The Minnesota Vikings got a big win over the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night with a 22-17 victory. It got interesting towards the end, but the Vikings ultimately survived and handed the 49ers their second straight loss. With the win, the Vikings move to 3-4 on the season and have their first winning streak of the season.
More importantly, they’re only one game out of .500, and just got a win over one of the best teams in the NFC — and the NFL as a whole. In a season where a lot has gone wrong for the team, a win like this can be a catalyst towards recovery.
Minnesota was able to do exactly what they need to in order to pull off the upset. They made enough big plays on defense, created enough pressure and confusion for young quarterback Brock Purdy, and were able to get guys to step up in a big way in some big spots. Overall, it was a great team win with a lot of good things to highlight.
But, as with any game in the NFL, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There were plenty of areas in which the Vikings weren’t at their best. With that in mind, let’s look at the good, bad and ugly from the Monday night win over San Francisco.
The good: An effective rushing attack
Much has been made this season about the Vikings and their rushing attack — or rather, the lack there of. When former starter Dalvin Cook was traded, the thought was that Alexander Mattison was waiting in the wings and would be able to pick up right where Cook had left off.
Early on in the season, that was not the case. Mattison, and the Vikings as a whole, struggled to move the ball on the ground. The ground game briefly picked up when the Vikings traded for former Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers, but it quickly regressed back to what we’d seen all season.
If the Vikings were going to pull off the upset against an explosive 49ers squad, they needed an effective running attack to help shorten the game and keep the ball out of the hands of the 49ers’ playmakers.
That’s exactly what Minnesota got on Monday night, particularly in the first half. While the efficacy of the rushing attack tapered off in the second half, it was particularly potent in the first half. The Vikings came out of the gates committed to running the ball, and they were doing it with relative ease.
The offensive line has been opening holes all season, but this time Mattison and co. were able to find the holes and bust through them for chunk plays. At one point the Vikings were averaging nearly seven yards per carry. In the first half, they could do whatever they wanted on the ground, and it was a big factor in going into halftime with the lead.
At the end of the day, the box score stats aren’t impressive. Mattison finished the game with only 39 yards on eight carries, and Akers added just 31 yards on 10 carries. But them being able to break off consistent, effective runs in the first half set the tone for the entire game.
The bad: Unforced errors
In order to pull of the upset against someone the caliber of the 49ers, you typically need to play a near-perfect game. Mistakes are going to happen in every game, but when you’re playing the best of the best, you have to minimize them if you want any shot. For the most part, the Vikings did that on Monday night.
However, they did have a few unforced errors that could have really sunk the team. They didn’t, but they are exemplary of issues that have cropped up on a consistent basis for Minnesota, and have cost them games in the past.
Once again, we’re talking about turnovers. Turnovers have plagued the Vikings all season long, and are a large part of the reason they’re sitting at 3-4 instead of 5-2 or better. Minnesota started off the season turning the ball over at a truly astounding pace. They’ve gotten better at holding onto the ball in recent weeks, but it’s still an issue that rears its ugly head.
It struck once again on Monday night, as Kirk Cousins threw yet another interception. To the Vikings credit, it was the only turnover they had in the game, and they were able to force the 49ers into multiple turnovers to win that battle. But it’s been an issue in every game this season, and it needs to be corrected.
It hasn’t just been the turnovers that have been killing the Vikings this season. It’s also been other unforced errors — namely untimely penalties. There’s rarely a good time for a penalty, but the Vikings have had a propensity for finding the worst times for them. They did it again Monday.
Early in the second quarter, the Vikings broke out something tricky and it worked beautifully. Cousins took the snapped and passed the ball backwards to Addison. Addison caught the ball then tossed it across the field to running back Ty Chandler, who took the ball up the sideline for a big gain.
A double pass! Vikings WR Jordan Addison throws it to RB Ty Chandler.
Good for a gain of around 20, but it was called back. pic.twitter.com/6jAbBsone8
— Arye Pulli (@AryePulli) October 24, 2023
It was a beautiful play and a big gain when the Vikings were putting their foot on the gas. And it was all for naught, as Minnesota was called for an offensive pass interference.
Ultimately the play didn’t cost the Vikings the game in any real way, but it is emblematic of how the season has gone for Minnesota so far.
The good: Jordan Addison
World, say hello to Jordan Addison. If you’ve been paying attention, you could feel the breakout bubbling just below the surface. That surface finally burst in a big way Monday night against the 49ers. To say that Addison had his breakout game would be selling his performance somewhat short.
Addison had an outstanding game, coming down with seven receptions for 123 yards and two touchdowns, including one that evoked memories of the great Randy Moss. In total, Addison was targeted 10 times and showed all the promise fans have been hoping to see from the talented receiver.
Since Justin Jefferson went down with an ankle injury, the thought has been that Addison would need to be the one who stepped up to try and fill the massive void left in the Viking passing attack. That didn’t happen in the game last week, but it happened Monday night — and then some!
Tight end T.J. Hockenson still led the team in targets with 12, but the night was all about Addison and his proper introduction to the NFL world. Addison has been one of the most impressive rookies this season in limited work.
Monday night showed that Addison can be relied on in a significantly more high-use capacity. He showed he’s ready for the stage and will provide a great complement to Jefferson when he returns — and can take some of the pressure, and coverage, off Jefferson in the future.
The ugly: Joe Buck gets conspiratorial
Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL, but sometimes they can raise some suspicions. We’ve all watched games where it looked like players were fine, got a signal from the sidelines, and then were suddenly cramping. Then, by some miracle of science, they were fine the very next play and back in the game.
It’s almost as if the NFL has tapped into to that miracle spray that soccer has where a guy can act like his leg has been literally taken off at the knee, gets some spray, and is fine. Or, what is actually happening, the sideline was trying to slow down the opponents and telling guys to act injured to get the stoppage.
Well, when Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson went down with an injury in the middle of the second quarter, that is apparently what announcer Joe Buck assumed was happening.
After the injury, Hockenson got up and was attempting to hobble towards the sidelines. The cameras pan to head coach Kevin O’Connell, who appears to be yelling for Hockenson to “Go down”. Does it look damming? Sure. But taking a moment to look at it critically should let you know that what Buck thought was happening was not the case.
Don’t believe me? Take it from someone who actually played the game:
Is Joe Buck implying that the Vikings are trying some shenanigans with injuries? He’s clearly hurt. O’Connell is telling him to go down so he can be seen on the field and they get a timeout and reset out of it. That’s not faking an injury for benefit.
— Mitchell Schwartz (@MitchSchwartz71) October 24, 2023
What’s ugly about this isn’t the injury itself. Hockenson wound up being fine and came back soon after the play. It’s not how O’Connell handled the situation. It’s not even about Buck thinking that something nefarious was going on.
That line of thinking is understandable, if a little misguided. What makes this ugly is the way that Buck pointed it out, and sounded almost gleeful at the thought that he had caught the Vikings red-handed.
The inflection with which he said “I’ll say this, we caught Kevin O’Connell on camera saying ‘T.J., go down'” really gave off the heir of setting aside the announcers’ responsibility to be unbiased. It was not a good look, and out-of-character for one of the most prominent voices in the game.
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