Ben Goessling’s Second Thoughts
A look back at the Vikings’ 28-10 victory over the New York Giants.
Three players who stood out
• Anthony Barr: Though Barr only had three tackles, his biggest play went for a safety, when he perfectly timed Daniel Jones’ snap and burst through the line to stop Jon Hilliman in the end zone. It was the Vikings’ first safety since Week 17 of 2017 (when Mitch Trubisky was called for intentional grounding in the end zone) and the first the Vikings had forced via a tackle in the end zone since Danielle Hunter took down Cam Newton in Week 3 of the 2016 season.
• Mike Hughes: He was slated to play nickel corner Sunday with Mackensie Alexander out because of an elbow injury again, but Hughes had to bump out to right cornerback for part of the first half after Xavier Rhodes collided with Harrison Smith on the Giants’ first drive. Hughes had a fine day, breaking up three passes and holding up when Jones tested him deep.
• Danielle Hunter: With a pair of sacks Sunday, Hunter now has five in as many games. He finished with seven tackles for the day, working stunts effectively with Barr and fighting through two blockers in the second quarter to stop Hilliman at the line of scrimmage.
Two trends to watch
How often Adam Thielen is the Vikings’ primary downfield threat: According to NFL Next Gen Stats, throws to Thielen accounted for 63.4% of Kirk Cousins’ targeted air yards Sunday, which came a week after Thielen claimed a 41.4% share of the air yards against the Bears. Thielen is a sublime route runner and had an outstanding day finding space in the second level of the Giants defense on crossing routes off play action. It bears watching whether Cousins can restore a similar rapport with Diggs, particularly after the events of the past week and another pedestrian day for the receiver, who had three catches for 44 yards on four targets.
The emergence of Ifeadi Odenigbo: The former seventh-round pick was cut twice by the Vikings, and spent time in Cleveland and Arizona before returning this season. The defensive end bulked up to the point the Vikings feel comfortable with him at tackle in pass-rushing situations (after contemplating a full-time move there at one point), and Odenigbo had his first career sack when he worked off a stunt with Everson Griffen and shot through the Giants line late in the first half. He played 28 snaps Sunday and provides a little more bulk inside than Stephen Weatherly.
And one big question
Is what we saw Sunday the real Vikings offense? Days with 490 yards of production don’t come around often, and it’d be silly to suggest the Vikings are capable of that output every week. They were facing a Giants defense that ranks 30th in the league in yards allowed, and they will have a tougher test this week against the Eagles, who have the NFL’s top-ranked run defense. Still, Sunday represented the best example of the formula the Vikings would like to use: a potent running game with Dalvin Cook (21 carries for 132 yards) and Alexander Mattison (seven carries for 52 yards), moving pockets for Cousins, an effective screen game and shots downfield off play action. It can be a strong mix if they can get into a groove while finding enough work to keep Stefon Diggs (and Kyle Rudolph, who’s dutifully performed his blocking role while catching just six passes for 36 yards this year) happy. Time will tell if their success Sunday is an anomaly, or the start of a trend they can repeat.