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Cook leads Vikings to 28-24 prime-time road win over Cowboys
11/10/2019 10:39pm

Kirk Cousins threw for two touchdowns, both to Kyle Rudolph, for just his second victory in nine prime-time road games.

Jokic, Nuggets hold on for 100-98 overtime win over Wolves
11/10/2019 6:33pm

Minnesota was 0 for 10 from beyond the arc in the third as Denver took control. The Wolves hit 4 of 17 shots overall in the quarter.

Gophers jump into AP top 10, LSU is landslide No. 1
11/11/2019 6:34am

The Golden Gophers are ranked No. 7 in latest AP poll. Thats the highest ranking for Minnesota since 1962.

Gophers upset Penn State 31 to 26
11/09/2019 10:23pm

The game pitted two of the Big Tens three undefeated teams against each other.

Red-hot Gophers bringing back hope, optimism
11/09/2019 10:30pm

An upset at TCF Bank Stadium as the Gophers top Penn State 31 to 26


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Through Vikings' first 10 games, Dalvin Cook is producing like Adrian Peterson did in 2012
11/11/2019 11:02am

Welcome to our morning-after Vikings blog, where well revisit every game by looking at three players who stood out, three concerns for the team, three trends to watch and one big question. Here we go:This is my eighth year covering the Vikings, which means I spent my first year on the beat 2012 witnessing whats been the gold standard of individual performance during those eight years, and perhaps over a much longer stretch of Vikings history: Adrian Petersons incredible MVP season in 2012.Heres a reminder of some of the particulars, in case time has dulled them: Peterson averaged 6.0 yards per carry that season, all while carrying the ball 348 times and facing eight-man boxes more than any back in the NFL. He ran for 1,322 yards on 197 carries in the last eight games of that season, carrying a Vikings team that had been 3-13 the previous year to the playoffs, and he did it while playing through a sports hernia that some believe he sustained in his rush back from ACL surgery the previous December.I say all this to establish how high a precedent Peterson set that year, before writing what might seem like heresy: At least on some levels, Dalvin Cook has a chance to eclipse what Peterson did in 2012.With 2,097 rushing yards and 217 receiving yards in 2012, Peterson accounted for 2,314 yards on 388 touches an average of 5.96 yards per touch. Through 10 games, Cook has 1,415 yards 991 rushing and 424 receiving on 243 touches, which is an average of 5.82 yards per touch. Hes had 12 more rushing attempts and 19 more touches through 10 games than Peterson did in 2012, and has accounted for 132 more yards, with three more touchdowns and the same number of fumbles.Now, what set Peterson apart as he closed on Eric Dickersons record that season was his otherworldly stretch of games in December, particularly his 409 combined rushing yards in two games against the Packers. He also was playing on a team less talented than the current Vikings group, and put up the bulk of his numbers after Percy Harvins ankle injury took away the teams other prominent weapon. But by producing at his current level with a workload that has actually eclipsed Petersons in the first 10 games of 2012, Cook has quelled many of the questions raised by many including me before this season. Well see if he can match Petersons stirring finish to the 2012 season but if he comes close, he might find himself in the conversation for some of the awards Peterson claimed that year.Here are two other Vikings players who stood out during the teams 28-24 win over the Cowboys on Sunday night:Eric Kendricks: Mike Zimmer said after the game the linebacker has been more aggressive in pass coverage this season than in recent years, and though that tendency comes with some side effects He jumped up on one and they threw the ball behind him tonight, too, Zimmer said after the game Kendricks fourth-down pass breakup of Dak Prescotts throw to Ezekiel Elliott effectively saved the game. Hes got 11 for the season, the most among NFL linebackers. Hes always been pretty good in coverage, Zimmer said.Kirk Cousins: The performance Cousins had on Sunday night wasnt his flashiest he threw into tight coverage less frequently than any QB in Week 10, according to NFL Next Gen Stats but isnt what he did for the Vikings on Sunday night exactly what everyones been waiting to see from him Cousins had a turnover-free performance, in a prime-time road game against a team with a winning record, and he kept the Vikings offense moving by going 7 of 10 for 80 yards and a touchdown with one sack on third downs. The fact he did it without Adam Thielen, behind an offensive line that lost Brian ONeill for a handful of snaps and Josh Kline to a concussion, made it all the more impressive. Cousins has been the first to say that wins in these types of games are the only thing that will change the narrative about him, and even if he had something of a complementary role to Cook, he filled it admirably.Three areas of concern:The Vikings secondary:With Trae Waynes out because of an ankle injury on Sunday night, the Cowboys apparently went into the game planning to pick on Mike Hughes, and they targeted him early and often. Hughes is in his first full NFL season after tearing his ACL last year and on a few of the balls the Cowboys completed on him, theres not much else Hughes could have done either because Prescott made a great throw, Amari Cooper employed his nimble sideline footwork or, as many fans pointed out, might have pushed off on several occasions. Still, the Vikings are going to have to contend with the fact teams are going after their corners, with or without a healthy Waynes. Theyve won every time theyve allowed a 300-yard passer this season, and some of the yards theyve given up to Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz, for example came in games the Vikings had already salted away. Prescott is also one of the NFLs best at extending plays, but the Vikings next road game features a QB with a similar skill set Russell Wilson, and their secondary will have to be ready.Receiving options other than Cook:The Vikings knew theyd be able to hit the Cowboys with some screen passes, given how aggressive Dallas pass rush is, but Cousins had trouble finding consistent targets beyond the running back who had 86 yards on seven receptions. Stefon Diggs circus catch of a 27-yard completion was Cousins longest throw of the night, and according to Next Gen Stats, only Irv Smith got more than the league average of 2.83 yards of separation from a defender Bisi Johnson was at 2.4 yards, Kyle Rudolph was at 2.1, Diggs was at 1.83 and Laquon Treadwell at 0.66. The Vikings are likely hoping to get Adam Thielen back by the Seattle game after the bye if not this Sunday against Denver, and theyll need him down the stretch. Diggs also had a first-quarter end zone throw in his hands until he was hit by Leighton Vander Esch.Pass protection:Our Mark Craig charted Cousins as being under pressure on eight of his 22 first-half dropbacks Cousins completed five passes for 53 yards on those plays, and was only sacked once for the night, but was hit seven times in a game where he worked largely with a lead and an effective run game. The Cowboys have a talented group of pass rushers, and the Vikings kept them from doing any real damage, but given how durable Cousins has been, theyd likely prefer to keep him from getting hit a little less than he was on Sunday.Three trends to watch:Cousins outside the pocket:The Vikings have made bootlegs and rollouts a staple of their offense all season one of the first things Zimmer said about Cousins in his introductory press conference was how good the quarterback is on bootlegs but they worked them to great effect on Sunday night, especially on third downs. Cousins rolled to his right for a 15-yard strike to Bisi Johnson on a 3rd-and-6 in the third quarter on what turned out to be the last pass hed throw before 10 straight runs finished off the Vikings touchdown drive, and he rolled left before lofting an off-balance throw to the back of the end zone for Kyle Rudolphs first of two TDs. We didnt hit any big explosive plays on the bootlegs, but they were there for the most part, and I think it helped change the spot youre throwing from, just so they cant pin their ears back, Cousins said. We didnt want to get in a dropback game here I think that would have been a nightmare. Fortunately, we ran the ball, and it took pressure off that straight dropback.How the Vikings make up for the loss of Linval Joseph:The nose tackle is expected to be out at least through the bye week, after sources said he had an operation on his meniscus this week, and though the Vikings did an impressive job against Elliott on Sunday night, theyll likely hope they dont have to live without Joseph for too long. Jaleel Johnson, who started in Josephs place, played 43 snaps on Sunday night, with Shamar Stephen playing 41, Jalyn Holmes logging nine and rookie Armon Watts splitting a sack with Everson Griffen in his seven-snap NFL debut. Games like the matchup against Seattle on Dec. 1 will test their defensive front, and itll be interesting to see how the Vikings distribute their workload if Joseph isnt back by that point.The Vikings fourth-down decisions:When the Vikings got stopped on the Cowboys 2 on third down at the end of the third quarter, there was little hesitation on their sideline about what to do next: They decided to go for it, rather than kicking a field goal and taking three points to go up 23-21, and Cook scored on fourth down the Vikings pushed the lead to 28-21 with a two-point conversion. According to EdjSports, Zimmers decision to go for it was the third-best coaching move of Week 10, making it 5.1 percent more likely the Vikings would go on to win than if theyd kicked a field goal. It follows a week where he decided to punt near midfield in Kansas City, before opting to go for it on a fourth down in Chiefs territory. Zimmer said last Monday he operates more by feel than analytics in his fourth-down decisions, and is considering a number of factors other than what the data would tell him to do. Still, its interesting hes made bolder decisions in back-to-back weeks, given how conservative hes typically been on fourth downs. The fact those decisions have worked could make him more likely to bet on his offense in the future.And one big question:Does Sundays victory mean we can put the questions about the Vikings ability to win big games to bedNobody in the Vikings locker room made much of an attempt to hide how much they needed a win like the one they got on Sunday night, and it will go a ways toward calming the narrative about Cousins not being able to win big games especially given the fact the Vikings were underdogs on Sunday night. Theyll face a tougher road test in their next game away from U.S. Bank Stadium a Monday night matchup in Seattle than they got on Sunday night, against a Cowboys team thats lost two of its last three at home. Itll probably take a few wins like this one to change the perception and the objective data that fuels some of the perception. But what the Vikings did on Sunday night was a start and its worth noting their biggest road wins under Mike Zimmer in Green Bay at the end of 2015, back-to-back games against Detroit and Atlanta in 2017 have come in years where they won the division. At the very least, theyre putting themselves in position to have more cracks at proving their legitimacy.

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck on his style: 'It's just how you win football games'
11/11/2019 8:59am

Coach P.J. Fleck has his team on track for a Big Ten West title. His Gophers are 9-0, ranked seventh in the nation and have a two game lead going into the final three weeks of the regular season.

Gophers and Vikings: How two defensive stops changed the narrative
11/11/2019 9:59am

Have you recovered yet from the rigors of watching two of the most dramatic big Minnesota football games in recent memory, played on back-to-back daysI cant remember the Gophers and Vikings winning in such a way in such meaningful games on the same weekend in a very long time. Gophers 31, Penn State 26. Vikings 28, Dallas 24. I have to imagine its going to be a skyway full of smiles today.In thinking about both last night, this struck me: The endings and outcomes were so similar that it makes sense now to think about them in tandem. So lets take a spin through the final game-turning defensive stops in both games.The set-upGophers: The undefeated Gophers were trying to knock off similarly undefeated and favored Penn State for a signature win. After jumping out to a 14-point first half lead 24-10, things tightened considerably in the second half. A late touchdown brought Penn State within 31-26, and a fumble gave the Lions the ball near midfield. From there, Penn State drove with relative ease to Minnesotas 11 and looked poised to score the go-ahead touchdown in the closing moments.Vikings: Prime time games on the road against teams with winning records are not exactly easy for anyone, but theyve been particularly harsh for the Vikings and QB Kirk Cousins. And after jumping out to a 14-point first half lead 14-0 against favored Dallas, things were tight in the second half. Minnesota still led 28-24, but a punt gave Dallas the ball with 4:34 left and a chance to take the lead. The Cowboys moved the ball with ease, getting to the Vikings 11 without even needing to convert so much as a third down, and looked poised to score the go-ahead touchdown. The breakGophers: On 2nd-and-9 from the Gophers 10, Penn State appeared to have an 8-yard completion to Minnesotas 2. But instead of third and short, the play was flagged for offensive pass interference, moving the Lions all the way back to the 25. It was the kind of call that would have had Gophers fans howling had it happened to them.Vikings: On 2nd-and-2 from the Vikings 11, Dallas decided to try a run play with Ezekiel Elliott even though hed been bottled up all day and even though Dak Prescott often with tons of time to throw was shredding the Vikings defense. After he was stopped for no gain, the Cowboys tried ANOTHER run, this one losing three yards to set up a critical fourth down. It was the kind of play-calling that would have had Vikings fans howling had it been their team and in fact was questioned in Dallas.The big playGophers: With Penn State pushed back and facing third-and-24, QB Sean Clifford threw toward the end zone. But Gophers defensive back Jordan Howden stepped in front of the pass and snagged a season-changing interception.Vikings: Eric Kendricks made a fantastic, season-turning play on 4th down, tipping away a pass intended for Elliott that would have been enough for a first down.The nightmare that didnt happenGophers: The post-INT aftermath only involved two kneeldowns, but anyone who has watched the Gophers long enough needed to make sure nothing bad happened before the clock hit zero.Vikings: On the first play after the turnover on downs, the Vikings tried a TOSS PITCH that Dalvin Cook turned into an exercise in juggling knives, finally corralling the ball after 80 of fans had passed out. And then, after Dallas forced a punt, Minnesota had to survive a Hail Mary never been a problem with one of those against Dallas, right on the final play.The aftermathGophers: If Penn State had scored and gone on to win, we would be talking today about how the Gophers choked again in a big game in front of a sellout home crowd. Instead, were talking about how the narrative with the program has changed and were imagining scenarios where the Gophers could make the College Football Playoff.Vikings: If Dallas had scored and gone on to win, wed be talking about how Cousins couldnt put a team away with a fourth quarter drive when he had the chance and we surely would have invoked all of those negative lopsided records of his. And wed be wondering if Mike Zimmers defense was in danger of major slippage. Instead, were talking about how Cousins changed the narrative and were wondering if this mix of offense and defense could make the Vikings dangerous once the playoffs roll around.

Vikings rise to challenge, knock off Cowboys 28-24
11/11/2019 4:54am

The Vikings had fashioned a 6-3 record going into Sunday night knowing they hadnt won the kinds of games that are unavoidable in any kind of a meaningful playoff run. That changed against Dallas.

Gophers considered a top-10 team for the first time in nearly 60 years
11/10/2019 1:42pm

It is the Gophers highest ranking since 1962, when they peaked at No. 5. That season was in the midst of the Gophers glory years under coach Murray Warmath.

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