Ben Goessling’s Second Thoughts
A look back at the Vikings’ 31-14 victory over Oakland.
Three players who stood out
• Everson Griffen: Through three weeks, the veteran defensive end has two sacks, and has played 81.8 % of the Vikings’ defensive snaps. Griffen can void the final three years of his contract and become a free agent if he posts at least six sacks, plays more than 57 % of the team’s defensive snaps this season and is on the team’s 90-man roster the day after the Super Bowl.
• Eric Kendricks: The Raiders’ game plan called for plenty of max protection against the Vikings’ pressure packages, which meant Kendricks could run and hunt more than he had to spend time in coverage Sunday. He posted a number of stops near the line of scrimmage, including a fourth-and-1 stop with Danielle Hunter late in the third quarter on a Raiders power run.
• Trae Waynes: He was targeted six times Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus, but only gave up 31 receiving yards, and had another strong day as a run defender, posting eight tackles and stuffing Josh Jacobs for a one-yard loss in the first quarter.
Two trends to watch
How the Vikings use Irv Smith: The rookie tight end carved up the Raiders’ defense on seam routes that showcased his downfield speed. He had another big gain called back in the third quarter because of an illegal block by Chad Beebe, but as the Vikings look to diversify their receiving options, Smith figures to see his role increase.
Dalvin Cook’s workload: Though the Vikings have leaned on their third-year back through three weeks, they also seem mindful of keeping his snap count in check, in hopes of preventing the injuries that have derailed his first two seasons. Cook had a season-low 16 carries on Sunday, and only played 38 of the Vikings’ 63 offensive snaps. If Cook is to be the central figure in the Vikings’ offense — and it certainly appears through three weeks he is — they’ll need to keep him sharp for a second-half schedule that includes three prime-time road games.
And one big question
Can the Vikings’ offensive formula work in tough road games? The Vikings have been able to run the ball on 103 of their 168 offensive plays through three games, and while those numbers have been boosted by blowout wins at home, they also stayed committed to the run while rallying in Green Bay a week ago, handing off on 25 of their 65 offensive plays. The Packers, at times, seemed not to want to let Cousins beat them; the Bears could take a different approach this Sunday with Cook posting three straight big games. Chicago’s run front is also stout enough that it might not need to sell out against the run to stop it. In a nationally televised late-afternoon start at Soldier Field, the Vikings’ offense will face a tough test.