Vikings @ Cardinals
Final Score: Cardinals 34, Vikings 33
Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)
What a fantastic game of football! Both the Minnesota Vikings and the Arizona Cardinals deserve a phenomenal amount of credit for going all out to be aggressive on both sides of the ball. There was hardly time to catch your breath in this game as the teams traded blows on every drive, fighting for the slight advantage that was so minimal all afternoon.
After a sluggish start last weekend against the Bengals, Kirk Cousins had the Vikings offense firing on all cylinders from the go. Kyler Murray, on the other hand, was forced to scramble in the backfield much more against an aggressive Vikings defensive front of Michael Pierce, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Danielle Hunter, who was a menace all game. Despite two turnovers, the Cardinals kept themselves in the shootout and forced the Vikings to go down the field at the end of the game for a win.
It was an all too familiar feeling for Vikings fans, who saw Cousins orchestrate a fantastic game-tying drive last week only to see Dalvin Cook fumble and give the game to the Bengals. This time, trailing by one, he led his team confidently up the field and the Vikings trotted out Greg Joseph to win the game with a relatively straightforward 37-yard field goal. This is what happened next…
Greg Joseph misses the kick as time expires and the Vikings lose their second straight game. Yikes. pic.twitter.com/S1kNMiflmX
— Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL) September 19, 2021
Kirk Cousins: 22/32, 244 yards, 3 TD, sack | 2 carries, 35 yards
For the second week in a row, the much-maligned Kirk Cousins will feel like he put his team in a position to win the game after an impressive, efficient showing that proves he has the goods to be a top 10 quarterback in the NFL. He came out of the blocks early with a deep ball to 2020 fifth-round receiver KJ Osborn, who had broken free of Byron Murphy on the outside.
Cousins then hit his favorite target Adam Thielen in the endzone for the third time this season to restore the Vikings’ advantage.
And on the very next offensive drive, Cousins linked up with his other star receiver Justin Jefferson on a fantastic 9-play, 84-yard drive to put the Vikings up 20-7 in what was an electrifying opening to the game.
Cousins finished up with a 122.4 passer rating but failed to recreate the same intensity on drives in the second half – the Vikings punted on three of five drives and failed to go more than 20 yards before the final drive of the game that resulted in the missed field goal. They also had a number of holding penalties of the kind that plagued them in Week 1. The other issue for me was that they had plenty of time left on that final drive to go and score a touchdown but OC Klint Kubiak never looked like doing anything but settling for a field goal.
There is no doubt that Cousins can be a fantasy starlet with this supporting cast and the games the Vikings will be involved in point towards big fantasy production. First-round pick Christian Darrisaw is yet to play due to injury. He could be the key to solving this offensive line and catapulting Cousins into the top 5 conversations.
Dalvin Cook: 22 carries, 131 yards | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 17 yards
Alexander Mattison: 3 carries, 11 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 17 yards
Make no mistake, this Vikings performance was backed up by a determined, classy running performance from Dalvin Cook. Averaging 5.9 yards/carry and running with grit throughout the contest, Cook’s sensational ability to use his cut to miss tackles and baffle the defensive line with his elite footwork had the Cardinals’ defense on the run the entire game. He also benefitted from an improved performance from the offensive line.
Cook had three trips to the injury tent in this game also which just highlights the tough, cavalier approach that makes him one of the top three rushers in the NFL. Alexander Mattison came in to spell Cook well in the first half but the opportunities dried up in the second half, which is a shame because he has more to offer on the Vikings offense. He did have a key catch and run on the final drive, however.
All that was missing today was a trip to the endzone for Cook, he really deserved it. It would have been nice for fantasy production too. He did amass more than 15 fantasy points, and it was the 15th time since 2020, which is the most among all running backs in the NFL.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
KJ Osborn: 6 targets, 5 receptions, 91 yards, TD
Justin Jefferson: 10 targets, 6 receptions, 65 yards, TD
Adam Thielen: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 39 yards, TD
Tyler Conklin: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 15 yards
Ameer Abdullah: 1 target
After a standout performance last week against the Bengals, young KJ Osborn led the team in yards for the first time in his short NFL career. After the big play for the score early, Cousins trusted the second-year receiver on back-to-back throws at the end of the game to set up the field goal try. That is telling and could point to Osborn being a genuine breakout WR3 for fantasy this season.
Justin Jefferson once again led the team in targets and after being robbed of a score due to poor officiating last week, he hit paydirt for the first time this season in the first half. His sensational route running ability and release to create separation was a joy to watch once again today.
El release de Justin Jefferson… pic.twitter.com/woqA3PfopU
— Jorge (@JEduFernandez) September 19, 2021
At this rate, Adam Thielen will once again be up there with the touchdown leaders at the wide receiver position. Thielen showed perfect chemistry with Cousins once again, and although his yardage isn’t elite, he is nailed on for targets in the red zone and is always Cousins’ first read when trying to move the chains. Encouraging signs for the hometown hero. Oh, and an improved Griddy touchdown celebration.
Adam Thielen's Griddy has come a loooong way 😂 🙌
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 19, 2021
As expected, without Irv Smith Jr. this tight end room is not fantasy relevant for 2021.
Kyler Murray: 29/36, 400 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 3 sacks | 5 carries, 31 yards, TD
Not the complete performance we saw in Week 1, but Kyler Murray was still by far the most important reason why the Cardinals won this game. Despite the win having an element of luck, Murray was the driving force behind a Cardinals offense that has shown major improvements from the issues of last season. His rushing touchdown showed his usual elusiveness as a runner.
It was an important “take-the-game-by-the-scruff-of-the-neck” moment from Murray, who then put the Cardinals ahead at the break by linking up with promising Rondale Moore on a huge 77-yard score. Murray scrambled away from fierce Vikings pressure to hit the receiver in stride. Amazing.
This Cardinals offense is must-see TV 🍿
— PFF (@PFF) September 19, 2021
Facing a fourth down in their final drive when still trailing by two, the Cardinals once again relied upon the heroics of Murray, who repeated his phenomenal, back-foot touchdown pass from Week 1 with another absurd fadeaway heave to Christian Kirk that put Arizona in the red zone.
Murray is approaching Patrick Mahomes-level of quarterback play. It was once again breathtaking stuff. The two turnovers were costly, however, and should have resulted in the win going back to Minnesota. First, Nick Vigil jumped in front of a pass as Murray stared down his receiver Moore to give the Vikings the lead with a pick-six!
Nick Vigil takes a Kyler Murray pass 38 yards the other way. Touchdown Vikings. pic.twitter.com/ljYO6fj12C
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) September 19, 2021
And then at the end of the third quarter, Murray got impatient and threw into double coverage on second down and long. Xavier Woods easily saw what was happening from the safety position.
X gonna take it from ya @its_hollyWOODS
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) September 19, 2021
On another day these could have hurt the Cardinals but Murray got away with more luck today than the average quarterback.
Chase Edmonds: 8 carries, 46 yards | 5 targets, 5 receptions, 29 yards
James Conner: 8 carries, 26 yards
If there is a question mark about this offense, it’s the run game. Chase Edmonds is atop the depth chart and totaled over 100 yards in Week 1. However, he will have a day like this for every 100-yard day one would think. He is also not really in the mix around the goal line with the receivers and Murray taking the rock in on most occasions.
James Conner, who came over from the Steelers in the off-season is also a threat to Edmonds’ production. He was pedestrian at best in this contest and didn’t look sharp at all. The snap count isn’t promising for predicting a breakout from either of these backs.
Cardinals HB snap count
Chase Edmonds 39
James Conner 24
— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) September 19, 2021
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Rondale Moore: 8 targets, 7 receptions, 114 yards, TD
Maxx Williams: 7 targets, 7 receptions, 94 yards
Christian Kirk: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 65 yards
DeAndre Hopkins: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 51 yards, TD
A.J. Green: 6 targets, 3 receptions, 44 yards, TD
That amazing moment for rookie Rondale Moore has announced the second-round pick out of Purdue as a real fantasy threat in this offense. The touchdown accounted for 77 of his 114 yards but he did lead the team in targets and is coming off the back of a promising Week 1 output too. He is a perfect FLEX spot add in all leagues.
DeAndre Hopkins was well guarded by Patrick Peterson in this one but did lose him at a key point in the game to draw the Cardinals level. Hopkins only had four targets but had a huge two-score day in Week 1 and is the first Cardinals receiver since Larry Fitzgerald in 2016 to have three touchdowns in the first two games of the season. He is a no-doubt WR1.
Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins is unstoppable pic.twitter.com/vtVgurYCQc
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 19, 2021
A.J. Green is back in the endzone and the veteran could be the perfect WR2 in this eclectic offense. Murray looked his way six times, including for his first touchdown of the season after he stiff-armed Bashaud Breeland.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) September 19, 2021
It will be interesting to see if there is enough target share to go around for Green, especially with Christian Kirk still around and the emergence of Moore. Kirk hit paydirt twice last week, too. It feels like risky business outside of Hopkins for the rest of this group. But if the Cardinals continue to be involved in high-scoring shootouts, everyone will feed!
Oh, and out of nowhere, tight end Maxx Williams went a perfect 7-of-7 in receiving for 94 yards. He had only eight catches for 102 yards the entirety of 2020. Who knew?!
— Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)