Following a week in which two receivers used the word “frustrated” to describe the offense and a $200,000 fine was reportedly handed down over missed practice time, the Minnesota Vikings badly needed a dominating performance through the air. Fortunately for the Vikings, the sad New York Giants defense was there to get Kirk Cousins and Co. back on track.
Heading into Sunday’s matchup the Giants ranked 22nd in opposing quarterback rating allowed and second in yards per pass attempt allowed. It became apparent early in the contest at Met Life Stadium that those numbers would not be improving against the Vikings — a team with simply too much talent to rank 31st in passing offense.
Cousins opened the game with a 16-yard pass to Frustrated Receiver1 Stefon Diggs, kicking off a drive that would see the Vikings complete five passes, travel 62 yards and kick a field goal.
After a Giants punt that put Minnesota at their own 2-yard line, the passing game got right back to work, hitting Frustrated Receiver2 Adam Thielen for 10 yards, Dalvin Cook on a screen for 15 yards, rookie Bisi Johnson for 23 yards and then a Thielen touchdown to cap off a 98-yard drive.
The Giants were mostly helpless. On every play-action rollout, they bit so hard on the run that receivers were running free in the secondary. On every screen pass, they failed to tackle Cook and gave up huge yards after catch. On the Thielen touchdown, the G-men decided that man-to-man coverage against the league’s leader in catches out of the slot in 2018 was a good idea. Easy money for the Vikings. Usually good opponents double team Thielen and Diggs on third down.
At half, Cousins went 19-for-23 with 278 yards and one touchdown.
To open the second half, Daniel Jones and the New York offense closed the gap to one score after a 15-play drive that ended in a field goal. But the Giants continued their abysmal defensive play on the Vikings’ first drive of the half. They committed a taunting penalty, then gave up a 41-yard gain to Cook and the Cousins-Thielen combo finished it off with a brilliant throw and catch in the back of the end zone.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) October 6, 2019
If there was any chance for the Giants to come back, it was ended on a fourth down sack by Danielle Hunter. Jones (with help from two pass interference penalties) guided the Giants into Vikings territory but an incomplete fade pass at the goal line on third-and-2 set the Vikings up for the key stop to keep the game at two scores.
After another Vikings defensive stop in their own territory, Cousins found Diggs on third-and-7 for a first down that essentially put the nail in the Giants’ coffin. Diggs wasn’t involved as much as you might have expected based on his annoyance with the offense but the gameplan was, coincidentally, much like 2017 when Pat Shurmur was the offensive coordinator.
Cook took care of the rest, hammering away at the bludgeoned Giants and wearing the clock out. He finished with a career high in all purpose yards. Cousins ended the day with 306 total yards passing.
Overall if you were dropping footballs in one bucket for good things the Vikings did on offense and one bucket for bad things, the good bucket would be overflowing. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski allowed the passing game to set up the run. The offensive line largely did their job in both pass and run blocking. The playmakers made plays.
With the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions coming up in the next two weeks and road games against Kansas City, Dallas and Seattle still to come, the Vikings badly needed a back-on-track game. Thanks to solid execution and the Giants’ poor play, they go it.
Of course, better teams likely won’t let them off the hook for multiple sloppy mistakes like Cook’s fumble at the 1-yard line, numerous penalties (including one on special teams that gave the Giants another shot to score after a fourth-down stop) and going 1-for-3 in the red zone during their impressive first half on offense.
For now, the drama will be subdued — thanks in part to a near perfect performance by Cousins and the Vikings offense and in part to a horrendous showing by the Giants defense.
So the question is: Can the explosive offense carry over? The Vikings had strong performances against Atlanta and Oakland and followed those up with poor showings in Green Bay and Chicago. We won’t really know until the next two games. If this was a back-on-track game, those will be prove-it games.