Each week, NFL writer Mark Craig presents his five takeaways from the Vikings game.
1. Barr has a quiet splash play
The Jaguars ran 18 plays over three possessions after the Vikings took an 18-16 lead early in the fourth quarter. They netted only 32 yards, going three-and-out twice. The man who started slamming doors was Anthony Barr. The gamebook didn’t list the linebacker with a pass defense, but the gamebook missed Barr’s quiet splash play. The Jaguars faced third-and-5 three plays after the Vikings took the lead. Blake Bortles tried to throw over the middle to Shane Wynn. But Barr got a hand up and deflected the ball. “I was [blitzing],” Barr said. “They slid the line, so my guy came down and blocked me. So I was kind of reading the quarterback’s eyes and hoping to get my hands up. And he kind of threw it right at me, honestly.”
2. No turnovers, but Jags still Jags
Jacksonville, which has a league-worst minus-18 turnover ratio, didn’t turn the ball over for only the third time this season. But the Jaguars’ eighth loss in a row still had plenty of vintage Jags moments. They had 14 penalties for 114 yards. They had four false starts in the first half. The roughed the punter. But the classic Jaguars misfortune came when defensive end Yannick Ngakoue stripped Bradford of the ball in the pocket. But instead of a strip-sack, Bradford picked up the ball and completed a pass to Jerick McKinnon for 15 yards and a first down. “It was very aware on [McKinnon’s] part,” Bradford said. “Just to stay with it and continue to move and find space out there.” Said McKinnon: “I was just sitting there.”
3. Smith’s equal, for one big play
The last two minutes of the first half weren’t pretty, but it could have been an utter disaster if not for safety Anthony Harris’ outstanding tackle for no gain on a pass to T.J. Yeldon in the open field on third-and-1 from the Vikings 7-yard line. That held Jacksonville to a field goal and prevented the Jaguars from going 99 yards for a touchdown after stuffing Matt Asiata on fourth-and-goal. “I just tried to help disguise the defense, confuse the quarterback and then come up and get to my assignment,” said Harris, whose third career start came with Harrison Smith out because of an ankle injury. Harris was one of two defenders who missed tackles on a 39-yard completion earlier in the drive. But his tackling skills were solid on the third-and-1 stop. “I came down fast, broke down so he wouldn’t get around me,” Harris said. “And then just get him on the ground.”
4. Third-down drought ends
The Vikings were dominating, but the scoreboard still read 9-9 at halftime. “We had a good flow going, but we just couldn’t finish anything,” said receiver Adam Thielen, who had two catches for 64 yards in the first half. “It would have been a totally different game had we been able to finish.” The Vikings were 0-for-5 on third downs in the first half. After the Jaguars missed a 41-yard field goal to open the second half, the Vikings dialed up a couple of plays for Thielen. He had two catches for 37 yards, including a nice 12-yarder over the middle on third-and-10, the team’s first third-down conversion. “That was a play we actually worked on all week,” Thielen said. “We knew it was going to be a good look. We hadn’t seen it run against them. A great play call and finally a third-down conversion.” The Vikings went on to kick their fourth field goal for a 12-9 lead.
5. Greenway’s wake-up hit
As a base linebacker only, Chad Greenway stood and watched Jacksonville’s first five snaps over two possessions before he was sent in on third-and-1 from the Jaguars 34. Yeldon took the handoff over the right side and ran helmet-to-helmet into Greenway for no gain. “I’m not sure how it felt for him, but that felt great to me,” Greenway said. “I’m just running in there trying to do my job. That’s my role. Fill my gap and make the tackle.” The Jaguars sandwiched six offensive snaps around a successful fake punt, causing one Jacksonville reporter to joke, “Only the Jaguars offense could go three-and-out twice in one drive.”