Vikings Mailbag: Sunday's Final Play, Drafting a QB & Roethlisberger-Cousins Swap

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel (USA TODAY Sports)

For years the listeners of our Football Machine Vikings podcast have sent in amazing Twitter questions, and far too often we’ve had to leave many of them on the cutting room floor because of time. No longer! Each week we’ll pull some questions that didn’t make the cut and address them in this space.

I wasn’t a huge fan of it, but then again, I have the benefit of hindsight. The Vikings were worried about blitz so they kept seven blockers and only sent three out on routes, then the Cowboys only brought four rushers. That gave Dallas a tremendous advantage in coverage and left Cousins without a great option, hence the prayer to Thielen.

Aldon Smith did a great job jamming both of Minnesota’s eligible receivers, Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook, within the first two seconds of the play, so even if either wanted to release over the middle it wasn’t going to be easy. The throw seemed designed to go to either Chad Beebe or Justin Jefferson, who ran matching five- and 10-yard outs on the short side of the field, but unfortunately for Cousins that’s where Dallas got the most penetration on a stunt by Randy Gregory. I think he still needs to throw to that side, considering what his other option was, but credit both the Cowboys edge rushers for blowing up this play.

The throw to Thielen would’ve had to be a very difficult sideline fade in the “honey hole” between the corner and safety. Cousins is good at that throw, but why not allow Thielen to run a shorter route to the sticks when he had all sorts of room on his side of the field?

It seemed like the Vikings were fairly intent on getting out of bounds on the play, but they had 1:24 on the clock. That’s plenty of time in a two-minute drill to get up and clock the ball, provided you get a first down. Minnesota limited its options by running all out-breaking routes that demanded pinpoint throws.

It’s weird to say this after watching the Cowboys lay an egg on Thanksgiving, but I thought they called a good offensive game that kept the Vikings off kilter. Dallas passed it 32 times and ran it 31 — great balance. They were effective on first down: 5.7 yards per play. And they averaged just 4.7 yards to go on third down, a mark that would be the best in the NFL over a full season. On those third downs, they were able to run it five times and pass it six. Minnesota simply wasn’t able to deploy the type of looks they could against Chicago when they had the Bears playing one-dimensionally.

Were you dreaming of Trevor Lawrence? Then yes! But I think Vikings fans have always been realistic about their chances with the No. 1 pick. Trey Lance and Zach Wilson have to be on the radar, but I think with the Vikings trending out of the Top 10, Rick Spielman faces a question. How desperate is he? Spielman doesn’t have a history of trading up early in the first round. His style is to see who falls into the late-first, early-second or even early-third, then wheel and deal from there to pounce on value (like he did with Teddy Bridgewater and Dalvin Cook).

Then again, the Vikings have no history taking middle-round quarterbacks. When they want one, they get one early. I think that has to be the tact they take in 2021. This is too important of a decision to play the value game, and at some point, you have to liquidate all those draft assets into something important. There’s nothing more important than selecting your next franchise quarterback.

Spielman will probably have a half-dozen prospective trade partners above the Vikings who don’t need a quarterback. He should call them up.

It’s a fantastic question. Cousins has huge advantages in yards per attempt, deep passing and play-action passing. But I think Eric’s instinct is correct to think that Cousins fails to win at least one game in Pittsburgh. What’s the one thing Ben Roethlisberger isn’t doing this year? Making game-changing mistakes. He’s only thrown five interceptions, lost zero fumbles and has the second-lowest sack rate behind Philip Rivers. As a result, he actually has a better QBR than Cousins.

Pittsburgh is 5-0 in one-possession games. It’s hard to believe that a Cousins turnover wouldn’t swing at least one of those results. Then again, maybe those games aren’t as close if Cousins is quarterbacking for four quarters. Hmmmm.

Nope, sticking to my guns. Cousins losing once, at least.

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Photo Credit: Brad Rempel (USA TODAY Sports)

This article will unfold as something that Minnesota Vikings fans will love to read and bask in. Believe me, when I tell you, I’m self-aware and realize […]

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