The Skinny Post: Vikings Look to Get Back on Winning Track vs. Raiders

EAGAN, Minn. — Don’t let it linger.

That’s the message Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has relayed to his team this week ahead of Minnesota’s Week 3 home game against Oakland.

A year ago, the Vikings tied the Packers in Week 2 but followed that up with losses to the Bills at home and the Rams on the road. Sitting at 1-2-1, the Vikings faced an uphill climb and eventually missed the playoffs.

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph spoke earlier this week about moving on from Sunday’s frustrating loss in Green Bay and quickly turning the page.

“It’s extremely important. I think back to last year when we let an emotional game in Green Bay carry over into two more losses — home against Buffalo and then on the road against the Rams,” Rudolph said. “We’ve got to move on from last week. We have moved on from last week. Coming in here on a Monday, you learn from it and take Tuesday off, then it’s all about the Oakland Raiders.”

Kirk Cousins also mentioned a similar mindset for himself, as the quarterback is coming off a disappointing personal outing.

“What’s so important is that you can’t let one [rough outing] turn into two, three, four,” Cousins said. “As a younger player, I’m sure that can happen. But when you’ve been around the block, you’d like to think you’ve been through that before and you’ve learned.”

Zimmer said Wednesday that his mission this season is make sure he doesn’t let one loss turn into multiple. The Vikings are 17-15 following a loss since Zimmer took over in 2014. 

“It’s a long season, there’s 14 more games left,” Zimmer said. “What we do in the next 14 games will determine what we do.

“It’s a week-to-week proposition, you try and overcome and you get back to work on the next week,” Zimmer added. “That’s what we’re going to do.”

Here are three areas to watch in Sunday’s contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

Find the middle ground | By @Eric_L_Smith

In Week 1, the Vikings blitzed Atlanta early and raced out to 21-0 halftime lead, aided in part by an Anthony Barr sack on the first play of the season, an Eric Wilson blocked punt, a quick score to Adam Thielen and a healthy dose of Dalvin Cook.

But in Week 2, it was the Vikings who found themselves down 21-0 just 16 minutes into the game, as a sluggish start on both sides led to a deficit that ultimately proved too large to overcome.

Perhaps it’s a little unrealistic for Minnesota to expect to get out to such a hot start every week like they did against the Falcons. Yet it’s also the expectation around the organization that Minnesota can’t start as slow as it did at Lambeau Field.

The Vikings will aim for starts like the one against the Falcons, but it’s possible the team could wind up somewhere in the expansive middle ground that lies in between.

“You have to [execute at a high level] out of the gate,” safety Harrison Smith said. “There’s no warm-up period.”

Stopping the Raiders Run Game | By @LindseyMNSports

The Vikings aren’t the only ones to rack up the rushing yards in the first two weeks of 2019.

The Raiders accrued 129 yards on the ground against the Chiefs, following up a 98-rushing-yard outing against the Broncos in Week 1.

Rookie running back Josh Jacobs, drafted 24th overall by Oakland, led the way last week with 99 yards on 12 carries. Through two games, he has 184 rushing yards and two scores.

Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen on Thursday observed what he’s seen from Jacobs on tape, “He has a quickness to get the ball outside and cut it outside quick. He’s a downhill runner, and he can make the big play. He’s fast.”

Minnesota’s defense will need to stop the rushing attack early after struggling a bit in that area last Sunday, when the Vikings allowed 144 rushing yards to the Packers on the road. Of that total, 116 yards were gained by Aaron Jones, who was able to pick up some chunk plays. Griffen emphasized the importance of rewriting that narrative at U.S. Bank Stadium this weekend.

“[The Raiders] like running the ball. They do a good job at that,” Griffen said. “They have big o-linemen, so I think our number-one goal is to stop the run. Get them in passing situations and go out there and do what we need to do.”

Get to the quarterback | By @pcraigers

The Vikings have affected passers for generations.

From the days of Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page and Gary Larsen “meeting at the quarterback” to help win an NFL Championship 50 years ago, to the 1989 squad led by Chris Doleman, Keith Millard, Henry Thomas and Al Noga that recorded a whopping 71 sacks, which is the second most by a team in NFL history.

Fast-forward through Jared Allen roping and branding, and Brian Robison showing his passion for angling after wrangling another QB to this season, where another intimidating front is off to a strong start.

Although there are multiple degrees of affecting quarterbacks, sacks are conclusive and quantifiable. They also usually correlate to a Vikings victory under Zimmer.

Since Zimmer’s hire in 2014, the Vikings have recorded four or more sacks in 26 games and gone 21-4-1 (.827 win percentage). The correlation to victory is even higher in home games that include the Vikings two seasons at the University of Minnesota and three-plus seasons since opening U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016. The Vikings are 15-2 (.882) in 17 games when totaling four or more sacks since 2014.

Griffen and Danielle Hunter have recorded 80 sacks during their time as teammates, the most of any NFL duo since Hunter’s rookie season of 2015.

The Vikings also have the most sacks of any team in regular-season home games since 2016 with 80, an average of 3.2 per game.

Substantial Stats

— Cousins has one career start against the Raiders, which occurred in 2017 when he was with Washington. He completed 25 of 30 passes for 365 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 150.7.

— The Vikings will honor the 1969 Vikings — the franchise’s first Super Bowl team —at halftime of Sunday’s game to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that season. That team featured the Purple People Eaters and a punishing defense that led the NFL by allowing just 9.5 points per game.

— Dalvin Cook leads the NFL with 265 rushing yards after two games. The Vikings running back has also already set his career high for a season with three rushing touchdowns in 2019. He had two apiece in 2017 and 2018.

— The Vikings are 18-7 at home since opening U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016. That includes a 4-2 record against AFC opponents.

Quotable

“Believe me – I’m not going to be playing quarterback here if I play the way I played last Sunday for much longer. I understand that, and I look forward to getting out there and playing at a much higher level.”

— Cousins on bouncing back from a Week 2 loss against the Packers

Back on the road

The Vikings hit the road in Week 4 for an NFC North clash against the Bears in Chicago. Kickoff is at 3:25 p.m. (CT). Three of Minnesota’s first four road games are against division foes.

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