Minnesota Vikings: Five takeaways from victory over the Washington Redskins

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 12: Quarterback Kirk Cousins
LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 12: Quarterback Kirk Cousins /
3 of 3
LANDOVER, MD – NOVEMBER 12: Cornerback Mackensie Alexander
LANDOVER, MD – NOVEMBER 12: Cornerback Mackensie Alexander /

Defensive Takeaways

4. Mackensie Alexander had the best game of his career and continues to show great improvement compared to last season.

Last season, Mackensie Alexander spent most of his time on the sidelines watching the likes of Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Captain Munnerlyn and Trae Waynes. After Munnerlyn went back to the Carolina Panthers after a three-year stint with Minnesota, Alexander was given a huge opportunity to make an impact in the nickel defense.

While he didn’t play a ton last year, he looked pretty awful during the times he was on the field. One particular play that comes to mind was on a goal line play when Alexander basically hugged the receiver at the line and celebrated an incomplete pass afterwards, only to be called for a clear holding penalty moments later. Quite embarrassing.

Considering he was a rookie though and the fact corners take awhile to develop often times, he got the benefit of the doubt for a lackluster rookie season.

Undoubtedly, expectations were higher for the 2016 second round pick without Munnerlyn. So far, he’s done well, showing much improvement as a nickel corner. According to Pro Football Focus, he has a rating of 70.9, which is average. In turn, he’s filled in adequately, but he’s definitely coming off his best game of the season.

Against the Redskins, he recorded his first interception since high school, kind of crazy considering he was a highly rated cornerback out of Clemson. In addition, he put together this beautiful pass deflection that turned out to be the biggest play in the final moments of the game.

Essentially, Alexander gives the Vikings four capable corners they can rely the rest of the way. In today’s pass happy league, this is a great sign for Minnesota.

5. The defense continues shutting down the opposing team’s top offensive weapon.

As a whole, the defense wasn’t great against Washington, but they stepped up when called upon. Additionally, they received more help from the offense who backed them up with 38 points. Yet, something to takeaway from not only this game, but all season long is the fact they’ve largely shutdown the opposing team’s top non-QB offensive weapon.

In reality, the top offensive weapon is rather subjective, but bear with me:

New Orleans Saints: WR Michael Thomas (five catches, 45 yards)

Pittsburgh Steelers: WR Antonio Brown (five catches, 62 yards)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Mike Evans (seven catches, 67 yards)

Detroit Lions: WR Golden Tate (three catches, 29 yards)

Chicago Bears: RB Jordan Howard (19 carries, 76 yards)

Green Bay Packers: WR Davante Adams (five catches, 54 yards, one touchdown)

Baltimore Ravens: RB Alex Collins (10 carries, 30 yards)

Cleveland Browns: RB Duke Johnson Jr. (six carries, 33 yards/four catches, 10 yards)

Washington Redskins: RB Chris Thompson (nine carries, 26 yards/three catches, 41 yards)

In Washington, the Vikings kept all-around back Chris Thompson from making big plays. His largest play was a 27-yard pass play that saw linebacker Eric Kendricks stumble in coverage. Other than that, he was a non-factor on offense. Impressive, considering he is their top rusher and receiver from the running back position known to make huge plays.

Looking at the season altogether though, this has been a consistent trend and a testament to the game plan made by head coach Mike Zimmer. Clearly, he’s putting a great strategy in place to hold top offensive weapons in check. At the same time, it helps having elite players on the defense, such as Xavier Rhodes, who for the most part followed all the receivers mentioned above.

As for the running backs listed, they’ve been held in check rushing the ball, mainly due to a better rushing defense this season. Currently, the Vikings have the third best rushing defense, whereas they finished 20th in 2016. Much of this is owed to dominant play on the defensive line headed by nose tackle Linval Joseph, but also better play from the linebacker position. Specifically, Anthony Barr.

On a side note, Minnesota has done a masterful job of shutting down great pass-catching running backs like Le’Veon Bell, Duke Johnson Jr. and Thompson. Kendricks and Barr are solid in pass coverage and their speed no doubt helps limit backs from making big plays in the pass game.

All things considered, the Minnesota defense is making it hard for opposing offenses to find success by taking away their quarterback’s top weapon. Hopefully, this carries into a matchup with the Rams as they boast one of the top running backs in Todd Gurley II.

Next: The Vikings can beat the Philadelphia Eagles!

With Gurley in the fold, the Rams head the NFL’s top scoring offense at 32.9 points per game. So, heading into Week 11, the Vikings have quite the test coming into town. Fortunately, they are riding a five-game win streak and have plenty of positive takeaways to build on. Not to mention, they’ll play in front of another raucous crowd at U.S. Bank Stadium. Look for a preview of the game later in the week from Sporting Sota! Skol Vikes!