Vikings

The Vikings Need To Play This Aggressively the Rest Of the Season

Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

Kirk Cousins admitted that he made a handful of throws that could have gone either way against the Green Bay Packers. But the Purple faithful will forgive him because the results speak for themselves. Cousins threw for over 300 yards, and Justin Jefferson accounted for 169 of them in the Minnesota Vikings’ 34-31 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

“I could kind of point to a half dozen throws there that were too aggressive, and I could argue that that’s one of them,” he said about the risky throw he made to Adam Thielen, who finished with 82 yards, to set up the game-winning field goal.

“I don’t think you want to live doing that. I think that we got away with it a couple times.”

Let’s hope Cousins and the Vikings don’t take away the wrong lesson here. Yes, Cousins threw two interceptions that were called back. But his aggressiveness allowed Jefferson to shine and opened things up for Dalvin Cook to melt time off the clock late. Had Minnesota played not to lose as they are wont to do, they would be 4-6 right now.

Cousins’ first near-interception was a result of a miscommunication with Jefferson in the second quarter. Cousins threw it directly to Darnell Savage when Jefferson broke off his route and headed to the end zone, but the pick was negated by a Kingsley Keke roughing the passer penalty.

The other near-pick came after Aaron Rodgers’ 75-yard strike to Marquez Valdes-Scantling that tied the game at 31-31 with 2:08 left. Green Bay had just been called for a 12-men on-the-field penalty. Cousins then took a shot to Jefferson but short-armed it. Savage appeared to have his first official interception of the day. However, an official review determined that Savage had dropped it. The Vikings marched down the field, Cousins kneeled twice to bring the clock to 0:02, and Greg Joseph got carried off the field after converting a 29-yard field goal to win it.

“I talk to Kirk every week,” said Mike Zimmer, referring to their weekly film sessions, “and I told him, ‘Look, you try to score touchdowns. You let me bat the game down when it’s time to do it.’ So that’s kind of our approach.”

This is how the Vikings should go about their business from here on out. They have an opportunity to change the narrative of their season if they take care of business in the next four games. They travel to Santa Clara to take on a resurgent San Francisco 49ers team that is also 5-5 next week before playing the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Chicago Bears.

The Niners won’t be an easy game, but a win at Levi’s Stadium would show that they can win three difficult games in a row. Minnesota built off their win over the Los Angeles Chargers using a familiar formula: Push the ball down the field and get it to Jefferson. Wins in Detroit, against the Steelers, and in Chicago would prove that the Vikings are no longer playing down to their competition. It also would secure a spot in the playoffs after a 3-5 start to the season.

On Sunday, the Vikings insisted that they’ve benefitted from all the close games they’ve played all season. They’ve only had one game that was decided by more than one score, their 30-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3. Minnesota has led every game by seven-plus points, but they are now 2-2 in games where they have a lead of 13-plus. The Vikings claim that this has prepared them for games like Sunday’s in which they again had a double-digit lead, only to have it come down to a one-score game.

“Every single game we’ve played this year has come down to the last play,” said Patrick Peterson. “Yes, we don’t want that, for every game to come down to those situations. But at the same time, you have the opportunity to learn from those experiences.

“Hopefully going forward we can kind of find our way to put the forks in teams, put them away when we have to. But we’re still trying to learn how to do that. I think continuing to have these situations will continue to get us better.”

This game was redemption for the loss to the Arizona Cardinals and hardly resembles any other contest. The Vikings beat themselves in Cincinnati and let the Cleveland Browns game turn into a slog. They played down to their opponent against the Detroit Lions and got away with it, lost to Cooper Rush at home on Sunday Night Football, and blew a two-touchdown lead in Baltimore.

The Vikings chased Joseph’s missed extra point in Arizona, then lost when he failed to convert a 37-yard attempt as time expired. The same thing happened against Green Bay. Joseph missed his first extra point, and Minnesota blew a double-digit lead. Only this time, the Vikings succeeded on a two-point conversion late to go up 31-24. Therefore, Rodgers’ 75-yard pass only tied the game, putting less pressure on Joseph.

If the Vikings played the way they did in Glendale all year, they would be above .500 now. They can’t change the past, but they have control over what they do in the future. It’s in Minnesota’s best interest to play this aggressively. Yeah, it means living on the edge. But they’ve been doing that all year. It’s better to be aggressive rather than playing not to lose.

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Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn (USA TODAY Sports)

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