What We Saw: Week 5

Alvin Kamara looked like the Alvin Kamara we all know and love

Lions @ Vikings

Final Score: Vikings 19, Lions 17

Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

As a spectacle, this was a dour football game to watch. An insipid Detroit Lions defense was let off the hook by a reserved Minnesota Vikings offense that was without star running back Dalvin Cook for the second time in three weeks. Not that it mattered too much with Alexander Mattison putting in an exceptional performance in his place for the Vikings by putting up 153 yards on 32 touches with a receiving touchdown. Still, Mike Zimmer and Klint Kubiak continuously played it safe with the calls throughout this game, and that handed Dan Campbell‘s determined group a chance to steal the win late, which would have been their first of the season.

Mattison had the ball stripped on a cowardly run-call on third down after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, D’Andre Swift then ran in for the score before KhaDarel Hodge hauled in the two-point conversion to nudge the Lions ahead 17-16 with only 37 seconds left on the clock.

Forced into an aggressive response, Cousins found Adam Thielen twice down the middle of the field to set up a 54-yard field goal for the win. After missing a game-winning kick from just 37 yards in Week 2 against the Cardinals, Greg Joseph found redemption.

 

 

The passion and pressure seemed to swell after the kick went through on the Vikings sideline. Cousins and Zimmer had an exchange that could be taken a number of ways. I took out of it that Cousins was fired up – he wants to win and to take this team to the Super Bowl. Zimmer looked to be a little surprised at his quarterback’s reaction, and it may have stirred him into realizing how much he cares without ever really showing it in public. It was certainly bizarre as much as it was interesting. Send us your thoughts!

 

 

An emotional Dan Campbell was proud of the Lions’ effort in the post-game press conference but the truth is this team lacks quality across the board, something that will take time and patience. It feels like they have the right character in charge, however.

 

 

Detroit Lions

 

Quarterback

 

Jared Goff: 21/35, 203 yards, INT, 4 sacks, Fumble (lost)

 

After a promising start to his tenure in Detroit, the last few weeks have been dreadful for Jared Goff. Today’s uninspiring performance was littered with old wounds and the same, tired mistakes that have sullied his reputation as a starting quarterback. He struggles to throw the ball deep and the Lions seem to be limiting him to short and intermediate throws when the game is close like it has been the last few weeks. The ground game is more of a priority and that was once again the case today. To credit Goff, when he needed to make a throw at the end, he executed on an alternate read.

 

 

The biggest issue today was Goff’s ball security, turning it over twice – one fumble and one interception. In fact, Goff has fumbled six times in the past four games, losing four of them. This fumble and the interception later in the game both came in field goal range. Criminal.

 

 

Erik Kendricks makes a phenomenal grab here in coverage for the interception, but Goff clearly does not see him dropping back when he attempts the throw. His ability to read defenses and identify opportunities to push the ball deeper still remains a glaring weakness. His supporting cast isn’t anything to shout about but there are deeper issues with Goff in terms of his decision-making. He remains a low QB2 option in terms of fantasy.

 

 

Running Back

 

Jamaal Williams: 13 carries, 57 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 8 yards

D’Andre Swift: 11 carries, 51 yards, TD | 6 targets, 6 receptions, 53 yards

 

The bread and butter for this offense is the run game, with D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams acting as one of the more complementary tandems in the league so far this season. They were effective once again on the ground against a decent Minnesota run defense that was missing nose tackle, Michael Pierce. Williams started this game and led the backfield efficiently with 4.3 yards/carry and looked to be the favorite option on early downs. Swift, who hasn’t seen more than 14 carries in a game this season, saw only 11 carries but was more involved in the short-passing game, going a perfect six catches on six targets for 53 yards. Swift showed excellent vision and nifty footwork to dance in for the score late in the game.

 

 

Everyone can see Swift is the more dynamic, talented runner but this is an even-split deal in Detroit that makes both backs fantasy relevant. You can see Swift’s role increasing further if the Lions move to an even more simplistic approach on offense to limit Goff’s turnovers, and today gave a good indication of how he would see a bump in production through the air.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Amon-Ra St. Brown: 8 targets, 7 receptions, 65 yards

Quintez Cephus: 3 targets, 3 reception, 38 yards

T.J. Hockenson: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 21 yards

KhaDarel Hodge: 5 targets, 1 reception, 17 yards, 2 PT

Kalif Raymond: 2 targets

Trinity Benson: 2 targets

 

Meh! There wasn’t much that stood out today in this receiving corps. The worrying trend for T.J. Hockenson continued as the big tight end saw only three targets from Goff. The Lions failed to work the ball into the Vikings red zone until the final drive of the game (a result of Mattison’s fumble) so there was no opportunity for Hockenson to see those targets that the Lions seem to prioritize for him near the end zone. Still, three targets in 10 drives is inexcusable from a play-calling point of view.

An already limited and thin group lost another wideout with Quintex Cephus suffering a shoulder injury after hauling in a pass in the second quarter of the game. He was unable to return and looked in significant pain on the sidelines.

Only rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown could hold his head high after this showing. The fourth-round selection out of USC saw eight targets for the second week in a row, hauling in a season-high seven catches for 65 yards. A capable effort but he is not a receiver that can lead an offense and dominate on the outside for this team. He has good route-running skills and always sees plays out – today he often worked into space to give Goff an option on broken plays.

 

Minnesota Vikings

 

Quarterback

 

Kirk Cousins: 25/34, 275 yards, TD, INT, 2 sacks | 1 carry, 4 yards

 

Kirk Cousins continued his excellent form straight out of the gate, orchestrating three scoring drives to give the Vikings a 13-3 lead before getting the ball back with 41 seconds and two timeouts left in the first half. Good teams go out and execute a hurry-up offense to put more points on the board. Mike Zimmer chose to call two run plays to let the clock expire. The boos rang around US Bank Stadium. That cutthroat mentality is severely lacking, and Cousins is hampered by this from a fantasy aspect as we saw today. This has cost the Vikings already this season and nearly did again.

The good was great from Cousins, who showed poise in the pocket and executed the deep passes perfectly, especially this dime to Justin Jefferson on third down to set up the first Vikings field goal.

 

 

Another noticeable improvement for Cousins was his offensive line, which struggled mightily against the Browns’ elite defensive front last week. The arrival of rookie first-round selection Christian Darrisaw provides a fantastic upgrade, specifically in pass protection.

 

 

The coaching staff, under Zimmer’s guidance, seem to be employing gameplans that might not use Cousins in the way he wants, and in a way that is better for the team. The team could be 4-1 and they certainly have the offense to be much more cutthroat than they have shown so far. Cousins has put them in a position to win in every game this season, including today.

 

Running Back

 

Alexander Mattison: 25 carries, 113 yards | 7 targets, 7 receptions, 40 yards, TD

Ameer Abdullah: 1 carry, 2 yards

C.J. Ham: 1 carry, 1 yard | 1 target, 1 reception, 14 yards

 

There is no doubt that Alexander Mattison is one of the top backup running backs in the league. He showed that today with a tough yet classy performance against a less-than-average Lions defense. The touchdown catch and run just before halftime was a sight to behold as he spun away and bounced off defenders before being helped over the line by his teammates.

 

 

His jump cut on this play in the third quarter followed by an electric burst resulted in his longest run of the day, a 48-yard run to put the Vikings in with a chance to put the Lions to bed. Unfortunately, a Cousins interception meant this play went for nothing.

 

 

As good as Mattison was, he made a crucial error late in the fourth quarter that nearly cost the Vikings the game. Similar to the first half, Mattison was given two carries to try and run the clock down so the Vikings could punt the ball away and force the Lions to go the length of the field with little time left. He got stood up by a couple of defenders and ended up having the ball stripped away for a fumble that resulted in the D’Andre Swift go-ahead touchdown score. Luckily, Cousins and Joseph bailed him out. Cook may return for a crucial game at the Panthers next week.

 

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Justin Jefferson: 8 targets, 7 receptions, 124 yards

Adam Thielen: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 40 yards

Tyler Conklin: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 25 yards

Dede Westbrook: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 18 yards

K.J. Osborn: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 14 yards

Ben Ellefson: 1 target

 

Justin Jefferson has continued his rise to be one of the great receivers in the league in his second season. He went in at halftime with 5 catches for 104 yards as he completely outwitted the Lions’ secondary with his unparalleled route-running and ability to separate and provide a target when the Cousins operated out of the pocket.

 

 

The final line for Jefferson was a little disappointing as the Vikings were ineffective on seven of nine second-half drives including four punts, an interception, a missed field goal, and Mattison’s fumble. Still, this was Jefferson’s second 100-yard effort in the past three games and he has caught at least six balls in four straight games. He is one of the most reliable fantasy producers at the position.

The same cannot be said for Adam Thielen, who caught two passes (one for 19 yards, the other for 21) in the final desperation drive to save a day that saw him target just once in the entire game before that point. That target was a poor drop in the third quarter, although he did have an impressive chunk play, that put the team deep into Lions territory, called back by penalty too. After four TDs in his first three games, Thielen hasn’t seen any red zone opportunities for two weeks and has been held to just five catches on 11 targets for 86 yards. Hardly WR2 numbers.

K.J. Osborn is another popular fantasy breakout player who has cooled over the past two games. The focus on the run doesn’t help and he needs to do better in contested catches. The Cousins interception today was targeted at the second-year receiver, who didn’t really do enough for his quarterback on this throw into traffic on second down.

 

 

Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

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