Sunday, October 29, 2017

Notebook: Vikings leave London with a 33-16 win over the Browns

It was ugly at times, but the Vikings pulled off a 33-16 win over the Cleveland Browns in London. Daniel House provides his quick takeaways from the win.

Updated: October 29, 2017, 12:05 p.m.

By: Daniel House

It was ugly at times, but the Vikings pulled off a 33-16 win over the Cleveland Browns in London. Fantastic performances by wide receiver Adam Thielen and running back Jerick McKinnon helped lead the Vikings into the bye week with a 6-2 record.

Minnesota’s offense really struggled at the start of the game. Quarterback Case Keenum was inaccurate and struggled to hit his targets. An interception on the first drive of the game led to a quick Browns scoring drive. Running back Isaiah Crowell burst into the end zone for a 26-yard score. Safety Anthony Harris missed a tackle and the Vikings defense was caught snoozing by the up-tempo nature of the Cleveland offense. The Browns used plenty of misdirection, varying tempo and personnel packages to keep the Vikings defense on their heels. The defense allowed several chunk plays, including a 37-yard pass on 3rd-and-12. Quarterback DeShone Kizer placed the pass on the back shoulder and the receiver made an excellent grab on cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

The Browns made timely plays on third down to stay close in the game, but the Vikings defense came back to life in the second half. Their pass rush started to force hurried throws and the secondary was making plays in coverage. It appeared the defense settled down and made adjustments to their approach. The defensive line started to get more pressure on Kizer as the game progressed. Everson Griffen had five quarterback hits and a sack. He started to heat up as the game progressed. Griffen tied Jared Allen and Jim Marshall’s team record for consecutive games with a sack (8).

It was a slow start for the Vikings offense, but they came to life in the second half, putting together two touchdown drives in the final 30 minutes. Quarterback Case Keenum led the Vikings on an 8-play, 75-yard drive, highlighted by a key 25-yard completion to wide receiver Adam Thielen. He ran a beautiful double move and hauled in a difficult grab. Running back Jerick McKinnon added a 1-yard score off a jet look and the Vikings led 23-16 late in the third quarter. Minnesota added another touchdown drive that was aided by pass interference, personal foul and holding penalties. Quarterback Case Keenum was able to move in the pocket and buy extra time. He also stood tall to deliver a key strike to Adam Thielen in the fourth quarter. He finished the day completing 27 of his 43 passes for 288 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Keenum had his moments, but did just enough for the Vikings to win. That’s been the theme as he’s filled in for quarterback Sam Bradford this year

The Vikings controlled the time of possession 37:52 to 22:08 and it was easy to see the Browns defense wearing down as the game progressed. With all of the issues the offense had, they still managed to control the clock and punch it in the end zone in the second half. This game wasn’t pretty, but converting on 6 of the 16 total third down tries was a major key.

Running back Jerick McKinnon deserves praise for how he’s performed with Dalvin Cook out. McKinnon was very patient and used his elusiveness to create additional yardage. He was also a valuable asset as a receiver. McKinnon finished the day with 14 carries for 50 yards and added 72 yards through the air. The Vikings received a spark with McKinnon because of his explosiveness as a player. He was a more effective runner than Latavius Murray in this game. The Vikings need to continue moving forward with a heavy dose of McKinnon after the bye week.

Not only was McKinnon important, but Adam Thielen hauled in several key grabs, including a critical third down catch in the second half. Thielen continues to show his above average route running and ball tracking skills. He also is rather talented at drawing pass interference flags. Thielen finished the day with five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. Thielen is even more effective when Stefon Diggs is on the field and draws attention.  

The Vikings managed a major injury to running back Dalvin Cook and weathered the storm without quarterback Sam Bradford. They had to grind out a few wins, but they have themselves in position to play important games in the second half of the season. Not only that, but quarterback Teddy Bridgewater may be set to make a comeback out of the bye week.

If he can play at a high level, who knows what the second half of the season holds for the Vikings?

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