The Vikings dipped below .500 again when a frustrating loss to Dallas moved them to 3-4 on the season.
Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune took a look at Sunday night’s game and a Minnesota offense that "dried up" after an opening drive capped by an Adam Thielen touchdown. Goessling also highlighted two players who stood out (Thielen and safety Xavier Woods) and tabbed two Vikings "trends to watch," starting with clock management. He wrote:
After Sheldon Richardson called a timeout the Vikings didn't have in a Week 4 loss to the Browns, Zimmer said, "No one should call timeouts but me." That seemed to be how [Kirk] Cousins was thinking at the end of the first half, when the Vikings let the clock run from 25 seconds to 4 while trying to get everyone lined up instead of using their final timeout following a quarterback scramble.
The Vikings ended the half without using the timeout, and then in the fourth quarter, they were penalized 5 yards for delay of game when [Head Coach Mike] Zimmer called back-to-back timeouts, turning a third-and-16 into a third-and-11 before [Cooper] Rush hit Ezekiel Elliott for a pivotal 15-yard gain. By rule, officials aren't supposed to grant the second timeout, but they can penalize a team for delay of game if the timeout is mistakenly allowed.
Goessling also said to keep an eye on how opposing defenses attack the Vikings secondary while veteran corner Patrick Peterson is on Injured Reserve, and defensive end Danielle Hunter suffered a season-ending pectoral injury against the Cowboys.
While the Vikings played tentatively in the second half, Rush wasn't reluctant about pushing the ball downfield, trying 15 throws that traveled at least 10 yards and seven that went at least 20. That might have been because deep shots, in some ways, are easier for a young quarterback than trying to fit the ball in between layers of coverage, but it's worth watching what happens, especially as the Vikings are now without Danielle Hunter. Teams seem to realize they can challenge cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler and Bashaud Breeland downfield, and the Cowboys started to test Harrison Smith, who gave up a 35-yard completion to CeeDee Lamb and was targeted on a third-quarter sideline throw to Amari Cooper.
Look back at photos over the course of time featuring games between the Vikings and the Ravens.
PFF votes Lamar Jackson 'most likely to be a true anomaly' against Vikings in Week 9
Sunday's loss was disappointing, to be sure, but the Vikings have no choice but to put that behind them and prepare for this weekend's road contest at Baltimore.
Analytics site Pro Football Focus recently made Week 9 predictions for every NFL quarterback, which means PFF's Ian Hartitz homed in on Ravens QB Lamar Jackson as he readies for the Vikings defense. He predicted that Jackson will be "most likely to be a true anomaly" this week. Hartitz wrote:
Everyone knows Jackson is one of the best rushing quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen. And yet, his true production on the ground is probably still underrated. Somehow, Jackson's 3,389 rushing yards since entering the league in 2018 trail only Derrick Henry, Ezekiel Elliott, Nick Chubb and Dalvin Cook. Only Daniel Jones (6.3) has averaged more yards per carry than Jackson (6.1) during this stretch.
Jackson also ranks favorably in yards per attempt (No. 15 out of 77 qualified quarterbacks) and PFF passing grade (No. 17) since entering the league, so appreciate every opportunity you have to witness one of the most unique talents the NFL has ever seen.
The ceiling is the moon for Jackson and the Ravens against a Vikings defense that struggled to slow down Cooper Rush and company last Sunday night.
In looking at Cousins, Hartitz said the Vikings QB is "most likely to fall under duress" at Baltimore. But it's not a guarantee, he noted, as the Ravens pass rush has actually met its share of challenges so far.
There simply haven't been many quarterbacks better than Cousins this season when given the benefit of a clean pocket:
PFF passing grade when kept clean: 94.2 (No. 1 among 40 qualified quarterbacks)
Yards per attempt when kept clean: 8.7 (No. 11)
And yet, things have gone south in a hurry once Cousins has faced any sign of pressure:
PFF passing grade when under pressure: 56 (No. 19)
Yards per attempt when under pressure: 3.5 (No. 39)
Overall, Cousins is the third-most sensitive quarterback in terms of the largest dropoff in yards per attempt when kept clean vs. when under pressure.
The Ravens blitz-happy defense has only registered the 27th-highest pressure rate this season. If the Ravens don't improve their ability to get after the opposing quarterback, they could struggle against Cousins, who does well dissecting defenses when given ample time.