1. Design, timing spring Diggs
The Vikings had run the ball on eight of their previous nine snaps when offensive coordinator Norv Turner picked the right time to spring a well-designed slant route to rookie receiver Stefon Diggs. The result was a 37-yard catch-and-run that propelled the Vikings to the field goal that gave them a two-score lead with 3:50 left. Diggs was lined up in the right slot. Jarius Wright was lined up wide right. On the snap, Wright did, well, nothing. "We call it a 'look' route," Wright said. "You just sit there and look, basically." By staying at the line, Wright created more space for Diggs. "As long as my guy has to cover me, he can't see what's going on inside with Stefon," Wright said. As for the timing of the play, Diggs said, "Perfect. You saw how much we were running the ball."
2. Rudolph: 'Easily my worst play'
If you're mad at Kyle Rudolph for dropping what should have been a 2-yard touchdown catch while wide open in the end zone, get in line behind Rudolph. "That's easily the worst play in the history of my career; without a doubt," Rudolph said. "I just got too excited, closed my hands too soon and dropped the easiest catch of my life." Rudolph's drop and the field goal the Vikings had to settle for loomed until the Vikings finally regained a two-score lead with a field goal late in the fourth quarter. Rudolph's only catch of the game came during that drive when he muscled forward 7 yards on second-and-7. The tight ends were instrumental in helping the Vikings rush for 263 yards. "That was the best game we've ever played as tight ends as far as run blocking," Rudolph said. "Unfortunately, I ruined the whole day with the terrible drop."
3. Is Sherels the NFL's best gunner?
Marcus Sherels ranks among the league's best punt returners. But where does he rank among the "gunners" — the guys assigned to tackle the punt returners before they get going? "I think he's the best gunner in the league," punter Jeff Locke said. "He's the best I've ever seen." Locke and Sherels worked in tandem early in the third quarter when the Vikings needed to flip the field position back into their favor while protecting a six-point lead. Locke hit a 52-yarder and Sherels dropped returner TJ Currie for a 2-yard gain. Locke's goal was a 45-yard punt with a 4.5-yard hang time. "It went farther than I wanted because the wind tends to beat down the hang time," Locke said. "But with a gunner like Marcus, we can get away with that there." Locke punted three times. Those 2 yards were the only return yards the Raiders could muster.
4. Losing track of Ellison
It's easy to lose track of Rhett Ellison on a team with guys such as Adrian Peterson, Diggs, Rudolph, etc. "Oh yeah, definitely," Ellison said. "If you look at the film, I'm not really the guy getting the ball. It happens more often than not." The Raiders let it happen at the end of the game's opening drive, and the result was an easy 11-yard touchdown pass. With two tight ends to the right, Ellison was on Rudolph's outside shoulder. At the snap, Rudolph went straight while running back Jerick McKinnon ran a route over the middle. Linebacker Khalil Mack cheated inside to block the passing lanes to Rudolph and McKinnon, leaving Ellison wide open in the right flat for his first touchdown of the year and the third of his career.
5. Well-timed three-and-out
The Vikings went into the game ranked No. 2 in third-down defense (29.7 percent). The Raiders dented that percentage by converting seven of 14. But the Vikings defense had four three-and-out possessions. Two of them came early in the game as the Vikings were building a 13-0 lead. And two of them came in the second half, when the Vikings were shutting out the Raiders. The last three-and-out came after the Raiders blocked a 39-yard field goal and trailed by only six points early in the fourth quarter. The Vikings used their front four to get pressure on that possession, as they did more of in the second half. "We always make adjustments," coach Mike Zimmer said. "We didn't blitz as much in the second half. We played more coverage, and we tackled better."