MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Zimmer has argued for months that he never asked for a run-first offense. Instead he dreamed of an offense that could run effectively and hit on explosive plays through the air. In that case, Sunday’s offensive showing was a dream performance from the Minnesota Vikings offense.
The Vikings opened the game with a methodical drive that included quick passes to Stefon Diggs, two receiver runs and two A-plus throws from quarterback Kirk Cousins. It was clear from the outset that Cousins felt comfortable in the pocket, hitting a tight-window throw to Adam Thielen on third-and-13 to move the ball deep into Eagles territory. Five plays later, Cousins dropped in another brilliant pass to Thielen, dropping a fade pass into the bucket to put the Vikings up seven.
Over the past two years in purple Cousins has shown a capability to perform at a high level when he gets off to a hot start. Last week against the New York Giants he hit on several throws on the opening drive and went on to produce over 300 yards in a runaway win. Against the Eagles he would get even hotter as the half went along — thanks to a little help from the sorry Philly defense.
Up 10-3, the Vikings opened the second quarter with a bomb from Cousins to Diggs, who probably won’t be skipping any practices due to “frustration” this week. The pass fell out of the air perfectly into the hands of the star receiver for a 62-yard score, easily the longest TD of the year through the air.
The follow up act was nearly as impressive. On the opening play their fourth drive, Diggs smoked cornerback Rasul Douglas and snatched another long throw out of the air in the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown to put the Vikings up 24-3.
Stefon Diggs is the 1st Vikings player to catch 2 TD passes of 50+ yards in a single game since Randy Moss had two in Week 5 2000 at Lions
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) October 13, 2019
Cousins finished the half with 209 yards and three touchdowns.The only hiccup of the first 30 minutes came at the end of the first half when Cousins whipped a pass to Diggs on the sideline but the throw went through his hands and deflected in the air for an interception.
The Eagles and quarterback Carson Wentz, however, refused to go away. The Eagles cut the Vikings’ lead to seven points on a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by a dynamic play by Wentz, who dodged rushers to find Alshon Jeffery in the end zone.
But the Vikings passing game responded. Cousins put together one of the most impressive drives of his career in Minnesota, hitting Diggs for passes of 13 and eight yards to open the drive and then nailing Bisi Johnson on a line drive throw on the run for a first down. Cousins completed the drive with his third touchdown pass of the day to Diggs, a perfectly located ball that allowed the receiver to get both feet down in bounds.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) October 13, 2019
Following a key third-down stop early in the fourth quarter by the Vikings defense, Cousins put the dagger in the hearts of the Eagles. On a play-action rollout, he found rookie tight end Irv Smith wide open for a 29-yard completion to move the Vikings out of their own territory to midfield. An Alexander Mattison rush took care of the rest as the Vikings finished the drive with a Dalvin Cook 2-yard touchdown run.
When Diggs skipped a Wednesday practice two weeks ago (and was subsequently fined $200,000), he was reportedly unhappy with the overall direction of the offense following the Vikings’ loss in Chicago. His contention, reportedly, was that the Vikings needed to rely on him and Adam Thielen in the passing game as they had successfully in years past.
While it’s debatable whether he took the right route in proving his point, his point turned out to be very, very right. Cousins finished 22-for-29 with 333 yards and four touchdowns.
The Vikings entered ranked 29th in passing yards per game. They certainly showed that with Sunday’s gameplan, that ranking will go up as we go along. And if they are able to continue to hit on downfield throws to Thielen and Diggs, they are capable of having an extremely dangerous offensive attack.
Of course, next week’s opponent will be quite a bit tougher defensively and the Vikings will be going on the road. But as for prove-it games, the Vikings got their first win of the season that would give reason to believe they are in the mix for top teams in the NFC.