Vikings Film Review: Offense struggles to finish drives in win over Saints

(Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) Kirk Cousins /

The Minnesota Vikings were able to defeat the New Orleans Saints by a final score of 28-25 in London, England in a Week 4 matchup last Sunday.

The Minnesota Vikings were able to get their star wide receiver Justin Jefferson back on track in Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints after he had been quiet the last two weeks. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Detroit Lions had seemingly figured out the recipe to stop Jefferson – playing press man-coverage and rolling a safety over the top to double-team him. This held Jefferson to just nine catches for 62-yards in Weeks 2 and 3.

The Saints tried to replicate this by having their star cornerback Marshon Lattimore shadow Jefferson throughout the day. However, Lattimore could not stop Jefferson in front of an excited international crowd. Jefferson posted a final stat line of 10 catches for 147 yards, and he added a rushing touchdown in Minnesota’s win over New Orleans.

While it was refreshing to see Jefferson get back on track in the win, the player of the game for the Vikings was Greg Joseph, who made all five of his field-goal attempts, including the game-winner with 24-seconds left. Considering the past kicking-woes Minnesota has had over the years, it is very exciting to see a Vikings kicker be able to pick the offense up when drives stall in the red zone.

Minnesota Vikings offense failed to capitalize on turnovers vs. New Orleans Saints

That was the issue for the Vikings in their win over the Saints. The offense was able to move the ball effectively, but they struggled to finish drives once they got into New Orleans’ territory.

Minnesota had to settle for a field goal following an egregious drop by tight end Johnny Mundt on 3rd-and-1 on the Saints’ 10-yard-line in a 7-7 game with 1:10 left in the first half.

The Vikings got themselves a second chance closer to the end of the half.  Following a strip sack of New Orleans quarterback Andy Dalton, Minnesota had a first down on the Saints’ 20-yard line.

The Vikings went three-and-out after a short pass to Jefferson, who was tackled at the line of scrimmage, an incomplete pass where Kirk Cousins had to throw the ball away to avoid the pass rush, a false start penalty on 3rd-and-10, and a short pass to Irv Smith Jr. to set up a 36-yard field goal by Joseph to end the first half.

On Minnesota’s second offensive drive of the second half, they exploited the Saints’ man coverage by running deep crossers with Adam Thielen and Jefferson.

They motioned Jefferson across the formation and ran a crossing route with him underneath Thielen’s crossing route, which caused New Orleans defensive back Paulson Adebo to run into linebacker Pete Werner, who was dropping back into zone coverage as the cover-1 “hole defender” and trying to carry Jefferson. The trip up resulted in a 41-yard gain down to the Saints’ three-yard line.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

What ensued was a dumpster fire of execution. A delay of game on 1st-and-Goal backed the Vikings up to the eight-yard line, and a short run by Dalvin Cook put them at New Orleans’ seven-yard line.

On 2nd-and-Goal, Minnesota targeted Jefferson who had a one-on-one matchup against Lattimore. Jefferson ran a post route and got open, but the throw from Cousins was a tad behind Jefferson, who had to reach back against his body and ended up dropping the ball.

It was an uncharacteristic drop by Jefferson on a throw Cousins usually puts right on the numbers. On the very next play, Jefferson was able to get wide open in the back right corner of the end zone, but Cousins did not see him and checked it down to Thielen for no gain.

The Saints played cover 2, meaning there were two house safeties and the corners were sticking to the flats. Jefferson ran a corner route, and Thielen ran an over route from the opposite slot which occupied Lattimore as the sticky corner.

Perhaps Cousins felt the pressure coming off the edge from New Orleans defensive end Cameron Jordan, and he felt he needed to get rid of the ball. However, if he climbed the pocket, he would’ve had a wide-open Jefferson in the back corner of the endzone.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Credit to the offense as a whole, when the Vikings needed them the most, they stepped up and did their job. The execution on the last drive was excellent.

Cook picking up 14-yards in a situation where the first first-down was the most important part of the drive. Cousins connecting with Jefferson for 39-yards down the sideline displayed the quarterback’s deep ball accuracy as well as Jefferson’s ability to be a true go-to option in crunch time. Everyone did their job, including Joseph, who kicked the game-winner from 47-yards out.

The most exciting part about this win, besides the double doink, is that Minnesota’s offense has yet to play their best football. The Vikings are still figuring out who they are offensively and what works best.

In the past three weeks, Minnesota has seen defenses throw an aggressive man-coverage scheme at them, and they have gotten better at beating it each week.

The Vikings were dominated in Philadelphia in Week 2, and they learned from the experience, leaning on other role players in a win against Detroit in Week 3, and they just had a very successful day moving the ball against the Saints.

We will see what Chicago brings to town this weekend as the Bears will take on Minnesota inside U.S. Bank Stadium in a Week 5 matchup.

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