Every Wednesday morning, beat writer Matt Vensel will share five Vikings stats that actually mean something heading into that weekend’s game.
157.3 — rushing yards per game for the Cowboys so far this season
The Cowboys, with rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott running the rock behind an offensive line that Mike Zimmer said is the best he’s seen in a long while, rank second in the NFL in rushing, trailing the Bills by only one total yard. The Cowboys have averaged 157.3 rushing yards per game. That is more than double the average of the Vikings, who are dead last in the NFL at 71.1 rushing yards per game. They are averaging 2.8 yards per carry, two yards fewer per run than the Cowboys, who rank third in the NFL in that stat.
4 — games out of the past six the Vikings allowed 100 rushing yards
Elliott, the No. 4 overall pick from this year’s draft who leads the NFL with 1,199 rushing yards, could be in for another big game against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Thursday night. They have allowed opponents to rush for at least 94 yards in each of their past six games and their opponent reached triple digits in four of those games. As a result, the Vikings have dropped to 14th in the league in rushing defense, giving up an average of 100.2 per game. Only 12 teams are allowing more yards per carry.
45 — catches for wide receiver Adam Thielen, easily his career high
With top wideout Stefon Diggs out of the lineup, Thielen had a career-high eight catches in last week’s loss to the Lions. Thielen now has 45 catches for 571 yards this season. Both are career highs. Thielen has been one of the most productive undrafted pass-catchers in the NFL this season, according to Vikings PR. Thielen, the former Minnesota State Mankato standout, is fourth among undrafted receivers in catches. The leader there? That would be Cowboys slot receiver Cole Beasley, who has snagged 58 passes.
117 — receiving yards totaled by Lions slot receivers last week
Beasley will match up Thursday night with banged-up Vikings nickelback Captain Munnerlyn, who is coming off arguably his poorest performance of the season. Munnerlyn, who is playing through an ankle injury, struggled to keep up with Lions wide receivers Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin. Those two combined for 117 receiving yards out of the slot against Munnerlyn and the Vikings, per Pro Football Focus. Beasley is averaging 9.5 receiving yards per target, which ranks 19th among all qualifying wide receivers.
28 — punts dropped inside the 20-yard line by Jeff Locke in 2016
Locke, scrutinized this spring and summer after disappointing seasons in 2014 and 2015, is having the best season of his four-year NFL career. The numbers speak for themselves. He ranks ninth in the league with a net punting average of 41.1 yards, the highest mark of his career. And only Johnny Hekker of the Rams has placed more punts inside the 20 than Locke, who has done it 28 times on 56 punts — once every other punt.