The Minnesota Vikings fought till the end, got some help from the officials and beat the Detroit Lions 37-35, finishing the year at 7-9. They went all-out to get the victory, even though a loss may have been more beneficial, Alexander Mattison looked solid and Justin Jefferson continues to amaze.
While it wasn’t an impressive win, especially defensively, there are some things we learned about the team in their final game of the season:
The Vikings wanted to win
There was some question heading into this game if this was a contest the Vikings actually wanted to win. They had more to benefit by losing, with the possibility of getting a top-10 pick if they lost. Mike Zimmer even made some coy comments in the press during the week that he wasn’t sure if he was going to rest the starters or not, but it was clear from the start that they wanted to win.
Minnesota played their starters at every key position on offense. Instead of experimenting at left tackle with Ezra Cleveland, they went with Riley Reiff‘s backup, Rashod Hill. They also didn’t put rookie Kyle Hinton in over Dakota Dozier, instead making him inactive and going with the experienced but struggling veteran. They also kept all their key players in until the final whistle. It took everything they had to overcome the struggling defense and the effort the Detroit Lions put forth.
The Vikings clearly decided that getting a victory was more important than securing a better draft choice. The Vikings end the season with a bit of positivity with the victory and snap a three-game losing streak. Getting a semi-sweet taste in their mouths instead of four straight losses gives this young team a bit of positivity to build off of as they begin to prepare for the 2021 season.
Alexander Mattison can carry the load
Earlier this week the Vikings announced that Dalvin Cook would be inactive for the final game of the season because his father had passed away. It was initially unclear if the running duties would fall to Alexander Mattison or Mike Boone as Mattison was dealing with the after-effects of a concussion he suffered a few weeks back. He was cleared to go late in the week and showed that the Vikings are in good hands if Cook were ever to miss an extended period of time with his performance on Sunday.
Mattison ran hard with good burst and vision for 95 yards and a score on 21 carries. He also caught three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown, showing the ability to be a dual-threat out of the backfield. Mattison needed this game after having a sub-par sophomore season. He wasn’t used as much as many expected and didn’t do a ton with the chances he was given, going into the game with just 339 yards on the ground.
On Sunday, it was a different story. Mattison ran with a passion and made some cuts and moves that made Lions’ defenders look silly. On his first score of the game, he stopped mid-stride after catching a Cousins’ pass and caused a defender to whiff. He then busted outside and sauntered his way into the end zone. Mattison was extremely impressive and showed he has the ability as both a runner and a receiver to carry the load if, and when, he’s asked to.
Justin Jefferson had a historic rookie season
Justin Jefferson was one of the biggest surprises of the Vikings 2020 season. Minnesota traded away Stefon Diggs to land the 22nd pick in the 2020 Draft and was able to take as the fifth receiver off the board. While many hoped Jefferson would become a player the caliber of Diggs, no one expected him to have the impact and be as productive as he was in 2020.
Jefferson finished with the best rookie receiving season in team history. He surpassed Randy Moss‘s reception and yardage totals and finished with 1,400 yards and 88 receptions. Jefferson also surpassed Anquan Boldin for most receiving yards in a rookie season since the NFL merger in 1970. He only found the end zone seven times, but he’s already a dynamite route runner, can make tough catches while being blanketed and shows the toughness and grit to fight and scrap for extra yardage.
Jefferson may not win Rookie of the Year, but there is no denying that his rookie season will go down in history as one of the best of all-time in the NFL.
Final draft position
The Vikings went into the game against the Lions with the possibility of picking as low as 15th overall or as high as ninth. They kept the starters in all game, as the Lions did, and it was close until the end. The Vikings ultimately held on for the win and will pick 14th in the 2021 draft.
This will be an interesting position for the Vikings. They would love to land an elite pass rusher like Kwity Paye or Gregory Rousseau but they could both be off the board. The Vikings could also pull the trigger on their quarterback of the future but the signal callers could also be picked clean. The team may be able to find an offensive lineman at either tackle or guard and that would definitely be a huge help. Obviously, things will change and prospects will rise and fall between now and draft day, but the Vikings win may have cost them the chance at getting an elite player who could vastly improve an area of the team in 2021.