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Week 16 Game Recap: Minnesota Vikings 27, Detroit Lions 9


What you need to know

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are playing for their playoff lives right now. The Eagles ended up winning after blowing a 14-point lead in the 4th quarter. This meant the Vikings had to win and they will have to win again next week as well. Kirk Cousins got the offense going through the air and included Kyle Rudolph for the first time this season. Adam Thielen started to get going again this week but ended up giving way to Rudolph in the second half. The defense held the Lions to 3 field goals and racked up 3 sacks this week. It was a very slow start for the Vikings. They yielded 6 points to the Lions before answering with a Diggs touchdown in the second quarter. It looked like it was going to be a sloppy let down game through the first few drives, but they managed to turn things around and come out on top with an impressive win. The running game did not find the same success as last week, but Cook was still featured as the lead back. The Vikings will host the Bears in week 17 with a chance to secure a playoff berth with a win. It is a tough road, but they control their own playoff destiny.

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions struggled mightily against the Minnesota Vikings. Matthew Stafford continues to struggle with poor offensive schemes, personnel, and play calling hampering any fantasy football upside. LeGarrette Blount started over Zach Zenner but struggled and was outperformed by Zenner. Kenny Golladay was targeted frequently but caught less than 50% of his targets and struggled to create any separation from defenders.

Minnesota Vikings

QB Kirk Cousins, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 28 - 253 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0
It was a much better showing for Cousins this week after his disastrous games against the Seahawks and Patriots. He finally got his big tight end involved in the offense and fed off of the run game. He eluded the pass rush for the most part and was only sacked twice. The most important stat this week was he did not turn the ball over. Cousins turned the entire game around when he threw touchdowns on back to back drives before half time. He found Diggs on an 8-yard score with 1:32 left on the clock before half. It was a simple out route where Diggs beat his man to a spot and Cousins made a good throw. It is a dangerous pass that the corner can jump, but the timing was perfect and went for a touchdown. After the defense forced a 3 and out, Cousins then found Rudolph on a 44-yard touchdown as time was expiring. It was a deep pass down the sideline to Rudolph who beat his man and rumbled into the end zone. There were 2 seconds left on the clock before the chuck and pray play resulted in a touchdown. Cousins found Rudolph again later in the game for a 4-yard score. It was a play action pass where Rudolph leaked out into the flat and beat the linebacker in coverage to the end zone for the easy score. It was Cousins' third touchdown pass and the second for Rudolph. This is the Cousins that the Vikings paid all of that money to in the off season, and what they are going to need to see if they want to clinch a playoff berth. Cousins will be looking for redemption against the Bears next week at home.

RB Dalvin Cook, 46 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 73 - 0, Rec: 3 - 35 - 0 (3 targets)
It was almost like a re-breakout game for Cook last week and the Vikings tried to force that same game plan again this week early against the Lions. The offensive line did not do a great job blocking early and Cook struggled to even get past the line of scrimmage in the first quarter. Things loosened up a bit as Cousins found more success down the field, but it still was not a repeat of last week. Cook's longest rush was 18 yards and he averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Cook also caught all 3 of his targets in the passing game and had a long play down the sideline of 20 yards. He also had a 30-yard touchdown called back due to an illegal block. Cook barely eclipsed 100 total yards this week, but his game would have been much better if that touchdown had not been called back. The new offensive coordinator for the Vikings is trying to get the running game going, but the offensive line is going to make that an issue. Cook is going to find it very difficult to rush against the Bears next week, but with the playoffs on the line, expect the Vikings to make it work. The training wheels are finally off and Cook is running at full speed

RB Latavius Murray, 15 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 22 - 0, Rec: 2 - 6 - 0 (2 targets)
It was not a banner day for the Viking rushing offense this week. They combined for 28 carries and 100 total yards, with Murray accounting for about 1/5 of those yards. He had 9 carries to 16 for Cook and 11 of his 22 yards came on a single rush. Murray also caught both of his targets in the passing game but did not add much in regard to yards. There has been a bigger split between Murray and Cook in recent weeks and Murray has faded into a distant second on the team. He still seems to be the trusted back in short yardage situations, but even that role seems to be going to Cook in recent weeks. He has a tough draw against the Bears next week and would be highly touchdown dependent.

WR Adam Thielen, 57 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 3 - 0, Rec: 5 - 80 - 0 (6 targets)
The breakout season in the first 8 weeks of the season seems to be a distant past for Thielen. He has not served the same role in the offense in recent weeks and has seen a lot of production go to Diggs and this week to Rudolph. Defenses have schemed to take him away and it has worked. Thielen caught 5 of his 6 targets and had half of his yards come on a single play. Thielen cut to the inside and was sprung by a Diggs block. He sprinted right down the middle of the field. Thielen still had 80 yards through the air and that would be above average for just about anyone else in the league. However, Thielen dominated so much at the beginning of the season that anything less than 100 yards and a touchdown is a disappointment. The Vikings are going to need Thielen to step up next week against the Bears if they want to clinch their playoff spot.

WR Stefon Diggs, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 10 - 1 (6 targets)
It has been a quiet but good season for Diggs. He has an outside chance at 100 receptions this season and has been very graceful playing behind Thielen. Diggs only had 10 total yards this week but added the all-important first touchdown for the offense. Diggs broke on an 8-yard out route and beat the corner to the pylon for the score. It is a route that can easily be jumped by the corner if they read the play, but Diggs did a great job hiding it and Cousins delivered a perfect ball. The Vikings have a tough draw against the Bears next week and Diggs will need a more productive game if they want to clinch their playoff spot.

TE Kyle Rudolph, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 122 - 2 (9 targets)
It has been an ugly season for Rudolph until this week. He had under 500 yards and only 2 touchdowns coming into the game. That all went out the window with his 9 receptions on 9 targets and 2 huge touchdowns. He surpassed 100 receiving yards for the first time this season and added his longest play of the year. Rudolph kicked off his scoring with a 44-yard touchdown with no time left headed into touchdown. Cousins found Rudolph deep down the right sideline for the score going into half time. There were only 2 seconds left on the clock before the play happened and it was a chuck and pray kind of play. The second touchdown was a little more traditional in regard to his skill set. The Vikings lined up in a power run formation and went play action from the 4-yard line. Cousins found Rudolph who had leaked into the flat. His linebacker in coverage got caught up in the run blitz and Rudolph was able to outrun him to the end zone for the score. This was the best game of the big tight end's career. They are going to see a lot more efforts like this from Rudolph if they want to clinch a playoff spot and make a deep run. He has the skills to be dangerous in the red zone and if the run game continues to take off he should see even more targets in play-action sets.


Detroit Lions

QB Matthew Stafford, 60 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 32 - 116 - 0 TD / 0 INT
Matthew Stafford struggled against the Minnesota Vikings before getting removed from the game late in the fourth quarter. Stafford is simply without weapons and running a terrible scheme. Stafford has no vertical threat in the offense and the lone time a receiver was open on a vertical route, was when Kenny Golladay dropped a ball along the sideline. The offense featured heavy use of LeGarrette Blount in the receiving game and a healthy dose of Theo Riddick screens on third and 10 or more. This season has been lost for Stafford since Marvin Jones was injured and Golden Tate was traded. Stafford has been nursing injuries recently, so the removal was more related to his health than poor play. Stafford’s status is up in the air for next week’s game at Green Bay. Either way, he can hope for a change in offensive coordinator and additional personnel in the offseason.

RB LeGarrette Blount, 22 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 29 - 0, Rec: 2 - -5 - 0 (4 targets)
LeGarrette Blount drew the start against Minnesota ahead of Zach Zenner and struggled against Minnesota’s defense. Blount struggled against interior penetration throughout the game and when his feet stopped, the play was over. Blount was also targeted in the passing game 4 times, for a net result of -5 yards, which is about the best description of Detroit’s offensive supporting cast and play calling. Blount will finish the season next week at Green Bay.

RB Zach Zenner, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 45 - 0, Rec: 2 - 22 - 0 (3 targets)
Zach Zenner was a highlight in the Detroit Lions offense that struggled against Minnesota on Sunday. Zenner showed well on multiple runs where he had to avoid penetration with lateral cutting ability and was able to get to the second level. Zenner runs with more athleticism than LeGarrette Blount but continues to maintain a timeshare with Blount. Zenner is the far superior runner and capable of avoiding defenders and creating on his own. Zenner added two catches out of the backfield. He will face Green Bay in week 17.

RB Theo Riddick, 33 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - -2 - 0, Rec: 4 - 7 - 0 (5 targets)
Theo Riddick had a forgettable day in a loss to Minnesota. Riddick was used repeatedly on low probably third and long plays including screens and interior runs that were unsuccessful. Riddick can create mismatches against linebackers, but Detroit simply refuses to use him creatively, while throwing four targets to LeGarrette Blount. Riddick is a talented pass catcher who can make defenders miss, but rarely gets the opportunity to do so on screens that target him at the line of scrimmage. Riddick would benefit from a change in scheme in the offseason.

WR Kenny Golladay, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 58 - 0 (15 targets)
Kenny Golladay had more than twice the targets of any teammate on Sunday against Minnesota but struggled to produce meaningful plays. Golladay started well with a crossing route underneath for 21 yards but managed virtually no separation the rest of the game. The only time Golladay got open on a vertical route was a well throw pass from Matthew Stafford that he dropped. Otherwise, Golladay’s catches were short crossing route where he did little after the catch. Golladay has been forced into a WR1 roles, but simply is not a WR1. He cannot get open on his own, is inconsistent, and does not add value to his targets, a trend which was evident on Sunday. Golladay will face Green Bay on Sunday.