Minnesota Vikings vs. New England Patriots: 3 Keys to the Game

The Minnesota Vikings decided to follow up one of the best games I have ever seen, with one of the worst. The Vikings fell to 8-2 on the season after a 40-3 dismantling at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. They will have to move on quickly with a game against the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving night. Here is what they will have to do in order to bounce back against New England.

1. Learn How to Tackle
One of the biggest issues for the Vikings against Dallas was their inability to tackle. The tackling has not been great all year, but this past week seemed especially awful. Tony Pollard dominated the defense all afternoon and nearly every big play from Pollard was the result of a missed tackle or a bad angle taken by a Vikings defender. Luckily for the Vikings, the Patriots’ offense does not have Pollard or a CeeDee Lamb and is significantly less explosive. Nevertheless, the tackling needs to improve because this Patriots’ offense was terrible last week, only scoring three points against the New York Jets. You do not want to give the offense any confidence with a long touchdown because two or three defenders missed tackles. The possible return of Dalvin Tomlinson could be huge in improving both run defense and getting pressure for Mac Jones to have less time to find open receivers amongst a severely depleted secondary.

2. The Offensive Line Needs to be Monumentally Better
The only thing worse than the tackling ability of the defense against the Cowboys was possibly the worst pass-blocking performance I have ever seen. Kirk Cousins faced an insane pressure rate of 63%. For reference as to how atrocious that is, Patrick Mahomes in the 2020 Super Bowl (when everyone was shocked at how awful his offensive line was) faced a measly 37.5% pressure rate. I don’t care who you fill the rest of the offense with, facing that kind of pressure makes success impossible. The task does not get much easier as the Vikings’ line will be without Christian Darrisaw who left last week’s game early with his second concussion in as many weeks. They will also be facing the NFL’s leading sack-getter in Matthew Judon who has 13.0 sacks on the year. If adjustments are not made coming into this game, there is really no point in the teams actually playing this game.

3. Creativity on Offense
Bill Belichick is infamous for having a remarkable ability to take away an opposing offense’s number one weapon. With that in mind, the Vikings are going to have to get production in the passing game from the likes of T.J. Hockenson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn. It may even be worthwhile to try to get some tertiary weapons involved with short passes or runs from guys like Jalen Reagor and C.J. Ham. Finding ways to get the ball out of Cousins’ hands quickly will help move the ball down the field with what is likely to be a porous offensive line once again. We have seen that Reagor can provide a little bit of explosiveness on end-arounds and swing passes so that may be one way to ignite the offense against another tough defense.

Prediction: The Vikings bounce back against a weak Patriots offense and are able to do enough on offense. Vikings 23, Patriots 13
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