The Vikings (7-2) traveled out west and defeated the Oakland Raiders (4- 5) 30-14 on Sunday.
By Jordan Wright
With wind gusts between 25 and 35 miles per hour, this came down to the running game, defense and field position.
First the good news. Adrian Peterson entered the week as the NFL’s leading rusher, and all he did against Oakland (who is seventh in the league in rush defense, allowing under 100 yards on the ground per game) was run for 203 yards and a touchdown, including a back breaking 80- yard scamper with under two minutes left to seal the game. This was Peterson’s sixth 200-yard game, tying him with O.J. Simpson for the most in NFL history. As a team, the Vikings ran the ball 33 times for 263 yards (8.0 yards per carry).
On the defensive side of the ball, it was an up and down day. Derek Carr dropped back to pass 45 times, yet the Vikings were only able to sack him twice. Oakland’s interior offensive lineman, Rodney Hudson (Pro Football Focus’ fifth-rated center), sat out this game with an injury, which should’ve led to the Vikings getting pressure at will. Instead, Carr was able to throw for over 300 yards, the most yards given up by the Vikings’ pass defense.
Up front, the Vikings were able to shut down Oakland’s running game, allowing only 84 yards on the ground. The Vikings also snagged two interceptions, the second of which occurred with a little over two minutes left in the game, with Oakland in the red zone and looking to score and make it a one-possession game.
Now for the bad news: Minnesota has really been struggling lately in the passing game. Coming into this game, Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings are 28th in the league with only 209 yards through the air per game, and he is also tied with Colin Kaepernick for 30th in the league with only six touchdown passes. On Sunday in Oakland, against a team who is last in the league in pass defense and allowing 315 yards per game, one would’ve thought this would be an opportunity for Bridgewater to improve upon his stats. However, he only completed 14 of 22 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown, figures that have to be labeled as disappointing. It should be noted that the Viking’s game plan is not to have Teddy throw the ball a lot (there are 25 quarterbacks in the NFL who have thrown more passes).
The player of the game has to be 37 year old Terence Newman. Against Oakland, Newman had four tackles, five passes broken up, and two interceptions, becoming the first Viking to record multiple interceptions in a game since Jamarca Sanford in 2011. Looking back at the stats from 2011 through the 2014 NFL season, the Vikings are second to last in the league, averaging only 10.75 interceptions per season. There have been many recent investments in the secondary, so it’s only a matter of time before the Vikings improve upon that low figure.
The player who needs the most improvement this week is Kyle Rudolph. I was thinking about putting Blair Walsh here, but he had made 17 straight field goals before missing the two on Sunday that looked like they might’ve been partially blocked. Rudolph gets the nod here because he missed a WIDE OPEN touchdown catch that hit him between the numbers. Going into the game against Oakland, Rudolph was PFF’s 47th ranked tight end, which doesn’t justify the five year, $36.5 million contract he signed last year.
Looking ahead, the Vikings play the Green Bay Packers in Minnesota, which will decide the pecking order in the NFC North. The Packers are coming off a last-second, missed field goal loss to the Detroit Lions (yes, you read that correctly, the Packers lost to the hapless Lions). The Packers started the season 6-0, but have lost their last three games in a row. This week, everyone will be talking about how the Packers have fallen and how they will have problems against the Vikings. What I see is a team that will be coming into the game upset, and looking to demolish anything in their path, which just so happens to be the Vikings. The silver lining here is that the Packers are not invincible, and this game could truly go either way. Not wanting to miss out on the action, I will be at the game, hopefully cheering the Vikings on to victory. Skol!