The Minnesota Vikings entered the final game of their three-week homestand with a hint of desperation about them. After three close losses in their first four games, they needed to put away the winless Detroit Lions.
Although many fans expected the Vikings to put their opponents away with ease, they found themselves down 17-16 with 37 seconds left to go. They began the drive with two timeouts at their own 18 and had to get the ball into field goal range for kicker Greg Joseph. Thanks to two Adam Thielen grabs for 40 yards, Minnesota gave Joseph a chance to win the game from 54 yards out. Joseph split the uprights as time expired, and the Vikings moved to 2-3.
Here are five numbers that recap the Vikings’ narrow escape against the Detroit Lions.
The Vikings got a glimpse of the future as first-round pick Chrisitan Darrisaw saw 28 offensive snaps against the Lions. After witnessing Rashod Hill struggle early in the game, the offense eased Darrisaw back into action. He rotated with Hill throughout the game as he continues to work his way into game shape after core surgery that delayed his start to the season.
Darrisaw looked good in his time on the field. On his first drive, the Vikings scored their only touchdown of the game. Darrisaw didn’t allow any pressures on Sunday and had a crucial block in the run game, which sprung Alexander Mattison.
With Darrisaw set to get more time moving forward, we can see just what the Vikings have in their left tackle and what the offensive line will look like in the future.
The Vikings had 41 seconds and two timeouts to do something with the ball in their final drive of the first half. Instead of trying to extend their 13-6 lead, they ran two draw plays and were content to go into halftime, knowing they’d be receiving the kickoff in the second half.
Clock management and the lack of aggression in these end=of-half situations have been the biggest complaints fans have had during the Zimmer era, and these issues resurfaced on Sunday. The Vikings were given plenty of opportunities to put the Lions away. Instead, conservative play-calling and a lack of aggression allowed Detroit to take a late lead and nearly win the game.
If this offense can get into range for a field goal at the end of the game with less time and the same number of timeouts, they should be able to get into range with a similar situation at the end of the half.
Mattison had to evade a lot of tackles on Sunday, as only 8.8% of his yards came before contact. The offensive line struggled when it came to run blocking, and Mattison was forced to create a lot of his yards for himself by running through tacklers.
The offensive line is continuing to learn how to play together, and they need to do a better job of getting to the second level and clearing the way for both Mattison and Dalvin Cook. While the pass blocking has greatly improved this season, the run blocking is proving to be a bit more difficult for this offensive line to get right.
Everson Griffen showed everyone that he still has it, posting a 90.5 pressure rate against his former team. Griffen dominated first-round pick Penei Sewell all game long, using his infamous spin move to get past the former Oregon tackle.
Griffen’s success was rewarded with increased time on the field. He saw a season-high 72% of the snaps on defense, recording two sacks and a forced fumble and raising his sack tally to four on the season.
The other defensive ends also got in on the act. D.J. Wonnum and Danielle Hunter were able to get after Jared Goff, who was sacked four times on Sunday. It is safe to say that the Vikings’ defense has fixed the problems that led to a lack of pressure all last season.
Despite dominating the Lions’ defense during the first half to the tune of five receptions for over 100 yards, Justin Jefferson finished the game with just eight targets on the day. Jefferson said that the Lions changed some aspects of their coverage to bracket him and take away the deep ball, but there should be no reason why Jefferson is only targeted three times in the second half.
Adam Thielen fared even worse. He was only targeted three times on Sunday, and he couldn’t get his first grab until only 30 seconds remained in regulation. Thielen and Jefferson are one of the best duos in the NFL, and they need the ball more than 11 times through the course of the game.