There wouldn’t be another let down against a team the Minnesota Vikings should handle in their own stadium. Not this week, and not after an impressive road win at Philadelphia.
The Vikings made things more interesting than needed at times, but overall did their job and took care of business Sunday in a 27-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals. It was an important win to build momentum, and more important to keep pace in the NFC North.
The Vikings and Packers both sit at 3-2-1, while the Bears are at 3-2. Six games in, and the division is still very much for the taking with the Vikings having not yet played the Bears or the Lions. Here are four takeaways from Sunday’s win, the Vikings’ second straight.
Run Game Takes Off With Latavius Murray
Through five games, the Vikings had largely struggled to run the ball. The offensive line hasn’t consistently opened up running lanes, and Dalvin Cook has been sidelined with a nagging hamstring injury. It’s forced quarterback Kirk Cousins to shoulder much of the load for Minnesota’s offense.
That changed Sunday, when Latavius Murray emerged for 155 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Murray finished with 6.45 yards per carry, by far the best average for any Vikings running back this season. Cook was expected to play, but the hamstring didn’t feel right during warm-ups and he was inactive. The Vikings ran for nearly 200 yards as a team, which could open up things even more offensively for Cousins if they can do it more consistently.
They’ll have chances against the Jets, who allow on average more than 108 yards rushing per game.
No Slow Start Against Cardinals
Let the Buffalo Bills game be a lesson: Don’t expect the Vikings to have too many more slow, sluggish starts, especially on their home turf. The Vikings inexplicably got down big early against the Bills in a game where they were favored by more than two touchdowns. They didn’t let it happen again Sunday.
It was closer than it should have been at the half, with the Vikings up 13-10. But the Vikings out-scored the Cardinals 14-0 in the third quarter to make the final 15 minutes largely boring. There’s too much parity in the NFL and too many things can change weekly for one team to take another lightly, regardless of what point spreads say. The Vikings looked focused early in all phases, and it should continue the rest of the season.
Adam Thielen Among Top NFL Receivers?
Adam Thielen is no longer a feel-good story about an undrafted Division II star making an NFL roster. He’s legitimately inserted himself as one of the top receivers in the NFL. The numbers don’t lie. Thielen finished Sunday with 11 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. That’s six straight games to start the season with at least 100 receiving yards.
Thielen is on pace to record more than 1,800 receiving yards. He currently leads the NFL with 58 catches, is first in yards (718) and tied for ninth with four touchdowns. He’s fast, runs crisp routes and rarely drops the ball when it’s in his area. He’s one of the most talented and consistent receivers in the NFL.
A big pay day could be coming his way, but will it be with the Vikings? They’ve already paid Stefon Diggs big money, but will the Vikings do what they can to keep the NFL’s best receiving corps in tact? For now, just enjoy every play Thielen makes. It’s a thing of beauty.
Defense Slows Josh Rosen
For the second straight week, fans saw a Vikings defense get back to the way it’s capable of playing. The Vikings slowed Carson Wentz two weeks ago in a 23-21 victory. Sunday, they faced highly-touted rookie Josh Rosen. He finished with 240 yards, but threw an interception to Anthony Harris.
Danielle Hunter collected two sacks, and has at least one sack in every game this season. Harrison Smith got his third sack of the season, Mackensie Alexander got his first sack, Anthony Barr got a forced fumble and Tom Johnson got his first fumble recovery.
The defensive unit seems to have stabilized after a few shaky games, now allowing 20.3 points per game and nearly 360 total yards. They’ll get tested again next week, traveling to face another rookie quarterback when they take on Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.