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Inside the numbers: Cousins’ career day vs. Lions, the O-line and coverage issues

The Minnesota Vikings’ offense has exploded over the past three weeks with their most impressive performance coming Sunday in a 42-30 win over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Here’s a look at some of the key statistical takeaways from the game…

Kirk’s career day

Kirk Cousins has been on a blazing hot streak, becoming the first QB in NFL history to registered a rating over 135 three games in a row. His 141.4 rating was the sixth highest QB rating of his career. The in-depth numbers back the traditional stats. He put together a 92.4 PFF grade, the highest grade of his career (last week was his second highest career grade).

Everything Detroit attempted against Cousins got roasted. He went 10-for-11 with 168 yards and a perfect passer rating when blitzed and had great success throwing the ball down field, going 12-for-17 on throws that traveled more than 10 yards.

After a rough afternoon at Soldier Field, the Vikings have emerged as one of the most explosive passing games in the NFL, ranking sixth in passing Expected Points Added. Cousins has moved up to the fourth highest graded QB in the NFL by PFF.

Keeping the QB clean 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Cousins’ success correlates to play-action and clean pockets. Cousins has the second highest percentage of play-action in the NFL.

On Sunday he was under pressure just 11 times on 34 drop backs and with no pressure he went 16-for-22 with three touchdowns.

The offensive line deserves credit for their performance. Coming off an injury, left tackle Riley Reiff gave up just one pressure (81.5 grade) against his former team.

Rookie center Garrett Bradbury continued to show vast improvement in pass protection with one pressure allowed and a 69.2 grade.

The one caveat to the Vikings’ great day is that the Lions rank 27th in sacks and PFF grades their pass rush 25th.

The Vikings love CJ Ham

This offseason the Vikings raved about CJ Ham’s versatility and made no bones about the fact they were going to include the fullback — a staple of Gary Kubiak offenses. They have followed through, using CJ Ham as a regular in the offense. On Sunday he played 39 total snaps and posted a 76.6 grade, sixth highest graded offensive player.

He managed a 9-yard run on third-and-short and had five pass blocking snaps, zero pressures — not to mention helping Dalvin Cook rush for 142 yards.

Overall Ham is the third highest graded fullback by PFF.

Coverage issues

Matthew Stafford mostly matched Cousins’ great performance on Sunday, racking up 364 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Marvin Jones caught all four TDs and had 10 receptions overall. These are not the types of stats we’re used to seeing from opposing offenses against the Vikings defense.

The issues were largely from the back end. No defensive back graded higher than 56 by PFF. The Lions attacked Trae Waynes, going 6-for-8 with one touchdown (and one late interception). He was lowest graded defensive player. Xavier Rhodes was only targeted three times but it resulted in two TDs and a penalty and Mike Hughes wasn’t much better in relief, playing 33 snaps and giving up three catches, 41 yards and a touchdown.

Harrison Smith had his lowest graded game since the NFC Championship game.

After the game head coach Mike Zimmer said that he tried a bunch of different coverages and blamed himself for not being able to solve the issues on the fly.

Have a year, Kendricks 

The Vikings front seven was terrific in the win, especially linebacker Eric Kendricks, who could be en route to his first Pro Bowl appearance. He was the defense’s highest graded player at 90.2, which marked the third straight game over 90.

Stafford went just 4-for-8 with 42 yards into his coverage with 2 PBUs, including a key breakup on fourth down.

One difference from previous years to this season is Kendricks’ surprising rush effectiveness. He had five QB hurries against the Lions.

Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen also had notable performances, combining for 18 total QB pressures.


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