What a difference a couple weeks makes for the Minnesota Vikings.
Two weeks ago, the Vikings were 2-2 after a loss to the Detroit Lions. Sam Bradford couldn’t play with his bad knee, Dalvin Cook tore his ACL and the Vikings run defense got gashed by Ameer Abdullah.
Fast forward two weeks. The Vikings are 4-2 after beating the Bears on Monday Night Football and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Bradford tried to play against the Bears, looked very uncomfortable and was taken out for Case Keenum. They did enough to win.
Then everything changed Sunday. Aaron Rodgers went down early with an injury that was later determined to be a broken collar bone. The Vikings essentially cruised to a 23-10 win over the Packers, and now have the lead in the NFC North. Here are four takeaways from Sunday’s win.
Aaron Rodgers Injury Changes Everything
It’s no secret that Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks and players in the NFL. He single-handedly wins games for the Packers and keeps them in games they otherwise wouldn’t be competitive in. The Packers have always been one Rodgers injury away from being an average football team, and now here we are.
Rodgers went down in the first quarter after being hit by Anthony Barr. It was a clean hit. Some argued it was late, but Rodgers was escaping pressure and outside the pocket, making him a runner. He suffered a broken collar bone after being driven into the turf and didn’t return. He wasn’t happy about it, but that’s life in the NFL. The Packers scored their 10 points off two Vikings’ turnovers, and their offense was otherwise non-existent.
With No. 12 out, the entire complexion of the NFC North, and the NFC race to the Super Bowl, has changed. The division is wide open, and the Vikings for now have firm control.
Jerick McKinnon – Another Big Game
Jerick McKinnon has embraced being put into the spotlight after the season-ending knee injury to Dalvin Cook and the slower than hoped start for Latavius Murray. McKinnon got another opportunity Sunday, and made the most of it. He rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown, and added five catches for 30 yards and another score. The receiving touchdown came on a 27-yard screen play, perfectly executed away from a Green Bay blitz.
McKinnon had another big gain on a screen pass called back due to offensive linemen being downfield, but the bottom line is he’s given them a spark when his number has been called. For the season, McKinnon has 190 rushing yards and 121 receiving yards with four total touchdowns. If McKinnon can keep doing what he’s doing, it will give Keenum and the entire Vikings offense a huge boost the rest of the season.
Laquan Treadwell’s one handed catch pic.twitter.com/ZqI5wfNu4M
— Vikings Blogger (@firstandskol) October 15, 2017
Laquon Treadwell’s Big Day
Laquon Treadwell is living proof that just because you’re a first-round draft pick, there is no guarantee of overnight success and that development takes time. Treadwell has been largely absent from the Vikings’ passing game, but got his opportunity Sunday with Stefon Diggs out and Michael Floyd getting hurt during the game.
Treadwell finished with three catches for 51 yards, including an incredible one-handed catch that resulted in a first down. He also threw a great block that was incorrectly called a penalty on what should’ve been a nice gain for McKinnon. Treadwell has eight catches for 93 yards after catching just one pass last year. He might have made his case Sunday to be another weapon for the Vikings if their offense gets hit by injuries, even if it was against a depleted Packers’ secondary.
Hell of a knockdown and pick from Harrison Smith pic.twitter.com/4hqOdvcS80
— Vikings Blogger (@firstandskol) October 15, 2017
Big Plays From Harrison Smith, Everson Griffen
The Vikings defense attacked and took advantage Sunday with Rodgers knocked out early. Harrison Smith had another big game with 1.5 sacks, and made an incredible one-handed interception. It was his third interception in the last four games.
Everson Griffen kept his sack streak alive Sunday, even if he waited until the last defensive play of the game to do it. Griffen sacked Brent Hundley for his sixth consecutive game with at least one sack. That’s right, he’s got one in every game this season. Griffen has a relentless motor at defensive end, and he eventually wore down the Packers. The Vikings continue to make big plays on defense, and they’re now in the top five in scoring defense in the NFL.
Extra: Kai Forbath Quietly Perfect
One player not getting talked about much is Kai Forbath, and that’s exactly how the Vikings prefer it to be. Kickers only get talked about if they miss, and he’s been perfect lately. Forbath made both extra points Sunday, and made field goals from 36, 34 and 53 yards. And he’s not flirting much with either goal post, the kicks have mostly been right down the middle.
For the season, Forbath is 4-for-4 from 20-29 yards, 4-for-5 from 30-39 yards and 2-for-2 from 40-49 yards. His 53-yarder on Sunday was his first made field goal from 50-plus yards in his only attempt from that distance this season. He’s also 11-of-13 on extra points for the season.
Yes it’s only six games in and still way too early, but with Rodgers out and possibly for the season, it’s hard not to think the Vikings are in the driver’s seat in the NFC North.