Vikings 42, Lions 30: Three Takeaways From an Offensive Explosion in Detroit
Something interesting is developing in Minnesota.
The Vikings just went to Detroit and put up 42 points on the Lions, giving them 108 points over their past three games (all victories). Suddenly, the offense that looked so pathetic against Chicago looks like one of the best in the NFL. And suddenly, they're 5-2 heading into a home game against the 1-5 Redskins on Thursday.
Here are three takeaways from the Vikings' third straight win.
1. Kirk Cousins, elite quarterback?
What has gotten into Kirk Cousins? After topping out at 233 passing yards in the season's first four games, Cousins has put together three consecutive gems. He went for 306 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Giants, 333 and 4 against the Eagles, and now 337 and 4 more TD passes in Detroit. Cousins completed 24 of 34 passes, displaying good accuracy and decision-making all afternoon long.
In the first quarter, he threw an absolute dime to Adam Thielen in the back of the end zone. Unfortunately, Thielen was injured on the play and did not return to the game. His status for Thursday's game will be one to monitor.
Somewhat surprisingly, losing Thielen wasn't an issue for the offense. Bisi Johnson's role expanded, and he played well. Johnson had 4 catches on 8 targets for 40 yards and his first career touchdown. The tight ends also got more involved, with Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. combining for 10 catches, 108 yards a Rudolph touchdown.
Also, it's pretty helpful to have a guy like Stefon Diggs around to help mitigate the loss of Thielen. Diggs wasn't perfect – he dropped a touchdown and also had a fumble that Alexander Mattison was able to recover – but he remains an incredible talented receiver. This was a beautiful throw and a great catch:
Then, late in the game, Cousins finally took a true deep shot to Diggs, sealing the game.
Behind Cousins and another big day for Dalvin Cook (25 carries, 142 yards, 2 TDs), the Vikings totaled over 500 yards of offense. Give credit to the offensive line, which didn't allow a single sack. If this is how Cousins is going to play this season, the Vikings might be a more dangerous team than anyone expected.
2. What happened to the Vikings defense?
Even though his team won the game, I have a pretty good feeling that Mike Zimmer isn't in the best mood right now. That's because the Vikings won despite a lousy performance by their vaunted defense. The Lions put of 433 yards of offense, with Matthew Stafford throwing for 364 yards and 4 touchdowns.
This was an afternoon to forget for every member of the Vikings secondary. Marvin Jones, the recipient of all four of Stafford's touchdown passes, had his way with just about every Vikings defensive back. Trae Waynes missed a tackle on Jones' first TD, Xavier Rhodes was beaten twice for touchdowns, and Anthony Harris also gave up a big play while covering Jones. Mike Hughes was beaten for a TD, too.
Up front, there wasn't much of a pass rush to bother Stafford. The Vikings did sack him twice, but most of the time Stafford was able to sit back in a clean pocket and go through his progressions.
The Vikings have a lot of work to do defensively after this one.
3. Kendricks shines again
One defensive player who had a great game was Kendricks, who continues to play like the MVP of this defense. He had 12 tackles, including a TFL, and a team-high 2 passes defended. One of those pass breakups came on a fourth down early in the game, getting the Vikings offense back on the field.
Kendricks has been doing this all year, and deserves some recognition as one of the best linebackers in the NFL right now. He's constantly reading opposing offenses and making big plays. He seems to have at least one impressive run stuff in the backfield every game, and has been excelling in pass coverage. He's the total package at LB and was the best player on the field when the Lions had the ball.