minnesota 5-yard line and getting it to hop more toward the sideline than end zone.

Vikings rookie punt returner K.J. Osborn tracked the ball and pulled away when he realized he was inside the 10-yard line, which is generally the rule of thumb. The Sunday hop, however, allowed Indianapolis to down the ball at the 2.

Q2, 5:59 remaining — First-and-10 at the Minnesota 2

The Vikings implement play-action and a slow developing play that results in a 3-yard completion to Irv Smith, Jr. The misdirection of play-action with fake handoff to Cook allows enough time for Cousins to read his options and take the shortest throw to create breathing room.

Q2, 5:29 remaining — Second-and-7 at the Minnesota 5

The Vikings go with heavy, 13 personnel with three tight ends on the left side of the line of scrimmage. They hand off to Cook, who darts through a hole between left tackle Riley Reiff and tight end Kyle Rudolph. Cook appears to gain 8 on the play, but Rudolph is flagged for holding, which also negates a lowering the helmet to initiate contact penalty on Malik Hooker.

Instead of a first down by virtue of yardage with a 15-yard bonus to the 28, the penalties offset.

Q2, 5:07 remaining — Second-and-7 at the Minnesota 5

The Vikings bring fullback C.J. Ham into the game, for 22 personnel with Cook and tight ends Rudolph and Smith.

Minnesota max protects a play designed to go to Adam Thielen, who is matched up 1-on-1 with Xavier Rhodes.

0921Thielen

Thielen begins his break at the 20 and is grabbed by Rhodes coming out of his break. Rhodes is able to recover just in time and knock the ball away from Thielen.

Q2, 5:01 remaining — Third-and-7 at the Minnesota 5

The Vikings go with 11 personnel, bringing receivers Justin Jefferson and Bisi Johnson into the game to join Thielen, Rudolph and Cook.

Minnesota starts with a bunch formation of Rudolph, Jefferson, Cook and Thielen on the left before motioning Thielen to the right.

The Colts rush four defenders against the Vikings offensive line and are able to cover Thielen and Johnson with 1-on-1s.

On the left side, Rudolph runs an underneath route, and Cook heads to the flat. Jefferson goes up and breaks in between the numbers and hashmarks. He appears to have an opening behind a linebacker and under the safety, but the ball doesn't come out. The overhead view can't illustrate how clear or unclear Cousins' view is with 6-foot-7 DeForest Buckner surging ahead.

0921Jefferson

Denico Autry makes first contact with Cousins before Buckner gets a better hold. Officials rule that the quarterback was in the grasp of Buckner and whistle the play dead.

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