Early in the season, it’s a been a story of fast starts — both for the Vikings and their opponents.
Sunday afternoon Minnesota was on the right side of another quick start at home, taking a 21-0 lead in the second quarter to mirror last week’s 21-0 deficit at Green Bay. Unlike the Packers game, which got close down the stretch, the Raiders never got back in this game, falling by a 34-14 score.
The Vikings took the contest’s opening possession 76 yards for a touchdown after an Oakland defensive holding call extended the drive. Using a bootleg rollout that was stymied in Minnesota’s loss to the Packers, Kirk Cousins hit Adam Thielen on a double move for a 35-yard touchdown that gave the Vikings the early lead.
— NFL (@NFL) September 22, 2019
The Vikings wouldn’t look back as their rushing attack came together for a third straight week to produce a 100-yard rushing performance by Dalvin Cook, who went for 110 yards on 16 carries, 33 yards on four catches and showed off his signature combination of speed, shiftiness and power. He scored from one yard out out to start the second quarter, fighting his way to the goal line, but his most impressive highlight came in the third quarter when he juked two defenders, spun away from another and absorbed a (reckless) Vontaze Burfict punch to gain a first down.
So far, Mike Zimmer’s vision of a clock-controlling run-first offense is coming to fruition. Cousins only had to throw 21 times to get the job done on Sunday — not passing in the fourth quarter — as the Vikings ran it 38 times for 211 yards, just shy of their 220 yards in Week 15 last year versus Miami.
Reminiscent of the 28-12 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, the visitors didn’t look prepared. Oakland, after getting blown out by Kansas City in Week 2, gained just one first down on their first three drives. Their third possession ended in a Harrison Smith interception off Derek Carr’s poor pass, giving the Vikings a short field that they’d turn into Thielen’s second touchdown, the first rushing touchdown of his career on a 1-yard sweep at the goal line.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 22, 2019
The Vikings were missing a starting linebacker for the second straight week with a groin injury. Last week it was Ben Gedeon, this week it was Anthony Barr. In both cases, the fill-in was Eric Wilson, who had a strong game at Green Bay but was up and down against the Raiders. Wilson got lost in coverage a handful of times, including on the Raiders’ first touchdown, a flea flicker pass to J.J. Nelson where Wilson was in charge of the motioning receiver. He also lost Darren Waller in coverage late in the second quarter, but Waller dropped the ball to end a promising Raiders drive. He redeemed himself, though, in run support and blitzing situations. Wilson came up with a third-down sack of Carr in the fourth quarter to force a long field goal attempt, which former Viking Daniel Carlson missed from 51 yards amidst loud boos.
Mike Hughes made his return to the defense, his first action since Week 6 last year when he tore his ACL. Hughes’ presence alleviated some concern about Mackensie Alexander’s absence in the slot. The second-year corner played with a brace but held his ground all afternoon while not appearing to be a pitch count.
Injury-wise, guard Josh Kline departed with a concussion, while receiver Chad Beebe was carted off with an ankle injury in the third quarter. Kline was replaced by Dakota Dozier, who filled in last week for Pat Elflein. The injury to Beebe potentially leaves Minnesota with just three active receivers. They had already lost newly-acquired Josh Doctson to a foot injury. Beebe was oft-used against Oakland, sometimes in place of Stefon Diggs, even though he didn’t record a catch. Minnesota will have to replace him as a receiver and as a punt returner, but that might’ve happened anyway after Beebe’s second muff in as many weeks.
Big picture: The Vikings did exactly what they needed to do against an inferior opponent at home, avoiding the upset that many feared after experiencing last year’s dud versus Buffalo in Week 3. Minnesota now faces a key test at Chicago, where Cousins’ play will be under microscope in another marquee game.