The Vikings are 6-2 and looking for their first five-game winning streak since starting 6-0 in 2009. They head back on the road, where they’ve won two straight to stand 2-1 since their opening-night debacle in the Bay Area.
Speaking of the Bay Area, here’s our Early Look at the Bay’s west-side team, the Raiders …
NEXT UP: Oakland Raiders, 3:05 p.m. CT, Oakland-Alameda County Stadium, Oakland, Calif. The Raiders (4-4) are .500 through the midway point of the season for the third time in the past six seasons.
DON’T CELEBRATION YET, JACK: The Raiders also started 4-4 in 2010, Tom Cable’s last season as head coach. They started 4-4 in 2011, Hue Jackson’s one and only season as head coach. Both years, they finished 8-8. Former Vikings linebacker Jack Del Rio, who played in Minnesota from 1992-95 and led the team in tackles three straight years, is in his first season as Raiders coach. He is 2-2 at home with wins over the Ravens (37-33) and the Jets (34-20) and losses to the Bengals (33-13) and Broncos (16-10).
LAST WEEK: The Raiders erased a 35-21 fourth-quarter deficit in a 10-minute stretch at Pittsburgh, but lost 38-35 on an 18-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.
DID YOU KNOW?: Since going to the Super Bowl during the 2002 season, the Raiders have lost at least 11 games 10 times in 12 seasons and still have not returned to the playoffs.
KEY INJURY: Keep an eye on Raiders running back Latavius Murray, who suffered a concussion while fumbling on a hit during the Steelers game. Del Rio told reporters that looks like Murray “is going to bounce back fine,” but he still needs to pass the NFL’s concussion protocol. Murray is sixth in the league in rushing with 630 yards and a 4.8-yard average.
LOCAL TIES: Del Rio isn’t the only familiar face in Oakland. Former Vikings tight end, assistant and head coach Mike Tice is the team’s offensive line coach. Former Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave holds the same position with the Raiders. And the quarterbacks coach is Todd Downing, who was a Vikings intern and coaching assistant from 2001-02 and a systems analyst for the team from 2003-04. Safety Taylor Mays was with the Vikings this past offseason. And starting left tackle Donald Penn got his start on the Vikings practice squad in 2006.
LAST TIME IN OAKLAND: Tice might have uncomfortable flashbacks about this one. Tice’s 2003 squad started the year 6-0 and had lost three straight heading to Oakland to play a 2-7 Raiders team led by quarterback Rick Mirer. Not only did the Vikings lose 28-18, they lost with Mirer completing only nine of 13 passes.
A LOOK AT THE FILM …
OFFENSE: To say Musgrave was an odd hire is an understatement. After all, Del Rio had fired Musgrave after two seasons when they were together in Jacksonville. But so far, Musgrave is looking awfully good in his first year with a second-year QB. David Carr is completing 63.7 percent of his passes with 19 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 104.3 passer rating. Looking at the Steelers game, Musgrave has a nice mixture of runs, short and deep passes, left and right passes, and multiple targets and formations. Thanks to a Raiders fumble on a kickoff return, the Steelers scored twice in 51 seconds to take a 35-21 lead with 11:24 left. Carr showed his skill, knowledge of the offense and persistence over the next 10 minutes. First, he completed three straight passes to three different receivers for 41 yards to set up a touchdown run. Then he shook off an interception when Oakland got the ball back with 2:15 left. In fact, considering how lousy Oakland’s defense can be, Carr scored too quickly when his deep ball to Michael Crabtree tied the game with 1:15 left. In the fourth quarter, Carr completed 9 of 18 passes for 126 yards. Crabtree had three catches for 64 yards. Rookie sensation Amari Cooper had three catches for 25 yards and the other three completions were spread to three different players. The Vikings do not want to get into a shootout with these fellas.
DEFENSE: We probably don’t need to do much more to explain Oakland’s weakness than give Steelers receiver Antonio Brown’s stat line for Sunday: 17 catches (targeted 23 times) for 284 yards. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 334 yards before leaving with 7:22 left in the game. His backup, the former No. 3 Landry Jones, didn’t have to work any magic to break the 35-35 tie when he got the ball with 1:15 left. A short pass to Brown on third-and-2 because a 57-yard gain against the league’s worst pass defense to set up the game-winning field goal. The Raiders also rank 23rd in third down defense (41.18).
RANKINGS: Offense: 8th (18 rushing, 8 passing). Defense 30 (8 rushing, 32 passing). Scoring: 7th (26.6). Scoring defense: 24th (26.4).
STAT OF THE WEEK:
League-worst average passing yards per game allowed by the Raiders this season. The next worst is 308.0 by the Giants.
TURNOVER MARGIN: Plus-1 (T-13)
They have 14 takeaways and 13 giveaways, including only five interceptions.