The Minnesota Vikings can go into their bye week feeling good about themselves after a 24-9 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Dalvin Cook returned from a hamstring injury and made his presence felt. The Vikings’ defense put Lions quarterback Matt Stafford on the ground at a historic level, while another streak on the offensive side of the ball came to an end.
Most importantly, the Vikings are right with the Chicago Bears at 5-3-1 in the division heading into their bye week and have a good taste in their mouth after a convincing, though not sexy, win over the Lions. The Vikings head to Soldier Field for a Nov. 18 game that’s been flexed to national television, Sunday Night Football.
Here are four takeaways from Sunday’s win:
Vikings Start to Control Playoff Destiny
Sunday’s win was big in several ways for the Vikings. Any division win is a good win, and always helps with tiebreakers at the end of the season when it comes to playoff seeding. The Vikings are now 1-0-1 in the division. They’ll get an even bigger test out of the bye, heading to Chicago for Sunday Night Football. They’re currently percentage points behind the Bears for the division lead, but that all changes with a win in Chicago.
It’s also the middle of a crucial stretch for the Vikings, with two more divisional games on the schedule before a road game against the Patriots.
Defense Pounds Matt Stafford
Perhaps most encouraging from Sunday’s win was the defensive side of the ball. The Vikings largely haven’t played up to their lofty standards this season, but it was a different story Sunday. The Lions couldn’t run the ball, managing just 66 yards rushing. They also succeeded in getting consistent pressure on Matthew Stafford.
The Vikings sacked Stafford a franchise-record 10 times, yes 10. Danielle Hunter got 3.5 of them, Tom Johnson got 2.5, Everson Griffen got 1.5, Mackensie Alexander got one, Stephen Weatherly got one and Sheldon Richardson got a half sack. That’s a beating on Stafford, who managed just 199 yards passing. The Vikings hope it’s the start of a trend on defense. It was that type of effort that got them to the NFC title game last year.
Thielen Scores, But Streak Ends
Adam Thielen had already made history, tying Calvin Johnson with eight straight games of at least 100 yards receiving. That streak came to an end Sunday, but Thielen will be the first to tell you he doesn’t care about it, and all that does matter is getting the win. Thielen finished with four catches for 22 yards and a touchdown, which gave the Vikings a 14-6 lead in the second quarter.
With Stefon Diggs out injured, Thielen saw double teams and extra attention most of the game. While the numbers for Kirk Cousins weren’t gaudy, he completed passes to seven different receivers. It’s good to know there are other options when one of your top receivers can’t go.
Dalvin Cook Shows Off His Speed
It was just nice to have Dalvin Cook back on the field. Cook had missed a few games with a hamstring injury, and was supposed to be on a snap count after feeling good in pregame warm-ups. Cook finished with 10 carries for 89 yards and caught four passes for 20 yards. He had 70 of his 89 yards on one carry and was pulling away from the Lions defense on his way to the end zone before being tripped up. At one point, he got up to 22 miles per hour on the run. That’s fast.
All reports after the game indicate he felt good, and should be good to go after the bye week. Having Cook healthy and on the field makes a huge difference for the Vikings on offense.
The Vikings will enjoy the win, but the reality is it doesn’t mean much if they don’t come out of the bye week with wins over the Bears and Packers. It’s a critical stretch if the Vikings have serious playoff aspirations.