by Mike Marek
Winhawks win, check. Gophers beat Penn State, check. Vikings travel to Dallas and win, check. A dream scenario presented itself to the Winona, and all three football teams answered in spades. The weekend turned into a legendary Minnesota winning weekend, and it may be a decade or more until we see such a repeated success. For the Vikings, this was anything but a typical win.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has often been goaded with not being able to win in primetime. In a lot of ways, he mirrors the Vikings’ franchise in their inability to win games when the bright lights of primetime are on. This week, Kirk answered the call in a performance that was for the most part mistake-free. No picks, zero fumbles, and only one sack. Overall, a resounding success. Kirk, and the Vikings turned Minnesotans’ expectations on their head with a stressful but satisfying win against Dallas.
While Sunday ended in a win, not all was perfect. The Vikings played in my opinion an overly conservative game. They Cowboys were begging them to throw the ball, and yet the Vikings stayed persistent in sticking to their running game. The Cowboys’ offense continually tested the Vikings’ secondary, and yet the Vikings stayed committed to shutting down Ezekiel Elliott, especially on first down. After going up 14-0 it felt like the Vikings were just trying to hold on instead of trying to go out and win the game. Evidence of this can be found at the end of the first half, and also throughout all of the second half. The Vikings just wanted to kill the clock and not make mistakes. The strategy paid off this week; however, this type of strategy is exactly what can get you beat in the playoffs, especially when important players are standing on the sidelines.
Going into the game doubt was in the air with key injuries coming at important positions on the offense and defense. Run-heavy Dallas should have chewed up the Vikings’ defensive line with Linval Joseph out with a knee injury, but the reserves answered the call and held Zeke to a paltry 47 rushing yards.
Dallas did astutely attacked Trae Waynes’ replacement, Mike Hughes, early in the game. This paid off for awhile with some amazing sideline catches by Cris Carter wannabe Amari Cooper. Hughes got better as the game went on and showed some things on tape that could make him a threat to start in later weeks for the Vikings.
Adam Thielen’s absence played heavily on the Vikings’ offense. Gone was their favorite third-down target, so in the wake of the missing Thielen, they leaned on tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith to carry the load. Rudolph finished the game with two clutch touchdown receptions, one which was easily the catch of the year. Irv Smith continued to impress in his rookie season, stepping up in important moments to help convert long third downs.
So, what lays next for this Vikings’ team? After a surprising 7-3 start, the sky is the limit. Next week they welcome the maligned Denver Broncos into Minneapolis. This should result in an easy win, but it’s always hard to predict anything with a team like the Vikings.
One only has to go back to last year and an ill-fated game against the Buffalo Bills to come down to earth. That being said, Zimmer is hardly one to repeat a mistake twice. I predict the Vikings win by 20 and carry their momentum into their bye week sitting at a pretty outstanding 8-3 and holding a firm grip on a wild-card spot in the NFC.