The Minnesota Vikings got their second loss of the 2022 season courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys. Minnesota now has an 8-2 record. This loss was perhaps the worst in team history and pretty much was exactly like the NFC Championship in Philadelphia where they lost terribly after winning a huge game.
The Vikings haven’t beaten the New England Patriots since Bill Belichick’s first year as head coach in 2000. Having said that, this is also the first time they have played a non-Tom Brady Patriots team since then as well. As such, this is a much different team and despite the very ugly loss versus the Cowboys, the Patriots team is not on the same level. The Vikings should easily be able to regroup and come back to beat the Patriots in decisive fashion. Here are three ways the Vikings can get the W in Week 12.
1. Protect Cousins
Against the Cowboys, the Vikings were 1/11 on third down plays. They either get first downs on either first or second down or convert more of their third down plays. This comes from how bad the Cowboys’ defense made the Vikings’ offensive line look. This supposedly good line allowed seven sacks on Kirk Cousins. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw, who suffered a concussion the previous week against the Bills, returned to the starting lineup then left the game with another concussion. He was again replaced by Blake Brandel who played decently versus the Bills but could not handle Micah Parsons at all.
As such, Cousins had no time to either read the field, let playmakers like Justin Jefferson get free, or even establish a rhythm throwing the ball. Cousins only had 12 completions at the end of the night but only 5 passes went Jefferson’s way. Only three of them were caught. T.J. Hockenson was his main target but only because he was an easy target to throw to when the pocket collapsed. With Darrisaw rightfully not returning versus the Patriots, they will have their hands full with Matthew Judon who is second behind the Cowboys when it comes to sacks. The offensive line has to do its part so Cousins can get the ball to his receivers.
2. Take Advantage of the Patriots on a Short Week
On paper, the Patriots have only played one team with the caliber of skill that the Vikings have, the Miami Dolphins in week 1. In this game, they let Tyreek Hill get close to 100 yards and 1 touchdown and then allowed the Dolphins to average 11.7 yards per catch. The Patriots were also able to hold Zach Wilson and the Jets to a total of 103 yards and six first downs. However, the offensive weapons of the Jets are slightly different than those of the Vikings. Jefferson is the NFL’s second-leading receiver behind Hill with 72 catches for 1093 yards and four touchdowns. Dalvin Cook is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and is an obvious dual threat as he can catch and run with the football well. While this is only his third week with the team, Hockenson has shown he is a big part of the offense.
With 9 receptions in his Vikings debut, T.J Hockenson had the 2nd most catches he’s had in a game in his career (10).— FORGE AHEAD (@Forge__Ahead) November 7, 2022
3 of those catches coming on a critical final Vikings possession.
#SKOL #HOCK pic.twitter.com/S3lmm4AMsy
In the two weeks since coming from Detroit, Hockenson has had 21 receptions on 27 targets for 149 yards with an average of 7 yards per catch. He almost had his first touchdown with the team, but it slipped through his fingers. Additionally, Thielen looked much better than he has all season even though he had a small number of targets. Thielen was moving much better and looked like his speed was getting back to par with his normal self. Going forward, this is great, and the Patriots’ defensive backs will have their hands full to keep up with these weapons.
3. Get to the Quarterback
Andrew Booth Jr. got his first NFL start against the Cowboys and boy did it show. On eight targets, Booth Jr. allowed seven receptions for 85 yards. He also had a few penalties come his way. Hopefully, he’ll gain his confidence versus the Patriots as they do not have the same skill power in their receivers as Michael Gallop or Ceedee Lamb. However, there is also a chance that rookie Alkyeb Evans makes his comeback after being in concussion protocol for the last week and a half. If he doesn’t though, Booth will most likely get the start and he needs to step up his game. He was replaced by Duke Shelley versus the Bills and if Booth continues the way he played, the secondary is extremely vulnerable.
great job selling going vertical before running the Slant by Michael Gallup on 3rd down pic.twitter.com/F3JT0v2HSc— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) November 22, 2022
To make up for this, The Vikings need to continue their streak of getting to the quarterback fast. Up to the game versus the Cowboys, the Vikings’ pass rush had generated at least a 40 percent pressure rate in five of its past six games. Za’Darius Smith was leading the NFL with 55 pressures and Danielle Hunter has three sacks over a two-week time frame. Versus the Cowboys, Dak Prescott was sacked 0 times. The Cowboys also prevented the entire defensive line from doing anything. Their offensive line was able to move them with ease and run straight through them. While the Patriots don’t have the same 1-2 punch of Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliot, they do have Rhamondre Stephenson and Damien Harris who are both decent backs. However, the Patriots are looking to be without two starting offensive linemen, David Andrews and Isaiah Wynn, which could allow the Vikings’ defensive line to do damage.