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Vikings Specialists Endure Windy Day in Win Over Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — If you stood at midfield of MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon, you would have thought it was a calm autumn day on the East Coast.

But move 10 or 15 yards in either direction down the field, and it suddenly felt like you stepped into a wind tunnel.

On a blustery and gusty day where the Vikings picked up a 37-17 win over the Jets, Minnesota earned its third straight victory thanks to strong play from its special teams groups.

"I thought it was a good win today, for us to come in on the road," said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. "I thought we did a nice job of field position. We didn't actually take advantage of it as much as I would have liked to, but the field position I figured would be big today with some of the wind."

Minnesota's team of specialists — kicker Dan Bailey, punter Matt Wile and long snapper Kevin McDermott — said they studied the wind all week and tried to gauge it on the field in pregame warmups.

But in one spot it might be 15 miles per hour, and in another spot it seemed like gusts were around 40 miles per hour.

"We were trying to get a handle on the wind in pregame, but sometimes we went out there and it was completely different," McDermott said. "Credit to Dan and Matt … they really adjusted well on the field and performed fantastic."

Wile landed half of his eight punts inside the 20-yard line on the day, averaging 47.8 yards on his kicks.

But perhaps more importantly, he helped flip the field on numerous occasions to lend a hand to the Vikings defense.

With the Vikings pinned at their own 1-yard line early in the game, Wile uncorked a 63-yarder that put the Jets at their own 36-yard line.

He later had a 53-yard punt to put New York at its own 12-yard line, and a 66-yarder that rolled to the Jets 8-yard line.

"It was great. It's always great to be able to help your team out and put them in an advantageous situation," Wile said. "I was just thankful because Kevin was giving me great snaps and guys were giving me great time to get the ball off."

Not that Wile always knew where his kicks were going.

"You just had to trust your drop and kind of punt it through the wind so it cuts through but then you have to hope the wind doesn't break it up," Wile said. "There were definitely a couple punts where it started going right where I was going to hit it but the wind had another idea for where it was going to finish.

"Both ways, it felt like you were punting into the wind," Wile added. "It was swirling and moving around."

While Wile's kicks helped the Vikings defense, punt returner Marcus Sherels provided a boost to the offense with five returns for 52 yards, including a long of 20 yards.

Sherels had just seven returns for 46 yards entering Sunday's game.

"Probably [the toughest conditions] that I can remember since being in the league," Sherels said. "I was talking with their returner, too, and he said it's never been this bad. It was a tough day for us, but you just have to be ready and field everything.

"Any time with conditions like this, field position plays a big role in the game," Sherels added. "As a punt-return team, our job is to either score or set up a score. Our job is to try to set up the offense as best as we can."

Kirk Cousins, who completed 25 of 40 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns said the offense appreciated the advantageous field position and frequent opportunities.

"When you have a special teams giving you great field position, when you have the defense creating turnovers and getting you the ball back, then it probably makes it look better than it really was," Cousins said. "But that's complementary football, that's team football, and we're so grateful for our defense and special teams, the way they played today, because it kept giving us opportunities to go back out there and score points."

Vikings kicker Dan Bailey did his best in the wind, too, making three of four field goals and all four extra point tries.

Bailey's lone miss, a 42-yard try, started on track before vehemently veering to the left, leaving him shaking his head.

View game action images as the Vikings take on the Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

"I could have overthought that but I was like, 'You know what, I'm just going to hit my ball.' As it started out, that was it," Bailey said. "It was a good hit like I wanted. But the wind had other ideas. You just have to do what you can and hope for the best."

Bailey had played numerous games at MetLife Stadium as a member of the Cowboys. But he couldn't remember anything like Sunday.

"I'm sure you could do some study on it … but for all the times I've played up here, it's always been a factor," Bailey said. "But today was definitely probably the most it has affected the game plan or how we were approaching it.

"It was really blowing today," Bailey added. "I hadn't experienced that up here before, so it was definitely a challenge."

Minnesota moved to 4-2-1 on the season as the Vikings now look to host New Orleans on Sunday Night Football in Week 8.

That game will fortunately be played indoors at U.S. Bank Stadium.

"I think it probably affected the kicking game more so than the passing game, I would say," Zimmer said of the wind. "They muffed a punt, they got it back, early in the ball game. We missed a short field goal that we probably never would miss.

"I think guys had a hard time fielding the punts a little bit. That was part of it," Zimmer added. "The wind was really swirling, so it was hard to tell which way it was going. I had to, we were kicking in the second half, and I said, 'Well whatever [Jets head coach] Todd [Bowles] did, I'm going to do, because he knows this stadium way better than me.' "