The Vikings won 36-28 in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers that truly showcased the two sides of the up and down team we've seen in 2021. These lists are in no particular order as well just listed.
5 Winners of Thursdays game
1. Dalvin Cook:
Cook was just 11 days from dislocating his shoulder against the 49ers and was surprisingly ready to go for the Vikings. Many fans questioned the Vikings "desperate" like decision to play Cook, but that questionable feeling has been answered. Cook rushed for 205 yards and 2 touchdowns while averaging 7.6 yards per carry. Not only did Cook put the offense on his back for most of the game, but he converted on a very important 3rd down to run off another set of downs worth of time.
2. Harrison Smith:
Harrison Smith very often isn't praised but if you are a fan that looks in depth at this team you can see the impact Harrison has on the defense and the opposing offense. Harrison's disguised blitzes and moving in and out of the box are like nothing you see from any other safety in the NFL. Harrison also had one of the plays of the game where he broke up the final pass of the game in the end zone to force an incompletion on a would have been touchdown.
3. Offensive Line:
This offensive line has been a pleasant surprise this season. Their run blocking has not been great, but the holes they were making on Thursday night was some of the best blocking I have seen in a long time from the Vikings. The pass blocking was pretty good again, they gave up 0 sacks and Kirk was able to have a pretty clear pocket for most of the game. This new combination with Christian Darrisaw being out may be their new formula for success with plugging him in at LT when he is healthy. Bradbury played one of the best games of his career at Center, Cole looked comfortable at RG, O'Neill did his thing as usual at RT, Cleveland was mobile and great at LG, and Udoh was decent but certainly will be replaced at LT once Darrisaw is back.
4. Pass Rushing:
Somehow, with he absences of Hunter and Pierce for injuries and Everson for personal reasons the Vikings have been able to bring a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Pierce and Tomlinson being back in the middle has been great for this defensive line with a rotation of Richardson and Watts as well. Unfortunately, Hunter is out for the year and there is no time of return for Everson so the Vikings Defensive End combos have been a mixture of Wonnum, Willekes, Jones and even some of Sheldon Richardson at End. The defense was able to generate 5 sacks against the Steelers, where they took the lead across the NFL on the season total, credited to Kendricks, Smith, Richardson, Pierce, and Watts.
5. Justin Jefferson:
On the standards of Justin Jefferson, he had an average game. Jefferson caught 7 passes for only 79 yards and a touchdown. Solid game but he did drop a few balls as well as did not have the most helpful passes from his QB. Overall he played a solid role in the win so he is still considered a winner.
Losers of Thursdays game
1. Mike Zimmer:
To keep the rant short the Vikings were up 29-0 early in the third quarter and the game wasn't closed out until the final play of the game. This game sums up the Vikings season in 4 quarters, the offense can click and play at an ELITE tier level just as quickly as our defense can collapse and look like the leagues worst. Who is to blame for an overall team collapse? I'd probably have to say the guy controlling the team, the guy with the Head Coach title. I have ran out of excuses for Zimmer and I think it is just time to let the rest of the season run its coarse and hope he isn't apart of the next race.
2. Kirk Cousins:
Not the worst game I have seen Kirk play, and certainly not the best. Kirk had a good start to the game leading the team to 23 points in the first half. The second half was nothing great though, throwing for 2 interceptions but still leading the team to a respectable 13 points to finish off the game. In Kirk's defense 1 of the interceptions was off a drop from Jefferson and when the Steelers brought the game down to 1 procession he responded and delivered a 62-yard strike to K.J. Osborn for a touchdown. Overall, it was a very mediocre game for the veteran QB with his future in Minnesota up in the air.
3. Greg Joseph:
Greg Joseph started off the game with a missed field, and then the next drive a missed extra point. Greg Joseph did end up bouncing back finishing 3/4 on FG's and 3/4 on PAT's. It is great to see he did not let the two early misses define the rest of his game, but you can't leave points off the board when almost every game we have played this season has ended in a one procession game.