It may not have been exactly the result fans want as the winless Browns pushed the Vikings to their limits. But hey, Minnesota still won 33-16 and a win in the NFL is always a positive. And now the Vikings are 6-2 with a week to figure out what ailed them today.
Perhaps fans expected a blowout, perhaps a shutout, perhaps four turnovers and eight sacks. That did not happen. In fact, the Vikings were down at the half with both sides of the ball performing well below their capabilities.
DeShone Kizer looked way too comfortable, especially considering he was coming off two straight weeks of being benched and up against, theoretically, one of the toughest defensive lines in football. But Minnesota got its stops without making the big defensive plays in the second half and the offense showed up to the tune of 21 second half points.
Was it pretty? No. Is is sunshine and rainbows for the Vikes heading into the bye? No, there are some flaws with this team for sure. But they got the job done on a bad field in a foreign country.
Who Stood Out
Look, we know he is just a placeholder and his job may not be secure past the bye week. But Case Keenum deserves a lot of credit for the job he has done. A backup quarterback is not supposed to play as many games as Keenum has and they are definitely not supposed to consistently provide adequate play. But Keenum has done just that.
And given the status of the Vikings’ defense, adequate quarterbacking is really all they need. Even if Keenum was spotty in his reads (missing Diggs wide open multiple times) and inaccurate early, he still led the offense to 33 points. That is much more than adequate in most circumstances.
There is no denying that the offensive line has helped Keenum by keeping him clean most of the season. But today they were down two starters and were shaky against the blitz. Keenum showed he has an elite sense of the pocket, getting clean throws off in situations where another quarterback may scramble or throw the ball away.
A typical backup quarterback does not get 44 dropbacks in a game. That is a clear sign of the confidence Pat Shumur has in Keenum to make smart decisions with the ball. If this was the end of his run, he deserves a round of applause for the way he kept the ship afloat.
Also Everson Griffen got his 10th sack of the year to extend his streak to eight games with at least one and also added five quarterback hits.
And speaking of streaks, Adam Thielen had yet another game with at least five catches, this time for 98 yards and his first touchdown of the season.
The Minnesota pass rush as a whole appeared to have been delayed going through customs on its way to London. Kizer had far too much time to throw in the first half and it resulted in a surprising 13 first-half points. The Vikings got a little more active as the game went along, finishing with three sacks and nine quarterback hits.
Griffen was worked by Joe Thomas’ replacement Spencer Drango at times, which was a bit of a surprise, but he still got his. In fact, he was the only edge rusher who got his; Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison combined for just one tackle and no quarterback hits. Though Hunter did force a fumble on the first play of the second half which helped swing momentum Minnesota’s way.
Given the rough second half schedule facing them, including road games against the Redskins, Lions, Falcons, Panthers and Lions, Minnesota needed a good first half. Six wins certainly qualifies.
The bye week is going to be a time of questions for a good Vikings team, namely the quarterback position and the health of the offensive line. Minnesota does not have a lot of weaknesses per se but it does have inconsistencies. The most notable is its tendency to play down to inferior opponents. One would assume this will be a key talking point as the coaching staff plans out the second half of the season.
Tune in this week at cover32 Vikings as we will have some first half reflection, a little second half prognostication and even some interaction from readers.
Send your questions, comments and predictions for the rest of the season to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will address it in our mailbag this week!
Read Clayton Brooks game recap here.