The Minnesota Vikings came into their home opener with a sense of impending doom. After two tough losses on the road to start the season, they would be without their star running back and offensive focal point Dalvin Cook. Even worse, they were facing the Seattle Seahawks, a team they hadn’t beaten since 2009 when Brett Favre was leading the Purple and Gold.
The game started much as you would expect, with the Vikings trailing and facing a big third down. Despite Kirk Cousins throwing an incompletion, the Vikings were able to get the first down because Seahawks defensive back Ugo Amadi held K.J. Osborn. After that, Cousins and the Vikings’ offense didn’t look back, dropping 23 unanswered points on their way to their first win of the season.
Here are five numbers that tell the tale of this incredible win:
When the Vikings ruled Cook out early in the day, all the pressure was on Mattison, who was in line to take a majority of the carries. Given Cook’s prowess in both the running game and as a pass-catcher, it was going to be a tall order to fill.
However, the third-year back was seemingly unstoppable. It didn’t matter if it was on screens, tosses, or even just running in between the tackles, the Seahawks had no answer for the former Boise State back. Mattison finished with 171 all-purpose yards, with 112 coming on the ground and 59 through the air.
Mattison was a big part of the second-half game plan in which the Vikings sustained long drives in an effort to keep Russell Wilson and the Seahawks off the field.
While Cook is still clearly this team’s No. 1 running back, Mattison made a case to get more time on the field and see more touches to keep Cook fresh and to wear opposing defenses out with his physical running style.
Cook’s absence could also have impacted Cousins. In the last meaningful game that Cook missed, Cousins had one of his worst performances in a Vikings jersey, throwing three first-half interceptions in a blowout loss against the then-winless Atlanta Falcons.
This week was a much different story.
Cousins carried over his good form from the loss against the Arizona Cardinals, carving up the Seattle secondary to the tune of 323 yards and three touchdowns, posting a 128.4 passer rating. During this game, it felt like we saw a revamped Kirk Cousins, one who was decisive and willing to take what the defense was giving him.
I was particularly impressed by Cousins’ willingness to sit in the pocket and make his throws, even if it meant taking a big hit. Klint Kubiak’s play-calling didn’t allow Seattle to get too comfortable because they had to play the run and the pass, with Cousins and Mattison both moving the ball effectively.
In case you haven’t heard, the Vikings have had a troubled history with kickers. The names Daniel Carlson, Blair Walsh, and Dan Bailey are enough to make almost any fans shudder. History repeated itself again last week when Greg Joseph missed a 37-yard kick to win the game in Arizona.
However, this week the proverbial shoe was on the other foot, as Seahawks kicker Jason Myers missed a 44-yard attempt after nailing 37 straight. The last time Myers missed a kick was in Week 9 of 2019.
This miss changed the course of the game. Instead of going up 20-14, the Seahawks gave the Vikings the ball at the 34-yard line, where they proceeded to drive down the field and take a 21-17 lead before halftime.
While the Seahawks might have struggled with their kicking game this week, Joseph was able to redeem himself as he went three for three, making all of his crucial second-half field goals and helping the Vikings seal the upset.
Early on in this game, the defense looked like a major liability. They were unable to stop almost anything on the first three drives as the Seahawks racked up 17 quick points in the first half. Signs of the defensive struggle were on full display early. Chris Carson was carving up the defense through the ground and Wilson and D.K. Metcalf were establishing their connection through the air.
However, the Seahawks were unable to establish anything in the second half as they spent a majority of their time on the sidelines. With the Vikings driving down the field on long, time-consuming drives, Seattle’s offense was unable to see the field for a sustained amount of time, and they only ran a total of 19 plays in the second half. With this limited amount of time on the field, Wilson and the offense were unable to get any sort of momentum, and they struggled against the Vikings’ defense.
Minnesota’s defense was able to play much better when they were leading. They fed off Seattle’s sense of urgency and did not give up anything too far downfield.
The Vikings’ offensive line has long been a major point of contention surrounding the team. But Brian O’Neill has been a steadying force recently.
During joint practices with the Denver Broncos this offseason, former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller said O’Neill was “one of the best right tackles in the league.” Later, the Vikings paid him like one, locking him up for five-years at $92 million.
So far this season, O’Neill has justified the investment. Again, he allowed zero pressures against the Seahawks on Sunday. O’Neill has been playing at an elite level this season. O’Neill has yet to give up a single pressure on 126 pass-blocking snaps through the first three weeks.
O’Neill has had a hot start to the year, and the Vikings would like to see more of the same this coming Sunday as they face the Cleveland Browns, whose tandem of Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett recorded nine sacks against the Chicago Bears this Sunday.