Sunday, October 22, 2017

Physical defense lifts the Vikings past Baltimore, 24-16

Photo: Zimbio

It was a busy day for kicker Kai Forbath, who booted six field goals as the Vikings were able to grind out a 24-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel House provides his analysis of the game.

Updated: October 22, 2017, 4:45 p.m.

By: Daniel House

If you like offense, Sunday’s Vikings game wasn’t for you.

It was a busy day for kicker Kai Forbath, who booted six field goals as the Vikings were able to grind out a 24-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Minnesota’s defense was dominant and frustrated quarterback Joe Flacco and a depleted Baltimore wide receiver corps. Flacco and the Ravens punted on six of their ten drives, mustering a late garbage-time score to end the game.

The Vikings have work to do on offense, but the performances of players like Everson Griffen, Anthony Barr, Linval Joseph and Harrison Smith lifted Minnesota to a three-game winning streak.

Keenum has a disappointing day 
Quarterback Case Keenum struggled with accuracy throughout Sunday’s game. He was missing open wide receivers and wasn’t getting the ball out quickly. Keenum also clearly missed having another weapon like Stefon Diggs or Michael Floyd in the lineup. The Ravens ran plenty of single-high safety looks and left Laquon Treadwell with 1-on-1 matchups on the outside. He was unable to get extensive separation on those routes. In addition, wide receiver Adam Thielen was open on numerous occasions, but Keenum was unable to deliver the pass. He was most effective when he was placed in play-action situations to throw on the run. Keenum finished the day completing 20 of his 31 passes for 188 yards and an interception. He’ll need to play better in future games if the Vikings want to compete against more quality teams down the stretch. Perhaps Minnesota will turn to Teddy Bridgewater if he is activated in the next few weeks. 

Murray has his best day, Wright emerges 
Running back Latavius Murray put together the best performance of his Vikings career. He rushed for 113 yards on 18 carries and added a 29-yard rushing score. Murray was running more decisively and set up his runs with strong cutbacks. On his touchdown score, he displayed excellent patience to read the defense and use his blockers. It appears he may be shaking off the rust after missing extended action during the offseason. The Vikings need him to continue performing well with a key weapon like Dalvin Cook out for the season. Murray’s lift on the ground was just what the Vikings needed Sunday.

Wide receiver Jarius Wright saw extended throughout the game and added a key third down grab in the first half. Later in the game, he hauled in a diving 30-yard reception in a key spot. Wright has been a sure-handed option when he’s called upon and stepped up with two wide receivers out. The Vikings should involve him in the offense more, but it’s a challenge because of the talent they already have at the position.

Offensive line injuries 
The Vikings had two injuries on their offensive line that led to substitutions. Left guard Jeremiah Sirles exited the game with a knee injury and did not return. It thrust rookie Danny Isidora into a starting role. Isidora had positive moments, but missed a few blocks and assignments in relief. More importantly, left tackle Riley Reiff injured his knee and didn't return. The Vikings can’t afford to suffer injuries up front as they continue to search for an identity on offense. Minnesota’s improved offensive line has been the biggest key to restoring a semblance of order. The unit did not allow a sack on Sunday and it was a huge factor in the game.

The defensive line is dominant 
The Minnesota defense has been dominant and should be considered a top-five unit in the league. Defensive end Everson Griffen added two more sacks on Sunday and became just the second Vikings player to tally a sack in the first seven games of the season. The only other defensive lineman to do so was Vikings legend Jim Marshall. Griffen has been setting the tone on the defensive line, along with Danielle Hunter, who delivered a debilitating hit to Joe Flacco in the game’s first drive. 

Within the interior, the unsung hero this season has been defensive tackle Linval Joseph. He was held on at least two plays and still managed to tally four run stops. Joseph’s presence inside has played a huge role in the defense’s success. The Ravens rushed for just 64 yards on 20 carries and the Vikings held the entire unit to 208 total yards. Joseph's ability to use his 

The other major key for the defense has been the impressive play of linebacker Anthony Barr. He finished the day with 11 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hit. Barr was playing with excellent awareness and shut the door on screen passes in the flat. When he was sent off the edge, Barr was getting a clean rush and forcing Flacco to take a sack or throw it away. On his one sack, Barr used his hands well to win and fight through the initial block. The Vikings’ defense plays at another level when Barr is flying around the field and making plays. It appears he has returned to form after a disappointing 2016 season. The pass rush was leaving little time for Flacco to find options within an already depleted group of wide receivers.   

Special teams makes a difference

Marcus Sherels was very effective in the return game and the Vikings managed to execute well on special teams to hold Baltimore in check. Entering the game, Baltimore had one of the top special teams units in the NFL and the Vikings managed to keep pace. Sherels was excellent in the return game, averaging 27.7 yards per return. In addition, Kai Forbath drilled six field goals to give the Vikings life on offense. Playing well in this aspect of the game was a major reason why Minnesota was able to grind out a win.


  1. I think you have to hope for better play out of Case. Injecting Teddy in after 10 or 12 weeks would be a mistake. Teddy shouldn't see the field unless an injury happens. Case is precise and careful. That pick yesterday was not on him.