The Minnesota Vikings fell to 1-3 following their 14-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns. The outlook wasn’t always so bleak. The Vikings were able to march down the field and score a touchdown on a pass to Justin Jefferson to cap off an opening drive that lasted nearly eight minutes. Unfortunately, they failed to put up any more points in the final three and a half quarters in the game.
Despite Minnesota’s offensive woes, the defense did its job. They only allowed 14 points, keeping the Vikings in it until the end. Unfortunately the game ended on Kirk Cousins’ 26-yard throw into the end zone, where the ball bounced incomplete in front of a host of Browns defenders.
Here are five numbers that tell the tale of Minnesota’s loss to Cleveland.
We all know that the Vikings’ offensive play calling starts and ends with establishing Dalvin Cook and the rushing attack. Cook entered Sunday questionable to play, but he ended up making his return to the field after missing the game against the Seattle Seahawks.
The Vikings could not get anything going on the ground, whether through Cook or Alexander Mattison. Cleveland’s defensive line did a good job bottling up the running backs and not letting them break outside or past the line of scrimmage. To make things even worse, the running backs didn’t get a lot of help from the offensive line; they averaged only 1.1 yards before contact.
Though Cook and Mattison can break tackles and churn up the field for yards after contact, repeatedly being hit right at the line is hard for any running back to overcome. They had a tough time generating any momentum with the lack of lanes provided to them.
If you think the run blocking was terrible, the pass blocking was much worse. Minnesota allowed 24 pressures and seven quarterback hits. Former first-overall picks Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney made life hard for Cousins all afternoon.
The offensive line bears a lot of the blame for the pressures. But Cousins also frequently held on to the ball for too long.
After a week where everyone praised the step up that the offensive line had made, they weren’t able to back it up at all. Rashod Hill was noticeably getting beat by Garrett. Rookie Christan Darrisaw saw his first NFL action this week, and you have to wonder how long it’s gonna be before he usurps Hill and takes over the starting left tackle spot.
There was a lot of uncertainty about how much we would see of Cameron Dantzler going into this game. After being a healthy scratch in Week 1 and seeing minimal time on the field the following two weeks, Dantzler took to Twitter to express his dissatisfaction with his lack of playing time.
But given that Bashaud Breeland has struggled so far this season, we all wondered when we would see Dantzler get some meaningful snaps again. The Vikings called on him early in this game after Breeland got banged up, and Dantzler did not disappoint.
Dantzler was targeted four times against the Browns and only allowed one catch for 12 yards. He also recorded a pass breakup and earned a 74.5 PFF grade. The Vikings need to give Dantzler more time as a starter, with Breeland struggling to stay healthy and make plays. Despite his struggles in the preseason, Dantzler is showing that he is still the player who flashed so much potential at the end of last season.
Everyone knew what Kevin Stefanski liked to do offensively: He wanted to use Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to establish the run against Minnesota’s defense. Chubb and Hunt’s contrasting running styles and success moving the rock on early downs would be imperative for the Vikings’ defense to properly wrap them up and bring them down at the point of contact.
But both Chubb and Hunt were able to shake multiple Vikings tacklers on their way to a combined 107 yards after contact with three forced missed tackles. Chubb and Hunt gained 61% and 66.7% of their yards after contact, respectively.
Despite only allowing 14 points during the game, missed tackles are something that the Vikings’ defense needs to improve on. If they want to keep high-powered offenses from running up the score, they will need to do a better job wrapping up on tackles.
One of the positives of this otherwise disappointing season is the return of superstar edge rusher Danielle Hunter. He has looked every bit himself this season, living in the opposing backfield this entire season.
This Sunday was no different. Hunter recorded seven pressures and a sack on 36 pass-rushing snaps. He still looks just as good as he did before the “tweak” in his neck that kept him out last season.
While Hunter continues to be a consistent force as a pass rusher, and Everson Griffen looks excellent in his new rotational role, I am concerned about the development of second-year edge rusher D.J. Wonnum.
While Wonnum flashed last season, he has yet to contribute significantly after being named a starter. Wonnum has four pressures on 114 pass-rushing snaps, which is tied for the second-worst percentage for players with over 80 pass-rushing snaps.
If Wonnum continues to struggle, fans might wonder why Griffen isn’t starting or why the Vikings didn’t invest an earlier pick for an edge rusher.