When it was announced that Sam Bradford was dealing with a knee issue and didn’t play last Sunday, the week leading up to the Buccaneers game was one filled with a lot of uncertainty. Backup quarterback Case Keenum didn’t look particularly good against the Steelers, the Buccaneers have one of the best defenses in the NFL, and when it was announced Bradford wouldn’t play again this week, it just felt like Minnesota could be in for a long day.
But that wasn’t the Case, as Keenum once again made the Buccaneers his own personal plaything, Dalvin Cook broke another Adrian Peterson record, and the defense forced Bucs QB Jameis Winston into throwing three interceptions.
Everything seems to be All Right Now, doesn’t it, Free?
I took her home to my place,
Watchin’ every move on her face;
She said, “Look, what’s your game?
Are you tryin’ to put me to shame?”
I said “Slow, don’t go so fast, don’t you think that love can last?”
She said, “Love, Lord above,
Now you’re tryin’ to trick me in love.”
All right now, baby, it’s a-all right now.
All right now, baby, it’s a-all right now
Your SMR that has two good knees and an even better backup plan follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
The offensive and defensive lines: for the Vikings offense to have success today, they had to play mistake free and give Case Keenum a good pocket to throw in. On defense, they had to neutralize Tampa Bay’s running game and pressure Jameis Winston. they both did their jobs admirably, limiting mistakes, making plays, and collectively, as units, they both played phenomenal games, from beginning to end.
Case Keenum, Personal Buccaneers Nightmare: Keenum entered Sunday with a career 2-0 record against the Buccaneers, five TD passes, one interception, and a rating of 120.9. Today he was even better, playing like a first ballot Hall of Famer, going 25/33 for 369 yards, 3 TD’s, and a rating of 142.1. He only had one, maybe two bad throws all day, and those weren’t close to being intercepted. He was extremely accurate, both short and long, and the Vikings offensive line did a great job protecting him. That allowed Keenum to carve up a defense in a way not seen by a Vikings quarterback since…week 1??
Oh. Well then, cool. Two of the best three QB performances in team history are three games into this season, by two different quarterbacks. I’m not even mad about this, you guys.
Dalvin Cook, a rookie running back who we ARE NOT comparing to Adrian Peterson’s rookie season: Cook has done nothing but come in and become, in my opinion, the best all around rookie running back in the NFL. He had 169 total yards, as he ran for 97 on 27 carries, while catching another five passes for 72. And on the Vikings first drive, he scored his first NFL touchdown.
And while seriously, three games in to a career is way, WAY too early to compare Cook to a first ballot hall of fame running back like AP, in three weeks he’s broken two of his records. In week one, he set the rookie running back record for most yards in a debut game, and today, he set another record:
And the numbers aren’t the whole story, either. Cook, who’s big weakness coming out of Florida State was pass blocking, has been exceptional in that area. He seems to have a keen sense of where the pressure is coming from, and does a great job of getting his body squared up to make the block. In three games that’s resulted in maybe 8-9 throws that Vikings QB’s have been able to make that last year, they probably take a sack on, or at the very they least roll out and throw the ball away. It’s been a huge difference in the early season success for this offense.
Stefon Diggs, WR: Early on Diggs struggled a bit, dropping one easy short pass that Keenum put right in the numbers, and another deep throw that was, admittedly, a little off target. But Diggs did get his hands on it, and it should have been caught.
But after those two drops, Diggs was white hot, catching 8 passes for 173 yards and 2 TD’s. He also broke Tampa Bay’s back with a 59 yard catch and run TD early in the third quarter. That made the game 28-3, and the Buccaneers weren’t able to mount a comeback.
Xavier Rhodes, CB: Is there any doubt now that Xavier Rhodes is the best CB in the NFL? In three weeks, the Vikings have faced three of the best WR’s in the NFL. And in each game, they have been largely neutralized. When they’ve been matched up on Rhodes, they’ve been invisible:
If you want to have a conversation about someone other than Xavier Rhodes being the best CB in the NFL, sure, you can have it. With yourself. While I’m laughing at you.
Andrew Sendejo, S: I know a lot of people aren’t big fans of Sendejo, but he was brought the lumber today with some really big hits, and he also had an interception. I’d have to think about it some more, and please feel free to give your thoughts in the comments, but when this game ended I thought to myself ‘this was Sendejo’s best game as a member of the Vikings.’ Please feel free to point and laugh when Pro Football Focus grades him with zeroes. But as always, take those grades with a grain of salt (it’s a Mike Zimmer joke, you guys).
Adam Thielen, WR: Thielen had another big game, nabbing five catches for 98 yards. He had some big grabs early, and he really helped set the offensive tone, along with Diggs and Keenum. I’m having a hard time finding a better WR combination than Thielen and Diggs three games in to the season.
Harrison Smith, S: Smith nabbed his first interception for the first time since late in the 2015 season, and after a bit of an early season slump, seemed to bounce back closer to the All Pro form we are accustomed to.
Shamar Stephen, DT: The Vikings defense pressured Jameis WInston for most of the day, and had two sacks. One was another one by Everson Griffen, and the other one was by Stephen, who registered his first sack of the year, and the first one by a player not named Griffin.
Kai Forbath, K: Forbath, who has been perfect on field goals since signed by the Vikings last year, was once again perfect against Tampa Bay, going 2 for 2, and has now been deadly accurate since joining Minnesota:
That’s the second longest active streak in the NFL, behind only Robbie Gould of the 49ers. But what’s more important is that Forbath went 4-4 on extra points, and…fingers crossed here…may have put the extra point monster behind him.
Latavius Murray, RB: The big ticket free agent RB acquisition has been a non-factor for three games now. Part of it is due to Dalvin Cook, of course, but when given an opportunity, Murray has done nothing to warrant seeing the field more. Signed as a goal line specialist, he wasn’t on the field when the Vikings were in goal line opportunities today, and is becoming an afterthought as fast as Dalvin Cook’s burst to the second level.
Buy: Stefon Diggs TD celebrations, just don’t do it too early. One of the things I LOVE about Stefon Diggs is what appears to be this infectious enthusiasm for the game. He has unique TD celebrations, and after his first score today, he looked at his hands, as if making fun of himself for dropping two earlier throws. On his 59 yard catch and run, though, it almost gave me flashbacks to Sammie White. In 1976, against Detroit, the then-rookie WR was in the midst of a Rookie Of The Year season, and was having a big game at the old Met. He had 7 catches for 210 yards…and one embarrassing blunder. He had caught a long pass from Fran Tarkenton, and was coasting into the end zone. He raised the ball above his head at about the 10 or so…and got caught at the one. He fumbled the ball out of bounds, Detroit recovered, and I remember it being a huge turning point in the game. The Lions scored and what was a blowout was now a one point game. But the Vikes clinched the game on a 37 yard bomb to White later in the 4th quarter. As White crossed the goal line on that TD, he had the ball tucked under his arm all the way through the end zone.
Yeah, let’s not do that, Stefon. The fumble, I mean. Feel free to go for 210 yards and 2 TD’s any time you want to, though.
Sell: Adam Thielen’s constant ref lobbying. Is it me, or is Thielen starting to complain about every…single…call? He seemed to get really fired up over a non call today, early in the game, that didn’t seem like a blown call at all. Maybe it pays off later in the game, maybe it doesn’t, but that’s the only thing about his game I don’t like.
Buy: Jerick McKinnon deciding he’s not Cordarrelle Patterson. During the first two games, Jerick McKinnon, while trying to be aggressive, took multiple kicks from 8-9 yards deep in the end zone. They all backfired, giving the Vikings poor field position, and it was something Mike Zimmer said the team would correct. And today they did, as every time McKinnon fielded a deep kick, he took a knee and a touchback.
Sell: Jerick McKinnon, kick returner. That said, I’m just not sold on McKinnon the kick returner. At least not yet. I’m not saying pull the plug on him yet, but the explosiveness the Vikings had back there with Cordarrelle Patterson just isn’t there.
Buy: Trae Waynes interception. Trae Waynes has been taking a lot of heat so far this year, and rightfully so. But today he seemed to right the ship in some respects. He gave up some first down catches, but he also eliminated the big plays, to include pass interference calls, that had marred the first two games. He also had a beautiful pick, the first turnover of the year the Vikings defense generated. The pass was underthrown, but Waynes undercut DeSean Jackson and nabbed the ball two yards deep in the end zone. That set up the Vikings scoring a TD right before half, giving them a 21-3 lead going in to the locker room.
Sell: Tramaine Brock’s coverage on the DeSean Jackson TD. For as much as Waynes has struggled at times, I don’t think he’s been as obtuse as Brock was on any single play that Brock was on the Jackson TD, though. Brock wasn’t even looking for the ball when Winston threw it, and maybe it was me, but he seemed to be looking the other way from where the ball was coming from when he did finally decide to try and locate the ball. It’s only one play, but jeez, it was a pretty bad play.
So the Vikings move to 2-1 on the season, and are now tied for first place with Detroit, who visits US Bank Stadium next week.
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