Minnesota Vikings fans may just have to accept that this is how the 2022 season is going to go. After the Vikings built a 20-3 lead over the New York Jets with 40 seconds remaining in the first half, it appeared that they were on track to finally put together a complete game for the first time since Week 1. But, once again, the Vikings allowed a team with a suspect offense to look like the Greatest Show On Turf.
Leaving the stadium and listening to radio shows take calls from fans, I began wondering if I had attended the same game. It sounded like the Vikings had just lost and fallen out of playoff contention. Was this game perfect by any means? No. Did it show that the Vikings are in the same class as the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that had just dismantled the Tennessee Titans 35-10? Not exactly. But it did show that, like they have done all season, the Vikings can win close, ugly games.
The Vikings sit at 10-2 and have the league’s easiest remaining schedule. Over the past month, they survived a gauntlet of teams with elite pass rushers. Perhaps that made them battle-tested for the likes of the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts. Does this mean these games will be a pleasure to watch? If the first 12 games of the season are any indication, probably not. But will the Vikings come out victorious more often than not? It appears so.
With that, here are five numbers that tell the story of the Vikings-Jets game.
The Vikings started the game out well, playing perhaps their best first half of the season as the offense churned out 198 total yards in two quarters. Although Cousins struggled, completing only 14/24 passes for 104 yards, the running game was chugging along to the tune of 94 yards. That included touchdown runs by Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison.
Some players contributed unconventionally as well. Justin Jefferson had two carries for 11 yards, and Cousins added two runs for 10 yards, including an 11-yard scramble where he absorbed a hard hit from Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley. Through the air, Jalen Reagor caught one pass for a 38-yard gain, his second consecutive game with a big reception.
Minnesota’s first-half success on offense didn’t carry over into the second half. The Vikings only mustered 89 yards of offense in the final 30 minutes of game time, allowing the Jets to claw their way back. Only one drive in the second half exceeded six yards.
To the Vikings’ credit, though, their lone successful drive in the second half was a good one. After the Jets had cut the lead to 20-15, the Vikings marched 75 yards in seven plays, capped by Jefferson’s 10-yard touchdown reception. Five different players had gains of 10 or more yards on the drive.
Speaking of Jefferson, the Jets did everything that they could to hold him in check, limiting him to 56 total yards. He caught seven passes for 45 yards, along with the 10-yard touchdown reception. It wasn’t his best game of the season, but the Jets felt his presence all day.
According to Next Gen Stats, Jefferson’s average separation on routes was 1.98 yards, the lowest on the team. Still, this didn’t deter the Vikings from trying to get him the ball. He had 11 targets on top of his two rushing attempts, showing that O’Connell and Co. are determined not to allow him to disappear from games moving forward.
The Vikings’ defense again had a rough day, allowing 486 yards of offense. That’s the fourth game in a row that the Vikings have yielded over 400 yards. Mike White had 369 yards passing, and he was making his fifth career start.
Like the offense, the Vikings’ defense was solid in the first half, holding the Jets to 150 total yards. But the second half was a different story. New York began breaking off long plays, with five of their longest gains of the day coming in the fourth quarter alone. It was almost enough, as the Jets cut Minnesota’s lead to five points in the final minutes.
But for all the yards the Vikings were giving up, they tightened things up in the red zone. They held the Jets to 1/6 in the red zone, with New York’s lone touchdown coming after White snuck in on a fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line.
All six red-zone opportunities came in the second half.
- The Jets kicked three field goals
- They had White’s touchdown run
- Turned the ball over on downs at the one-yard line
- And had their fate sealed on their final opportunity when Camryn Bynum intercepted White in the end zone
It was once again the epitome of the situational football that O’Connell preaches every game. The victory might not have been pretty, but it counts just like all the rest.